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Master’s Thesis


Mass Collaboration

Shaun Abrahamson
Master’s Thesis


Mass Collaboration

Shaun Abrahamson

Master of Business Administration

Creative Leadership

Class of 2008-2009

Editing Time from: May 2008

until: July 2009

Statement of Authorship:

This dissertation is the result of my own work. Material from the published or
unpublished work of others, which is referred to in the dissertation, is credited
to the author in the text.

New York, July 10, 2009 Shaun Abrahamson

For Andrea, Max and Oli who make all things possible.

Love Papai
Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Table of Contents
Table of Contents ...............................................................................................VI

Table of Figures................................................................................................VIII

Thesis Statement................................................................................................. 1

Definition of Terms .............................................................................................. 2

Background ......................................................................................................... 3

What is being achieved using Mass Collaboration? .................................... 3

Create reference information ............................................................................... 3

A changing social and technical environment ........................................... 10

Research Methodology ...................................................................................... 25

OPTO - a mass collaboration framework ........................................................... 27

Outcomes................................................................................................. 29

People ...................................................................................................... 34

Tools ........................................................................................................ 39

Organization ............................................................................................. 45

Example evaluations of Mass Collaboration ...................................................... 58

WordPress ............................................................................................... 58

Nokia Labs ............................................................................................... 61

MyStarbucksIdea...................................................................................... 63

Jovoto ...................................................................................................... 66

Conclusions ....................................................................................................... 69

Organizations must be influenced ............................................................ 69

Different ways to exchange value ............................................................. 70

Different paths to successful outcomes .................................................... 71

Recommendations............................................................................................. 73

A better framework via Mass Collaboration .............................................. 73

Understanding why Mass Collaboration efforts fail ................................... 73

Scaling Mass Collaboration ...................................................................... 73

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Many other possible outcomes ................................................................. 73

Who should own the outcome? ................................................................ 74

Bibliography....................................................................................................... 76

Acknowledgements............................................................................................ 82

Annex A: Survey questions and responses........................................................ 85

Interview 1: Ben Finkel, Fluther ................................................................ 86

Interview 2: Jake McKee, Community Guy ............................................... 89

Interview 3: Jesse Hertzberg, Etsy ........................................................... 92

Interview 4: Dwayne Spradlin, Innocentive ............................................... 95

Interview 5: Raanan Bar-Cohen, Automattic ............................................. 99

Interview 6: Gregory Galant, Saw Horse Media (Shorty Awards)............ 104

Interview 7: Gordon Paddison, Stradella Road ....................................... 107

Interview 8: Matt Riley, Ideabounty......................................................... 110

Interview 9: Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine ( & What Would Google Do?) ...... 113

Interview 10: David Camp, Spinspotter................................................... 117

Interview 11: James Toledano, Ford Models .......................................... 119

Interview 12: Jeffrey Leventhal (founder ......................... 121

Interview 13: Bastian Unterberg, Jovoto ................................................. 122

Interview 14: Brian Benatar, Thunda ...................................................... 124

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Table of Figures
Figure 1 The number of blog posts containing the word “review” each years
from 2005 to 5008 reaching over 11 million posts in 2008 ................................... 7
Figure 2 Nielsen Online time spent with video, member communities and
search................................................................................................................ 13
Figure 3 A snapshot of Forrester Social Technographics for the United States
for 2008, for all ages, genders. .......................................................................... 14
Figure 4 Responses from online adults and youth about their interest in
interacting with the favorite brand or service provider in different using different
social software. .................................................................................................. 15
Figure 5 Comparison of monthly site traffic for leading companies who
outsource creative tasks, showing growth for all except Geniusrocket. .............. 17
Figure 6Top 10 skill types requested by buyers on Elance for May 2009 ..... 17
Figure 7 Growth in total hours from December 2003 to May 2009, worked by
freelancers on ................................................................................. 18
Figure 8 Some communications tasks appear to work well such as word of
mouth or brand awareness, however it is not clear that the economics are
improving (acquisition costs) and more complex tasks such as new product
introductions find little success. ......................................................................... 23
Figure 9 How organizations learn about online community trends. Community
and social web tools dominate. Consultants and analysts are the least likely
sources. ............................................................................................................. 24
Figure 10 Snapshot of Twitter feed for search of conversation referencing
“#iranelection” on June 21 2009 ........................................................................ 37
Figure 11 Adobe asks users if they wish to participate in the design of future
products by sharing usage information .............................................................. 44
Figure 12 Signed page from the author’s copy of What Would Google Do by
Jeff Jarvis. ......................................................................................................... 46
Figure 13 User interface for GWAP, a game that produces useful music meta
information as people play ................................................................................. 53
Figure 14 WordPress OPTO scores............................................................. 58
Figure 15 Nokia OPTO scores. .................................................................... 61
Figure 16 MyStarbucksIdea OPTO scores. .................................................. 63
Figure 17 Jovoto OPTO scores. ................................................................... 66

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Thesis Statement
What do these leading organizations have in common: Google, Apple, Wikipedia,
Starbucks and P&G? They are leaders in their respective industries in terms of
market share, growth or product innovation. They also have something else in
common – they are finding new ways to collaborate with people outside their
organizations such as customers and partners. From this observation, the
following hypothesis was developed:

Organizations are able to create the most competitive products, services and
communications when they find the right ways to engage their communities of
customers and partners in specific tasks in their creative processes.

The following questions are derived from this hypothesis:

1. What has been achieved when organizations include communities

such as customers and partners in their creative processes and how
do these results compare to traditional creative process?
2. What environmental factors are making this type of collaboration
possible and how are organizations responding to the changing
3. What are “the right ways” to involve communities (such as customers,
partners or other interested stakeholders) to achieve the best results
from creative process?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Definition of Terms
Community – refers to groups of stakeholders in an organization. Most
commonly, these include customers or potential customers as well as partners.
The primary distinction between the community and the organization is usually an
employment agreement- that is people who belong to the organization are
employed by the organization in some capacity.

Creative Outcome – the result of a creative process, such as a new tangible or

intangible product or a new piece of communications work.

Creative Processes – work processes that have, as their main outcome, a new
product, service or piece of communications work, usually created for the
purpose of generating profit either directly or indirectly. For example new tangible
or intangible product development, advertising creative, software application
development, architecture or motion picture script writing.

Mass Collaboration – processes in which organizations co-ordinate or co-

operate with a larger community that exists outside of the organization, to
achieve a creative outcome such as a new product, new service or new piece of

Most Competitive –measured by share of customers, share of revenue, rate of

growth, number of votes or other metric which can be used to show how one
organization compares to another similar organization.

Organizational Framework – the formal and informal organizational structure,

the incentive schemes, formal and informal work processes, general codes of
conduct that are used to facilitate Mass Collaboration.

Tasks – a part of a set of actions used to achieve the overall creative outcome,
such as deciding what criteria will be used to evaluate ideas, conducting research
to better understand a problem, proposing solutions to a specific problem or
selecting the best ideas to develop further.

Tools –anything used by people involved in the creative process from software
applications to media such as images and videos. Anything that people use to
help them communicate with others involved in the creative process or to create
the outcomes of the process.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

The first part of this section explores the ways that leading organizations are
using Mass Collaboration to achieve different types of outcomes – from
organizing the world’s information to generating new ideas.

The second part of the this section explores what changes are happening in the
environment in which creative organizations operate – specifically technical,
social and new insights about the creative processes that appear to be more than
temporary changes.. The section concludes with a discussion of why
organizations find it difficult to work with their communities.

What is being achieved using Mass Collaboration?

Collaboration is used to describe groups of people who come together to achieve
a specific set of goals or objectives usually defined by problems of co-ordination
or co-operation. However most collaboration has been defined by relatively small
groups – teams within an organization or small groups of like-minded people. In
fact some team collaboration research talks about small teams being the ideal
(Katzenbach & Smith, 2003).

However, one can see an increasing number of successful outcomes that appear
to be the result of collaboration of very large teams (often thousands of times
larger than those recommended for successful collaboration). Technology is
enabling fundamental change in the way that large groups organize. The
following section describes a number of examples from different industries. In
particular on what makes an outcome successful and describe the role played by
an “outside” community.

Create reference information

Wikipedia may be the most popular example of Mass Collaboration. Much has
been written about the ultimate encyclopedia that outperforms other efforts to
create reference information and is now, for many an indispensible reference
work, if only to begin understanding a topic.

Wikipedia is based on a software tool called a wiki. Wiki pages are designed to
enable people to quickly contribute or modify content. Unlike word processing
software that runs on individual personal computers, this software is hosted on

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

servers, so that it may be easily accessed by anyone wishing to view or edit.

Document changes are chronicled, so that people understand how it has
changed and who was responsible for the changes. These may seem like trivial
changes to desktop publishing, but the result is a much simpler way for people
coordinate and keep a current version of a piece of content and enable others to
easily modify these pages.

Much is made of the masses of people who contribute to Wikipedia. However,

there is some debate going back to 2006, when Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy
Wales, was challenged on the numbers he provided about the number of very
active contributors. His claim was that about 500 people were responsible for
managing Wikipedia. This group was responsible for most of the edits – i.e.
changes made to Wikipedia documents. Each change is recorded and so these
can be counted and attributed to the people who made them.

However, is this a fair way to count contributions? Are all edits or editors equal?

Aaron Swartz (Swartz, 2006) wanted to answer this question and conducted his
own analysis on randomly selected Wikipedia pages. He tried to understand the
different edits. Spelling corrections are edits. But so are the insertions of whole
new pages of original content – how can they be counted in the same way.
Indeed, if Jimmy Wales 500 are spell and grammar checkers, where is all the
content coming from?

What Aaron Swartz found was that while most edits were concentrated with a
small number of insiders, as Wales described, most of the content (i.e. large
paragraph additions, which might take just a few edits) was coming from people
outside this core group described by Wales. In other words, not all edits are
equal, but most of the content seemed to be coming from a much larger
community. While Wale’s 500 play an essential role organizing and refining, the
new information is coming primarily from a very large group of contributors.

Viewed according to Swartz definition of contributions, people who edited more

than 10 times (a statistic provided by Wikipedia) are likely significant contributors,
too. This number is 158,065 people for the English version of Wikipedia
(Wikipedia, 2009). By comparison, the reference, prior to Wikipedia,
Encyclopedia Britannica, had 4411 named contributors according to its Wikipedia
entry (Wikipedia).

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Organize the world’s information

“Google works because it relies on the millions of individuals posting websites to
determine which other sites offer content of value...This technique actually
improves as the web gets bigger, as each new site is another point of information
and another vote to be counted.” (Google, 2009)

This may be the best example of what Mass Collaboration can achieve and how
it might be achieved. This idea is at the heart of one of the world’s most
successful companies and most valuable brands (Milward Brown Optimor, 2009).
Most of the people creating value for Google, do not work for Google.

People make Google possible because people create the links and content that
are at the heart of what Google does. Google doesn’t employ these people and it
doesn’t pay them 1 , Google has tools to continuously find and analyze the
contributions being made by these people. One need not actively engage with
Google in any way, but if one takes certain actions, like creating a new link,
Google benefits.

The less visible side of what Google does is helping to find the most effective
advertising – as measured by some action such as a click, sale or a lead. Google
relies on the actions of outsiders to generate this information, as part of activities
that these people would be doing anyway (such as searching, browsing and
purchasing). Google then shares this information back to advertisers to let them
know what is working best – which keywords, which advertising copy or creative.
Assuming that almost everyone has clicked on a Google, ad, we have all helped
some advertiser learn more about the elements of a campaign that are working.

Decide what to buy

Amazon lets people explain what they think about products in the form of reviews
and ratings (and ratings of reviews). People then share their opinions with other
people who use These reviews are provided to Amazon for free,
but are a valuable source of content. According to a holiday survey in the United
States, 81% of online holiday shoppers read online customer reviews (Nielsen,
2008) and after a certain number of reviews, there is evidence that purchase

Google does not pay for links. However publishers receive payments from Google
when they meet certain performance measurements for advertisements.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

decisions are impacted, as this discussion in the Economist shows

(, 2009). The review feature has proven so successful in helping
people to make purchase decisions, that most of the leading e-commerce sites
(such as eBay and Wal-Mart), include these features.

Amazon also makes recommendations that play an important part in their

success. Amazon is responsible for these recommendations, but it is evaluating
information from other shoppers to provide this service. In effect, each time you
purchase something at, you are teaching Amazon what you like
and what others might like. This doesn’t impact your shopping in any way. There
is really no cost to you (although there may be some privacy concerns). The
more people who use Amazon, the better the recommendations can be. The
more people review, the better informed purchase decisions Amazon shoppers
can make. Amazon provides the tools to enable customers to collaborate on a
massive scale.

How many people are participating in reviews? lists the top 10,000
reviewers, so there are at least this many on the site. Forrester Research
conducts ongoing surveys of online users and their Technographics Profile data
(Forrester, 2008) suggests that 37% of people in United States have written
reviews, in Germany only 14%, while in Metro China this number is 44%. So
there are some differences, but even if only 14% of people online in Germany are
contributing in this way, it still represents more than 5 million people who
contribute review content in Germany alone 1.

Aside from the contributions on well known e-commerce sites, there has been an
explosion in the production of review-related blog content. For example, the chart
below was constructed, using Google Blog search to estimate the number of blog
posts each year, containing the word “:review”.

Calculation based on June 2008 numbers from (Clickz, 2008).

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Figure 1 The number of blog posts containing the word “review” each years from 2005 to
5008 reaching over 11 million posts in 2008

Reinventing news
New tools enable news to be organized differently – for example, following the
2009 Iranian elections (Parr, 2009), a substantial portion of live updates came
from ordinary people providing information via Twitter in the form of opinion, links
to other news sources or on-the-scene images and video. Even as traditional
media organizations were prohibited from reporting, news continued to reach
beyond the borders of Iran via individual contributions.

For some this provided a useful stream of updates close to where the news was
happening, from multiple sources, much like the wire feeds provided by CNN,
Associated Press or Reuters. Some people complained that many of the updates
with not useful or that it was impossible to verify the authenticity of reports. It was
hard for many to sort fact from fiction but groups formed to take on the task of
trying to verify and check contributions.

No central authority existed – no editor-in-chief, no capital to support news

production, just lots and lots of contributions of 140 characters or less. In most
cases, those collecting information didn’t know those who were analyzing the
stream of information, verifying and organizing it into more traditional news
articles. At the same time a similar phenomenon has been playing at for other
media as a result of blogs which, when used in conjunction with news
aggregators such as Google and Daylife, can provide similar levels of coverage

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

to traditional news organizations. News organizations increasingly look to

contributors to help them provide better news coverage using everything from
commenting features to more structured contributions such as Economist
Debates or CNN iReport or or most recently The Guardian MP Expense

In Bild’s case, the organization sells a camera for 69 Euros. Within five weeks,
21,000 cameras had been sold. Footage from the cameras can be sent to the
Bild site, giving Bild an additional 21,000 reporters. The Guardian asked readers
to search through almost 500,000 pages of documents to understand how British
Members of Parliament (MPs) had been spending public money on their
expenses. The Guardian’s competitor was paying professionals to do the same

The impact on the news business is not just about news. Classifieds, which
formed a core source of income for newspapers have been displaced by many
variations of directories. Perhaps the best known directory is
One of the great challenges for Craigslist is that its lets people list their own
content – so how do they prevent abuse? How do they ensure quality? Since
Craigslist has fewer than 30 employees how do they serve almost 50 million
people in the United States (Quantcast). The Craigslist team, rely on their
community to do most of the “flagging”, alerting the Craigslist team to issues.
This has enabled Craigslist to avoid the large costs usually associated with
classified listings systems. Newspapers have found it impossible to compete with
these redefined economics.

Win an election
When Barack Obama won the Presidential election in the United States, on
November 4th, 2008, people talked about grass roots movement and various local
activities; however, subsequent analysis revealed the extent of the organization
and scale of collaboration with ordinary citizens.

While many focused on the number of donations from over 3 million people, 2
million profiles were created on the site (implying about
this number of campaign participants, although the level of activity is hard to
verify). With the help of tools on, 200,000 local events
were created. During the last 4 days of the campaign, over 3 million calls were

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

made via the website’s phone tools, helping people quickly identify undecided
voters, to make these calls even more useful (Blue State Digital, 2009).

How does this compare to the scale of a benchmark “good” political campaign?
We don’t have all the numbers for direct comparison, but it is clear that the tools
made it easier to organize than has been possible in the past. We can contrast
some other numbers, for example, in Texas, Hillary Clinton, who could also bring
her husband’s supporters into the fold, had 20,000 supporters – on, more than 100,000 volunteers had already signed up
(Technology Review, 2008).

"You could go online and download the names, addresses, and phone numbers
of 100 people in your neighborhood to get out and vote--or the 40 people on your
block who were undecided," – Joe Trippi on tools used to
help organize in the election run-up.

The Obama campaign team empowered people to organize on their behalf. The
team realized that there was a desire for people to create their own t-shirts,
buttons, stickers, posters and other articles. They made available all of the assets
they had developed for the campaign (Coolhunting, 2009) so they could be
downloaded and used in whatever way people desired.

Generate new ideas

It might appear that Mass Collaboration is limited to specific organizations or
industries, but all organizations need ideas. And Mass Collaboration is beginning
to show value here, too.

Starbucks and Dell have both waded into the Mass Collaboration pool by
successfully soliciting ideas via
and Both have shown how ideas have led to real action, for
example, the community has impacted Dell’s Linux offerings and the design of it
E-Series Notebooks (Odden, 2008). While these might be better known
examples, they are not alone. Companies such as MUJI, P&G, Intuit, 3M, Google
and Unilever are following the same path with services like, P&G
Connect & Develop, Intuit Community, Unilever Mindbubble, and Google

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

It is hard to find a way to value ideas contributed by customers. After all, they are
not professionals, so how do they add value? More ideas do not mean better
ideas and ultimately better products and services, do they? Some early
qualitative feedback from these organizations suggests that they are getting
valuable ideas by opening up the process to outsiders. Aside from the
aforementioned Dell examples, 3M discovered that when they embraced
innovations from lead users (i.e. people outside their organization who had
already identified the need for their new products) they were forecast to outsell
internally developed product by 8 times! (Von Hippel, 2005).

A changing social and technical environment

In his work on Creativity Regimes, Feiwel Kupferberg (Kupferberg, 2006)
identifies critical differences in the creative processes that relate to how the
creative output will be accepted within different communities. For example,
artistic output is evaluated differently than scientific output. The two groups might
not refer to one another as “creative” people or organizations because they of
these different evaluation criteria.

Scientific creative output is subject to a peer review process to arrive at a form of

consensus. On the other hand, artistic expression is valued, in part, because it
expressed truth from the very personal perspective of the artist. For many
creative organizations, peer review is the dominant review process to arrive at
“acceptance by the market”.

If the dominant creative regime involves peer review and acceptance, where
peers include not only industry peers, but other stakeholders, such as customers,
then creative organizations are intimately tied to the reaction of customers or
partners to their creative output. The desire to test and subject output to focus
groups is perhaps the clearest expressing of this “peer review” process for many
creative organizations. However, the focus group is quickly becoming part of the
fossil record, as IBM concluded in their 2008 global CEO study (IBM, 2008).

As a result of this survey, IBM realized that to deliver the best products and
services the enterprise of the future “connects everyone to the customer”. In
addition, IBM found that most organizations are seeking to innovate through
collaboration with outsiders – likeminded people beyond their organizational

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

borders (IBM featured Eli Lilly and its use of Innocentive, an organization studied
as part of this work).

Another early user of Innocentive, P&G, realized that to grow, they would need to
look outside to collaborate. In 2007, they were awarded The Economist
Innovation Award (Economist, 2007), for their approach to innovation
called Connect & Develop, because the award panel believed that P&G is
succeeding in allowing innovation from customers and partners as well as
internal research and development groups – in A.G. Lafley’s words:

“Our vision is simple. We want to be known as the company that collaborates –

inside and out - better than any other company in the world.” (Lafley)

Along a similar theme, Martin Sorrel of WPP had this to say about the future of
the advertising business –

“… It’s about applying the sort of things that Google and Microsoft and Yahoo
and AOL and Facebook and Flickr and Wikipedia and everybody else have to our
business...” (, 2009)

Of the companies in this list, Google and Wikipedia have already been used as
examples of Mass Collaboration. Flickr and Facebook are also built on Mass
Collaboration ideas. What these organizations share, is that they fit well into
a Web 2.0 framework (Tim O'Reilly, 2005), first described by Tim O’Reilly.

The following section begins with a description that links social and technical
changes and then explores the impact that this has on how people participate
and interact using new tools. Beyond individual behaviors, people are able to
come together and coordinate and collaborate in new ways and these changes
are impacting many accepted ways of organizing creative work. Finally
information is presented and discussed, showing how organizations might
understand the potential benefits of changing environment, but are struggling to
capture value.

New tools: The impact of “the cloud”

In 2001, most people who were excited by the potential of the web, found
themselves having a very hard time explaining themselves. There was so much
potential. What happened? It took a few more years before, Tim O’Reilly would

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

coin the term Web 2.0 (Tim O'Reilly, 2005), a reference to the “new and
improved” web, or more specifically software design patterns and business
models that began to appear.

O’Reilly was in a unique position to describe the relationship between

technology, user participation and business models, as he was in regular contact
with many of the people building these new businesses through his various
conferences. Participants at his Web 2.0 conference discussed the attributes on
the next generation of Web technologies and business models. They outlined a
number of technical and user experience dimensions but perhaps the most
prescient, was the framing of the relationship between user participation and

“Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the
Web 2.0 era.”

In 2005, Social Networks were not widely used, but P2P file sharing, Google,
Wikipedia and Flickr were examples of what was to come. In 2009, one can track
the emergence of companies that exemplify these network effects – mySpace,
Facebook, Youtube and Twitter and add them to the list of Web 2.0 examples
from 2005. The market dominance O’Reilly predicted might be framed in
different ways.

Google dominates online search, but is increasingly dominant as an advertising

force. Facebook might not dominate economically, but it has dramatically shifted
how people spend their time online. Nielsen Online (Nielsen Online, 2009) tracks
metrics such as “time spent” engaging in a specific activity that clearly illustrates
the rapidly changing online behavior as shown in the figure below. The leaders in
the video, member communities and search categories are respectively Youtube,
Facebook and Google, measured by website unique user traffic.

Time spent is one way to understand changing behavior, as Figure 2 shows.

There are other ways to understand changing behavior as I describe in the
following section.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Figure 2 Nielsen Online time spent with video, member communities and search.

New tools cause people to behave differently

New levels of participation

As described in the previous section, shifting internet application architecture has
encouraged more participation. The Nielsen numbers in Figure 2 reflect these in
terms of how people are spending their time, but what specifically, are people
doing? Forrester research conducts panel surveys to understand how people
interact with online applications such as social networks, blogs, user reviews, etc.
Forrester identifies six types of activities (Forrester, 2008):

Creators – publish a blog, upload video, write articles

Critics – post ratings and reviews, comment on blogs, contribute forums

or wikis

Collectors – use RSS, tag web content or vote online

Joiners – maintain social networking profiles

Spectators – read blogs, watch video, read forums, read ratings and
reviews (i.e. they consume the aforementioned content generated by

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Inactives – do not do any of the above

The table below shows six types of participation for 2008 in the United States.

Figure 3 A snapshot of Forrester Social Technographics for the United States for 2008, for
all ages, genders.

It is reasonable to expect different behaviors by age. After all, people who grow
up in a social web environment are more likely to feel at home in this
environment. 38% of 18 – 24 year olds are creators versus 22% of 35-44 year
olds. 74% of 18 – 24 year olds are joiners suggesting that social networks have
likely replaced e-mail as their preferred method of communicating. This is shown
more explicitly in the figure below which shows responses when people were
asked how interested they were in different types of online social interaction with
their favorite brand, store or service provider. Overwhelmingly, the younger
audience wants more online video and social networks, while adults favor an
older interaction application, discussion forums.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Figure 4 Responses from online adults and youth about their interest in interacting with the
favorite brand or service provider in different using different social software.

The discussion so far, has centered on the United States. Comparing some
categories across countries, Germany had fewer “creators”, only 11% identified
themselves this way. “inactives” accounted for 53% of online users. This is partly
explained by the fact that Germany’s population is older than that of the United
States. China has a younger population and so 40% of people describe
themselves as “creators”, with only 25% of people “inactive”.

Free agent hybrid mongrel talent

Rishad Tobaccawala of Publicis Groupe, describes the types of people that can
help to generate and act on new ideas (Tobaccowala, 2008). The types of talent
that come together might look different in terms of their individual skills and the
skills of the group. RGA , who has created award winning digital creative work for
companies such as Nike (Nike +) and Nokia, has creative disciplines working
together spanning copywriting, art direction and user experience design. Design
firm, IDEO, goes further, building teams that include anthropologists and
traditional engineers. In other words, it appears that more diverse groups are
desirable to address more challenging, creative problems.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Mass Collaboration enables diverse skills and perspective to come together on a

larger scale. Innocentive operates idea competitions for some of the world’s
largest organizations spanning domains like chemistry, biology and information
technology. This is often a place of last resort for problems that could not be
solved and Innocentive is approaching about a 50% solve rate (Innocentive Blog)
in part because they are able to bring a larger more diverse audience to

How often will organizations be looking outside for talent? It has become ever
easier to find and engage talent online thanks to systems that address various
aspects of transaction costs: search, reputation management, contracts, dispute
resolution, testing and feedback. In some cases these systems may outperform
the traditional evaluation approaches used by human resource departments who
have to rely on unverified information and limited sets or references.

E-lance was one of the first companies to create a marketplace to enable

outsourcing for tens of thousands of small and medium business. E-lance was
inspired by an Harvard Business Review article entitled “The Dawn of the E-
Lance Economy”. The authors of the article speculate on the possible impact of
technologies on lowering transaction costs and the resulting impact on the future
of work and organizations. E-lance enables creative work such as graphic
design, web design, software development, market research and copyrighting.

Ten years later, E-lance competes with a number of firms including sites
like and that focus on broad skills from copyrighting to
software development. More recently, companies
like, and are specializing in
parts of the advertising production process. This had led to much discussion
about whether or not creativity can be outsourced (Advertising Age, 2009).

There are some important organizational differences between these companies –

Guru, E-Lance and oDesk make it easier to find, evaluate and hire freelancers or
small teams. However, Crowdspring has participants doing more elaborate
“pitches”, which some argue are exploiting creative talent and so will likely not
continue to experience growth. This topic is explored more fully in the section
entitled: Why should anyone participate?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

A comparison of website traffic for the larger sites if provided in the figure below.
Some of the growth might be attributable to structural economic shifts – i.e. more
people working as freelancers and more companies looking at reducing costs
through the use of these new services.

Figure 5 Comparison of monthly site traffic for leading companies who outsource creative
tasks, showing growth for all except Geniusrocket.

As an example of the types of skills, the following is an index of the top 10 skill
types requested on Elance during May 2009. These skills are the same
production skills found at “interactive agencies” spanning software development,
copywriting and graphic design.

Figure 6Top 10 skill types requested by buyers on Elance for May 2009

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

ODesk is one of the largest communities for “distributed workteams”. They

provide statistics showing the growth on their site in terms of the hours of work
performed by their community members, per week.

Figure 7 Growth in total hours from December 2003 to May 2009, worked by freelancers on

People are organizing and being organized differently

Wikinomics (Tapscott & Anthony, 2006) explains “how Mass Collaboration
changes everything”. Wikipedia is used to explain the new ways that work can be
organized. It explains at once how tools enable tasks to be completed in new
ways and how different levels of participation across large groups can lead to
surprising outcomes such as Wikipedia.

Clay Shirky (Shirky, 2008) explores ways in which new tools are enabling people
to organize without requiring the infrastructure previously only provided by
organizations. Shirky uses examples to show how organizing is increasingly
something that people can do very easily, with very little cost. As a result,
organizations such as publishers are finding that many of the roles for which their
organizations were created, are no longer required. From distribution to
production, people have found alternative cheaper ways to achieve these

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

functions. The end result is that as tasks can be performed and organized
differently, previous organizational (and economic structures) have become

While Wikinomics takes Wikipedia as their reference, Jeff Jarvis (Jarvis, What
Would Google Do?, 2008) uses Google as an organizational reference to
understand how the ideas at the heart of the Google organization might be
applied to other organizations or industries. Interestingly Jarvis uses some of the
ideas to create his book, using his blog to solicit feedback and ideas and
ultimately incorporate material into his book.

Finally, Crowdsourcing (Howe, 2008) explores how organizations are expanding

on the concept of Outsourcing, originally popularized in the business landscape
of the 1980s. Outsourcing is a means to reduce costs and make efficient use of
resources (such as capital or people) or to access skills not seen as essential to
an organization’s main business. Crowdsourcing shows how the outsourcing
concept can be scaled using emerging tools and technologies, to engage
“crowds” to perform tasks.

In summary, theses works describe new organizational possibilities enables by

technology, new organizational structures and changing behaviors of individuals.
They point to the reduced role for organizations in many aspects of organizing
and at the same time, entirely new ways for organizations to work with people to
achieve new outcomes.

Better ideas from mass collaboration

At central idea in Mass Collaboration is to get to better outcomes, faster. The
problem is that the creative process have always felt a little like walking through a
forest and discovering a clearing or open space - it can happen suddenly or after
a little wandering or you might not find this “open space” at all. Process
adjustment can make a big difference in the number of quality of ideas. For
example, in brainstorming, here are actions that make a difference to the

1. Assigning scribes to capture ideas (using online tools preserves

ideas for everyone to see)

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

2. Getting to a fun/silly place where ideas start to sound crazy, but

are crossing into non-traditional categories (social interaction often tends
this way, as many threaded online discussions can attest)

3. Forcing people not to knock down ideas, but to build (this often
takes some policing or at least restatement of guidelines regardless of the

All of these actions are facilitated by sharing ideas online. People post and record
their ideas and simple moderation helps to build-on versus knock down ideas.
This process enables organizations to get more from everyone, enabling the best
ideas to rise to the top independent of where they come from. Beyond the
brainstorming process, other institutional processes help to get ideas from the
people who are best suited to discover problems and solutions – one such
approach is “Kaizen”.

Kaizen was widely credited with Japanese industrial success. Among other
things, it pushes decision-making power out to individuals, challenging them to
make gradual improvements related to their specific tasks. Some Japanese firms
began to acknowledge that while Kaizen had contributed too much improvement,
some more aggressive approaches might be required to achieve greater change
(, 2009). Nonetheless Kaizen illustrates what is possible as more
people are included in ideation and problem solving.

Harvard Business School (Kaire & Amabile, 2008) discussed the role of
leadership in managing creativity with leaders from IDEO, Intuit, Google and
Novartis during sessions with academics and industry representatives. A critical
theme emerged – find ways to get ideas from everywhere. Among other things,
discussions revealed that when Google tracked ideas that had management
support versus those that were executed without support from above, the
unsupported ideas outperformed the management supported ideas.

In 2001 Cisco experienced the dramatic slowdown that impacted the technology
sector as the growth fueled by Internet speculation, evaporated. As CEO John
Chambers transformed the company he focused on moving decision-making out
of the hands of ten people at the top of the organization. Over the last eight years
Cisco has built internal systems that now enable lower level management to

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

start, lead and deliver new products that previously would have required the
attention of the most senior leadership (MIT, 2008).

Sharing more, helps with negotiation and decision making

Negotiation and decision-making strategies are essential to reconcile different
organizational needs. Negotiation strategies are evolving, towards a more
collaborative approach. Sharing more of what you are trying to achieve, can
enable others to find ways to get what they want, while also getting you what you
want. P&G does this very explicitly as part of their Connect & Develop program.
Google does this through its Webmaster guides, explaining what can help their
algorithms to evaluate online content.

This runs counter to what many organizations encourage – that is, do not share
what you are doing because a competitor might use it against you. If you share,
ideas can be stolen. One of the critical questions may well be – when does
sharing result in better results than not sharing? That’s beyond the scope of this
work, but is likely something that will need to be understood.

Negotiation tends to focus on interactions between organizations, while decision-

making tends to describe how organizations work to arrive at decisions.
Professor Robert Weiss (Weiss) outlines a range of decision-making structures
from autocratic (i.e. managers make a decision without consultation and then
communicate the decision) to delegation (managers empower employees to
decide amongst themselves and communicate the outcome to the manager).

For each decision-process there are some guidelines – for example, one might
use a more autocratic process where time is short and potential participants are
not in the same place. Interestingly, this might be exactly the point where
technology is having an impact – issues of speed and decentralization are moot
with new communication tools. While management might have been
characterized by more autocratic approaches as a result of circumstance, the
evolving technical environment means it is easier than ever to involve groups in
decision-making. In the process, it is also setting expectations for participation –
as people become used to a more inclusive process, less inclusive processes
might meet much more resistance.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Most organizations misunderstand Mass Collaboration

For organizations to engage in Mass Collaboration, they have to move beyond
their organizations, not to the edges, but into the communities they inhabit along
with their customers, partners, investors and the broader society in which they

In April 2009, the Harvard Business Review talked about the challenges
of Getting Brand Communities Right (Fournier & Lee, 2009). Brand communities
describe a type of Mass Collaboration where brands create environments to
come together with their stakeholders, usually with the objective of working
towards some shared outcome. Fournier and Lee believe that many firms aspire
to the benefits that one might find from building a community, but they find that:

“…few understand what it takes to achieve such benefits. Worse, most subscribe
to serious misconceptions about what brand communities are and how they

This is relevant because many forms of Mass Collaboration takes place in the
context of communities. Further, the decision-making norms are different
because people participate in communities for different reasons and perhaps
because of this, they demand more inclusive decision-making.

Fournier & Lee address some common misconceptions and offer advice on how
successful companies have worked with their communities.

1. Brand community is a business – not a marketing-strategy

2. Brand communities exist to service their members’ needs – not your
3. Brand communities thrive on conflict and contrast – not love
4. Communities are strongest when all members – not just opinion leaders –
have roles
5. Online social networks are only a tool – not your community strategy
6. Strong brands arise from the right community structure – not vice versa

In other words, engaging communities for Mass Collaboration represents a

fundamental change to how many organizations are used to working and

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

To further emphasize how much help organizations need to work with

communities to achieve Mass Collaboration, in 2008 Beeline Labs, Deloitte and
the Society of New Communications Research studied 140 organizations
(Beelinelabs, 2008). They tried to understand how organizations managing
communities, measuring success and what outcomes they have achieved. The
survey covered a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer
communities, ranging in size from 100 to 10,000 members.

Figure 8 Some communications tasks appear to work well such as word of mouth or brand
awareness, however it is not clear that the economics are improving (acquisition costs) and
more complex tasks such as new product introductions find little success.

Some of the promotional tasks seem to fare well, perhaps because these don’t
require much organizational change but only a change for those managing
communications. Product development related efforts seem poor, perhaps
because these processes have not involved very much communication with
stakeholders in the past, aside from periodic focus groups or research studies.

Similar to the Fournier and Lee findings, the study showed a number of
assumptions that are likely hurting initiatives (the authors experience during
some client engagements echoes these findings):

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

1. The “build it and they will come” fallacy

2. The “not invented here” syndrome

Finally, as organizations strive to learn how to work with communities, they are
choosing new places to learn – they are turning to their own professional
communities, perhaps in a recursive testimony to Mass Collaboration. This is
consistent with the author’s research experience – small groups of collaborators
via blogs, wikis or Twitter are sharing most of the richest information.

Figure 9 How organizations learn about online community trends. Community and social
web tools dominate. Consultants and analysts are the least likely sources.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Research Methodology
The following sections describe approaches used to address the questions posed
in the thesis statement.

What has been achieved when organizations include communities in their

creative processes and how do these results compare to traditional
creative processes?
Literature was reviewed to understand existing case studies related to Mass
Collaboration. In addition to literature reviews, data such as market share,
monthly usage, revenue growth rates, election outcomes and organizational
cases studies were used to benchmark outcomes resulting from Mass
Collaboration versus smaller scale collaboration. The results are offered in the
form of the discussion in the first part of the background section.

What environmental factors are making this type of collaboration possible

and how are organizations to responding to the changing environment?
Commentary from senior leadership involved in creative business processes was
sought out in existing media. In some cases, in-person conversations or lecture
sessions provided additional commentary. Available data was evaluated to
understand trends such growth rates for specific online services such as changes
in how people spend time or how many people are using specific services. Third
party research was used to understand how organizations are recognizing the
need for, prioritizing and succeeding or failing with Mass Collaboration-related
initiatives. The results are discussed in the second part of the background

What are “the right” ways to involve communities to achieve the best
creative outcomes?
Literature review formed the first round of research to understand successful
Mass Collaboration efforts. Then some effort was made to interact with different
communities and understand the tools being used to facilitate community
organizing. However, it became clear that while tools could be identified and it
was possible to interact with communities to understand some of the community
members, it was difficult to understand how these efforts were being organized.
To understanding organizational approaches, a specific group of experts was
identified for interviews – community organizers or community managers.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

People in these roles are responsible for leadership of communities engaged in

Mass Collaboration. Their scope of responsibilities varies from setting vision and
direction to maintaining an environment in which a community can be more self-
directed. Despite differences in responsibility, community organizers tend to
cover a number of organizing functions such as strategy, formal organizing,
navigation of informal networks, task definition, decision-making and ongoing
evaluation of the overall health and needs of the community.

Therefore, those associated with successful Mass Collaboration efforts were

interviewed to understand more about these “less visible” aspects required to
organize interactions between and within organizations and communities.

Expert survey results were combined with literature review to form an initial
framework. To facilitate the understanding of the framework, it is used to evaluate
existing Mass Collaboration efforts, both successful and unsuccessful as means
of highlighting elements critical to success or failure of the efforts.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

OPTO - a mass collaboration framework

How does successful Mass Collaboration happen? How can organizations
evaluate Mass Collaboration efforts? Attributes of successful Mass Collaboration
have been identified and organized into a framework. The objective of the
framework is to enable assessment of Mass Collaboration efforts against some of
the best available examples.

The Framework comprises the following areas:

Outcome – the purpose of Mass Collaboration is achieving a shared vision

through coordination or co-operation of large groups. It is essential to understand
and measure the outcome to begin to evaluate whether Mass Collaboration is
working and how changes to tools, organization or people positively impact the

People – without a certain number of people participating in a community, there

is no community and therefore no Mass Collaboration. Assuming the right people
can be recruited to join the effort, how are interests aligned between the
organization and the people in the community? Organizations need to
understand the different levels and types of engagement in Mass Collaboration.
Finally, the health of individual participation can be evaluated to gauge the overall
health of the community.

Tools – user experience design, software architecture, shared media objects,

mobile devices and data analysis are just some of the tools that enable new
types of interaction. Depending on the desired outcome, effective Mass
Collaboration relies on number of tools to enable the execution of any number of
tasks. The development of the tools portion of the framework relies primarily on
the study of tools used during participation in communities engaged in Mass

Organization – tools might be the most visible part of Mass Collaboration

because the tools are used as part of the process. However many organizational
aspects are less explicit. Organizations engage in Mass Collaboration work
differently - from the roles of formal leaders, to incentive structures. Further,
organizations typically deal with employees, customers or partners, however in

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Mass Collaboration traditional employee tasks might be performed by any

stakeholder, blurring the lines – what are the implications of this change?
Research interviews focused primarily on the organizational aspects of
communities, since these are hardest to understand through observation and
participation approaches used elsewhere in the research approach.

The following sections explore each of these areas in detail.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Organizations are primarily concerned with outcomes, for example –

Developing a new product, service or experience

Promoting an idea
Providing technical support
Raising money
Having sufficient resources for protein folding calculations

The outcomes of interest for this work are related to creative work – specifically
processes that result in new products or services; the communications for
promoting and selling products or services; or the ongoing service and support of
these products or services. The following sections describe the types of
outcomes of creative processes that are sought from Mass Collaboration.

Product & service development

For many organizations, the creation of products and services is how value is
created. A number of parts of this process can benefit from Mass Collaboration,
as the following discussions illustrates.

Learning from stories told by users

“…people will surprise [you] by what they ask for.” – Ben Finkel (Finkel, 2009)

User stories describe what people would like to do with a product or service. As
Von Hippel (Von Hippel, 2005) describes, users of the product or service are
ideally positioned to tell the stories of how they have used or would use a product
or service or what type of experience they wish to have. Therefore, it seems that
this process can benefit by opening up beyond traditional focus groups or limited
research engagements. In his research, Von Hippel noted a number of instances
were companies such as General Electric and 3M discovered that these stories
were widely available outside organizations (not from within traditional product

More ideas from outside

“Innovation comes from where you don’t expect” – Dwayne Spradlin (Spradlin &
Reinhold, 2009)

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Unlike user stories, ideas are more specific – ideas do not get to the intent, but
rather to a solution to a problem or a new opportunity. Opening up a creative
process to solicit more ideas, often results in more ideas – this is not the same as
opening up the selection of an idea (i.e. deciding which idea is best), but simply
the generation of more, different ideas. Mass Collaboration can help to increase
diversity or simply the volume of ideas – often a stated desired outcome for this
process step in most product design processes.

Feedback and prioritization

“Every organization big and small suffers from the inhalation of its own smoke.” –
David Camp (Camp, 2009)

Once products or services are in use, the lines blur between “customer service
and support” and new opportunities (for example, how can I resolve a recurring
service problem?). The idea of “always in Beta” is intended to get more frequent
feedback by giving access to products and services before they are “finished” –
more specifically, during a period where feedback can more greatly impact a
product or service.

In the Cathedral and the Bazaar (Raymond, 2001), the role of feedback is tested
and explained exposing this as a critical mechanism that allows open source
software development process to function and in many cases outperform other
development processes. Feedback can encompass not only bugs or incremental
changes but larger ideas or use stories as discussed in the previous two

Free revealing
Often customers have an idea for a product improvement and move beyond their
ideas to implement them. In this case, product teams can get working solutions to
problems they might be working on. This is a core part of the free revealing
process described by Von Hippel. In free revealing, people share improvement
and innovation with other groups of likeminded users – Von Hippel explored this
behavior among kite surfing enthusiast who shared techniques that included
hardware innovations. This mechanism is also at the heart of open source
software development as contributors move beyond ideas and identifying bugs
and are invited to develop solutions. In this case, these contributions take the
form of new code that may become part of the final software release (different

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

communities have different ways of determining how to select contributions, but

most are open to some form of contribution).

In open innovation (for example, as practiced by P&G), a similar result might be

obtained via licensing – one party describes what they need, while another
describes a solution that they already have and are prepared to license, to fulfill
that need. This is closer to traditional market mechanisms. However
implementations are obtained and owned increasing access to more
implementations, like ideas and feedback is possible via Mass Collaboration.

Communications development
Communication development processes such as advertising, share some areas
in common with product and service development. There is usually an ideation
phase, some selection criteria for the ideas (what is deemed good, versus poor
work) and then an execution and refinement phase. However the outcome is
focused on the development of a piece of communication.

More ideas from outside

“thinking eventually becomes unsurprising and static. We offer an injection of
dynamic thinking” – Matt Riley (Riley, 2009)

Much like the product development roles, ideas describe how communications
might be carried out. This covers everything from the core creative idea to how
the idea might be actualized (video, images, games, events or as one moves
beyond communication, products, services and experiences). Since people are to
be influenced by communication such as advertising or some forms of news, for
example, it seems reasonable that they be included in the process of contributing
ideas and stories.

In his exploration of participatory culture, Henry Jenkins (Jenkins, 2009),

describes a number of roles for people within participatory culture, but one
essential role is that of the multiplier. In fact he draws a specific parallel to the
lead user definitions referenced earlier in Von Hippel’s product development
work. The multipliers are likely to take cultural goods and use them in ways not
anticipated by their creators. This makes these types of people ideal participants
in the ideation process.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Propagation planning
“We needed acceptance. We needed permission…Acceptance only comes from
dialog” – Gordon Paddison (Paddison, 2009)

Planning is ultimately concerned with how to reach the right people with a
particular message or set of messages. In a participatory model, where the
people formerly known as “the audience” are now taking on “distribution” roles,
planning is far more dependent on Henry Jenkins’s multipliers – i.e. those that
ensure that an idea will be spread.

Those involved in the production of communication, buy and sell media in an

effort to trade “attention” or “impressions”, in a participatory environment, agency
increasingly rest with customers. They can decide what to recommend or what
not to recommend – or what to spread. They can choose to transform content to
better fit their specific needs and therefore planning has to mean something
different – an organization might still define who they wish to communicate with,
however one has to understand why someone might choose to propagate your
particular ideas or message to reach people in a given community.

Mass Collaboration is therefore an essential approach to ensure that the right

content has the best chance of reaching the right people via other people.

User generated content

“Our media model is predicated on ‘the audience is the content’" – Brian Benatar
(Benatar, 2009)

In many cases, customers create content for communication. It is one thing to

suggest an approach to communication or spread communication, but something
else to create content. One role for customers is to transform content, whether
remixing in a classic sense or modified through addition, omission or changing
the specific language to meet the social content. Content is constantly modified
by peers in the process of communicating – even when existing content is
shared, it is often given new context through commentary, insertion into other
contexts, etc. In recent years, Creative Commons (Creative Commons
Corporation) was developed as an alternative to traditional copyrights, since it
makes allowance for actions like derivative works and sharing as is the case for
open source software licenses.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Mass Collaboration enables content production to be expanded beyond ideas

and propagation, to include new communication work.

Providing service & support

“We have no marketing and no product people, we invest in Happiness
Engineers” – Raanan Bar-Cohen (Bar-Cohen, 2009), describing the engineers
that perform service and support functions for

Increasingly service and support blur the lines with communications and product
development because from specific experiences, come ideas about how things
might be better (impacting product development) and these experiences (with
positive or negative outcomes) also result in communication with other people
such as reviews or recommendations (influencing communication).

Economics of the outcome

Beyond the types of outcomes that might be improved via Mass Collaboration, it
is important to consider the economics of the outcome. While more ideas might
lead to better products or communications, it might come at a high price in terms
of time to market or cost of development. In theory it should be possible to
engage orders of magnitude more people for many types of outcomes, but
outcomes might be useless if they exceed resource constraints.

The resources requirements for Mass Collaboration are not insignificant – while
tools are often the focus and are increasingly cheap or even free, organizations
still requires time and people – i.e. resources, so the cost of organizing Mass
Collaboration has to be considered against its potential benefits.

Consequences of the outcome

Beyond the economics of Mass Collaboration, other considerations are
important. For example, by including more stakeholders, can organizations work
towards outcomes that have broader benefits? For example, if more
representatives of a community are involved in reviewing and providing feedback
to organizations, can that organization ensure that it is acting, not only to serve
its own interests, but also the interests of the community in which it operates?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

This section examines Mass Collaboration from the perspective of the individual

Achieving critical mass

Recruiting was a critical issue addressed as part of the organization and a
recurring theme in the research interviews. The reason – Mass Collaboration
does not exist until there are people. The specific numbers vary, for example –
for the community, 100 people appeared to be a tipping point.
Critical mass was less clear for other communities.

Critical Mass has less to do with the absolute number of people, but perhaps the
total energy invested in the initiative – that is to say, a few very active
contributors can do much to move an initiative forward. In Jeff Jarvis’s case, he
listed fewer than five people by name that he deemed critical to his community
for one reason or another.

Another view of critical mass, might be better defined “entrainment”, as was the
case with Gregory Galant’s Shorty Awards (Saw Horse Media) – within a very
short time participation ramped up with many people making small contributions.
Because of the structure of Shorty Awards, it effectively made each participant, a
recruiter. The number of other participants was clearly visible and this resulted in
more attention and more participation. The process began with just a few people
and this was enough to gather over 10,000 participants in about two weeks.

Alignment of interests
Most of the organization section is dedicated to understand why people
participate – from financial incentives to outcomes that matter. This is important
for organizations since they have to consider outcomes and tasks that can meet
these criteria. However, from the individual perspective, there must be alignment
– an idea repeated by multiple interviewees.

Alignment might not mean that interests in the overall outcome are shared – for
example, I might not care what happens if I get paid. Or I might not care what
other questions are answered on as long as my question is answered
and I can answer questions that interest me. Ideally it seems that the sum of self

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

interests can be used to achieve the desired outcome – understanding and

monitoring this over time, is one of the primary challenges of Mass Collaboration.

This is perhaps why successful Mass Collaboration makes use of multiple

strategies to minimize risk – for example, WordPress celebrates contributors in
multiple ways such as ratings and qualitative feedback and other opportunities
exist for purely social interaction – so if some alignment is lost in one area, there
are other areas which prevail.

One of the critical measures of the health of people participating in the

community, is determined by the degree of alignment between individuals and
the outcome the organizations is trying to achieve.

Contributions – value in the eye of the beholder

Contributions can be measured in a number of ways. From a general level of
participation – i.e. how many people make each type of contribution? Or what is
the quality of the contribution, as judged by the community (or subset of the
community). Forrester research described a range of different types of
participation in groundswell, from creators through critics, collectors, joiners,
spectators and inactives. Classifying types of contributions is a useful step to
understand the types of tasks that people can and will take on in Mass

The 90-9-1 Rule

The numbers 90-9-1 loosely describe the level of participation of different groups
in a hypothetical community. The 1 represents the people who do most of the
work – writing software, designing t-shirts, taking photos or submitting ideas. This
is one type of value, but there are many valuable tasks they can't or won't do.

The 9 represents a different type of participant, who provide varying degrees of

feedback. In the Linux development model, this group is a critical group because
they provide feedback about what is working and what is not. As Von Hippel
describes it, these users may not fix a problem or improve the solution. However,
they have the advantage of knowing what they are trying to achieve and often
this makes them very valuable. These roles are similar to critics or collectors in
the Groundswell model. They are voting and highlighting what they like and want.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Finally, there is the 90, often demeaned as the “passive massive”. But it depends
on your perspective – for example, let's look at someone like
recommendations? These are powered by the passive - but how? Amazon lets
you know what people ultimately purchased, so the passive massive don’t need
to share their recommendations or upload photos, but their simple act of
purchasing helps the community decide.

A healthy community can design tasks to fit the 90-9-1 participation profile and
track the types of contributions to get an overall sense for the level of

Free revealing (again)

As discussed previously, in product development Von Hippel describes a process
of free revealing, whereby community members show how they have solved
problems or improved products. Some might refer to this as the gift economy
(Jenkins, 2009) and this likely has to do with a difference in value perceived by
the individual person and those that receive the gift.

What happens if people begin to feel that organizations benefit disproportionately

from their efforts? Of course, they have the choice not to participate or to change
the terms of participation, assuming others don’t simply step forward and
commoditize their contributions. Perhaps this demarcates a point at which
organizations employ or pay participants because there simply is no other way to
obtain the contribution.

Emergence – organizing without organizations

In his book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without
Organizations (Shirky, 2008), Clay Shirky explores a number of examples where
people organize around a shared desired outcome independently of any

For example following the Iran Elections on Saturday June 13, 2009, messages
began appearing on Twitter describing how the election had been a fraud. What
followed were a variety of actions much like the events that have unfolded on
Twitter in the past around events like the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Somehow
people naturally gravitate to different roles – some act as traditional information
sources, others act as aggregators, still others act as filters trying to identify

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

government actors attempting to spread disinformation. Some people are

professional news people, others are on the ground in Iran, participating in
demonstrations. However, many people, who would normally have been reading
the news are now helping to produce it and they are somehow finding ways to
play a role.

Figure 10 Snapshot of Twitter feed for search of conversation referencing “#iranelection” on

June 21 2009

Emergence as a sign of community strength

In strong communities it seems that the community naturally moves to take on
certain organizational responsibilities. Like activist shareholders, communities
can sometimes demand new roles in determining the future of organizations
where they make significant contributions. Facebook found this out as they tried
to amend their terms of service in February 2009 only to receive a strong
response which ultimately resulted in a number of changes in the role that the

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

community would play in the future of the organization, beginning with a

Statement of Right and Responsibilities, shown below.

As communities take over more responsibilities from organizations, it increases

their investment in the organization, too. While it might appear as a loss of control
to the organization, what they get in return is more investment – it is not too
dissimilar to a public company listing to access additional funding. As part of the
process of gaining investors, you lose some control. The difference now, is that
investment is being made via participation – time, energy, ideas, feedback, etc.

Therefore, aside from levels of participation, the type of responsibilities that

people are willing to take on are another indicator of community health.

Communities earn equity

It is not entirely clear how this is to be measured. However it does appear to be a
hallmark of the most successful Mass Collaborations and the communities that
form to make them possible. In simple terms, as I commit to a community, I value
it more. Similarly, as organizations give more responsibilities to their community
participants they become stronger – as Jeff Jarvis put it (Jarvis, 2009) :

You win when you lose control.

It might not be losing control, as much as a sharing of responsibilities for tighter

alignment of interests. As we pointed out at the beginning of this section, this is
one of the main challenges for successful Mass Collaboration. Community Equity
appears to be a good transaction to align interests and ultimately a positive
indicator of the health of the community.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Tools cover all aspects of media and technology that make new kinds of
interactions possible. Craig Newmark (Newmark, 2009) has created one of the
most successful online communities and he describes the attributes of
technology needed to best serve others:

1. people want to use

2. people will use
3. is simple
4. involves honest dialogue
5. changes in response to that dialog

According to Mr. Newmark, this describes the service principles for Craigslist.
Items 1, 4 and 5 are discussed in the next section, but in the following Organizing
section, 2 and 3 are discussed.

User experience
If infrastructure cannot be used, it may as well not exist. Hence the critical
importance of user experience design. Following are heuristics, from some of the
leading usability practitioners, namely 37Signals (37Signals, 2006) and Jakob
Nielsen ( 37Signals describes how they think about user experience
and their products showcase this thinking well. Jakob Nielsen is a prolific
publisher covering everything from search to headline usability. Some of the key
issues include:

Clarity and accessibility of critical tasks – the iPhone interface does an

excellent job of showing only what is necessary in the context of what you are
doing, thereby avoiding confusion and increasing success for first time users.
Responding to unusual situations –anticipating ways in which people and
applications, can fail, is essential. Take a look at the way Google works with
users to resolve spelling mistakes by making suggestions.
First time versus veteran user Experience – someone using something for the
first time has different needs to veteran users. Game designers understand this
very well, introducing training levels to help new players become accustomed to
their new surroundings and controls.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Copywriting – funny signage examples abound with language that is

ambiguous, confusing or just inappropriate. Poor choice of language makes
things less usable.
Search - From managing typos to determining appropriate relevance, making
things findable, remains one of the most challenging aspects of design.

As online testing often reveals, small changes in copy or layout can have a
profound impact on how many people take actions. When the goal is to work with
large numbers of people, often without pay, making actions easier, is an essential
part of making the most of people’s limited time and resources.

Media as scaffolding for communication

In many cases, such as games, it not useful to separate content from the
experience, but for most media types, media is treated separately from the
broader experience. For example, video, images, blog posts, etc are all important
tools to enable communication without requiring too much work from the
community, like having to describe something, versus sharing a link to a video
that explains the thing. This can be critical if your goal is to promote an idea.

Media is used as scaffolding for communication in much the same way as words
stand in for concepts, so media plays an important role in giving people
something to reference to express what they are trying to convey, without having
to produce what they need to convey the message, communication is simplified.

During the Obama campaign, for example, the campaign manager, David Plouffe
(Marketingprofs, 2009) noted that one of the things that surprised the campaign,
was how often people would come to the campaign asking for help in addressing
a particular campaign issue as they were talking with prospective voters about
then candidate Obama’s merits. The campaign ultimately found that when it
could craft video statements, it helped these people to communicate more
effectively on their behalf, not by telling them what to say, but by giving them
something to use as scaffolding for communication.

Applications to automate or augment tasks

Applications are at the heart of enabling new capabilities. Blogs provide simple
publishing tools as well as opportunities to interact via comments. It is not that
HTML was not accessible before blogs, but blogging allowed non-technical

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

people to focus on publishing without worrying about HTML or any other online
publishing requirements. Then there are various message boards, bug-tracking
and collaboration tools, all intended to facilitate collaboration.

However, while many tools enable relatively unstructured communication, Idea

platforms such as Google Moderator (Google) or Salesforce Ideas (Salesforce)
give more structure to the interaction. And then one can look to very task specific
applications such as NikeID, Lego Factory or Dell Configurator (used to
customize PC orders) that enable specialized types of interaction by enabling
people to describe and design items in ways previously only available to expert

Applications spread the benefits of automation and augmentation cheaply to a

broader group who might not have been able to afford to develop the application
for themselves – this is one of the core elements of information technology

Build on top of this

Toolkits are specialized applications for designers and developers to incorporate
functionality into their own designs. In Von Hippel’s (Von Hippel, 2005) definition
he believes that end users should be able to use their own language to describe
what they are trying to do. Or more specifically, toolkits are more useful if they
enable end users to create new things from them.

Application Programming Interfaces (API) like those made available by

applications such as Twitter, Google Maps, etc enable people to build on top of
their applications - a comprehensive and growing list of APIs is compiled
by Programmable Web ( (Programmable Web)).

Going beyond APIs, services such as WordPress and software such as Mozilla
enable participation at a variety of levels such as design templates to change the
look and feel of the user experience or core code development. In the physical
world, a platform might take the form of a new building structure where property
developers can create their own units, finished as they desire. As car-lovers will
attest, cars can be platforms as different components are adjusted and replaced
to achieve better handling dynamics, fuel economy and speed

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

In our interview in 2008, Roelof Botha explained how he learned much about an
ecosystem where organizations can make it easier for users to act on their behalf
– he and the Youtube founders were formerly at Paypal. Among other things
Paypal constantly found approaches to make it easy for their users to use Paypal
in different environments, such as eBay auction pages without needing to write
code. The result – Youtube constantly found opportunities to make it easy for
their audience to share and integrate their content wherever it might make sense
with as little effort as possible.

In general though, both development platforms and certain types of applications

enable a particular type of user or group to incorporate existing capabilities so
that they can stand on the shoulders of those who came before.

Accessing and analyzing data shadows

Creating a hyperlink started out as a useful way to move between information on
the web. People happily created content and linked to other content that was
relevant to what they were doing. What Sergey Brin and Larry Page realized was
that Google would be very different search engine because it found value in
these links - they viewed these links as votes. It's not just voting, votes are
weighted different based on a range of factors related to things that convey trust
(such as how old your site domain is or how likely you are to accept “bribes” to
link to others).

Google took an action that people were going to do anyway and turned it into the
heart of one of the most successful organizations in history. Google uses clicks
and sales data in a similar way to vote on the best ads. While some people might
ask you what you thought about copywriting or creative, Google simply analyzes
responses to creative by looking at clicks and sales.

Some more examples of organizations using data shadows:

Amazon Recommendations uses browsing and purchase data to make better

purchase recommendations. Amazon makes use of collaborative filtering to
understand similarities between their shoppers and uses these similarities to
identify suggested purchases that are likely to be of interested to their shoppers
in much the same way as a friend who knows your tastes might suggest

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Flickr Interestingness - finds interesting photos based on comments, views and

interactions around photos posted to their site. They don’t ask people to tell them
what is most interesting but look at how people behave, to uncover this.

Sense Networks is harvesting location data as a vote for a variety of applications

from restaurant recommendations to epidemic detection. They are not asking
people to actively report on whether they are sick or like a restaurant; they are
inferring this based on their actions.

Adobe asks users of its software products if they will share information about how
they use the software. Most websites do this already, when you visit their sites,
but increasingly data is being gathered more actively. As Adobe clearly
communicates in the following screen shot – no action is required. There are not
surveys, no personal information is collected and without doing anything other
than using their software users “Participate in the design of future versions of

Social Mention monitors online conversations. People need not know about
Social Mention or their service, but Social Mention analyzes conversations
happening on message boards, blogs, comments and other environments where
people share their thoughts and opinions. They can compare how people feel
about a company or person or idea, but evaluating sentiment. The result is a very
large view of beliefs, opinions and feelings for anyone sharing their thoughts
publicly online.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Figure 11 Adobe asks users if they wish to participate in the design of future products by
sharing usage information

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Determining how people work together to reach the desired Outcome is critical to
the success of Mass Collaboration. Poor organization leads to statements like -
“A camel is a horse designed by a committee” – however, this poor outcome
assumes a particular type of organization - that every decision is put to the vote.

However, this is NOT how most Mass Collaboration efforts (or communities) are

“…the mantras within the user community are ‘Wikipedia is not a democracy’ and
‘Voting is evil.’…Wikipedians typically resort to binding votes after the failure of
other options.” - Andrew Lih (Mengisen, 2009).

Organization is a critical to get what is valuable from large numbers of

participants, without being crippled by the effort of communicating with so many
people. The following sections explore organizational ideas, from why people
participate in Mass Collaboration, to the different leadership models that are
working when organizing Mass Collaboration.

Interviews form the basis for most of the material in this section (and the following

Why should anyone participate?

When the author responded to a blog post on, he didn’t
expect to be quoted in What Would Google Do (WWGD). But WWGD's author,
Jeff Jarvis found a simple way to collaborate with his readers and turn them into

Among other things, Jeff Jarvis, is a community organizer. But we'll get back to
that later in this section. First, let's review some recent politics. During the
Republican Convention in the United States in 2008, then candidate Obama, was
mocked for his experience as a community organizer. How would this prepare
him to be Commander in Chief? Community Organizers do not have any real
responsibility, do they? Which led many to ask - what exactly do Community
Organizers do, anyway?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Figure 12 Signed page from the author’s copy of What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis.

Community Organizers have no formal authority or leadership role in a traditional

corporate organizational sense and yet they cause action and ultimately change.
How do they do it? This question lies at the heart of how Mass Collaboration
works. As a result, a core part of the research of this thesis involved the
interviewing of 13 Community Organizers, to understand among other things
what motivates people in communities and how to align people’s interests with
their own.

Jake McKee describes successful community:

“Everyone goes home happy. The organization gets what they want and the
community gets what they want.”

This appears simple, but it is really for this to tend to exploitation if you don't
understand why people are part of the community in the first place. The following
sections explore how community participants are motivated, as a means to
understanding how to organize to align interests.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Financial incentives
Crowdsourcing generally captures the idea of financial incentives in Mass
Collaboration in the form of prizes or payment to winners or contributors.
Examples include: MUJI Award (MUJI), Cisco I-Prize, X-Prize or Innocentive
(who manage Mass Collaboration efforts for companies like Eli Lilly and P&G).
Variations include CafePress and iStockPhoto where the market decides
compensation. Finally, arrangements like Mechanical Turk, reward anyone for
achieving specific, generally non-specialized tasks in an environment that greatly
simplifies the process of outsourcing.

Innocentive (Spradlin & Reinhold, 2009) may run some of the best known
Crowdsourcing operations and so it is important to understand what motivates
their "solvers" - those who work on the various problems appearing on the
Innocentive site. Karim Lakhani (Lakhani, Jeppersen, Lohse, & Panetta, October
2006) surveyed solvers and found three main motivations, with responses
divided about equally between them:

1. work on problems that matter

2. peer engagement and recognition - people want to be recognized for
solving a problem
3. money is important but often because it is used to signal how important a
problem might be

As with many Crowdsourcing approaches, this is not very different to traditional

outsourcing, However there is a more efficient way to get to more individuals or
teams, more quickly. This is evolving, as Innocentive is exploring ways to
facilitate coordination between solvers, thus encouraging groups to form and
compete against one another, versus just individuals. Other groups, such as
Jovoto, are also finding ways to enable collaboration, while still offering financial

Money is interesting, but for Community Organizers it's the other motivations that
seem even more useful.

Inverting the commons

In The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric S. Raymond (Raymond, 2001) explores
the Inverse Commons. The tragedy of the commons discusses why individuals

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

acting in their own self-interest ultimately destroy shared resources even when it
is nobody’s long terms interest for this to happen. The Inverse Commons, asks a
different question: what happens if things get better if you use them more,
instead of getting worse or losing value?

Software developers at (Bar-Cohen, 2009) do work which they

give to the WordPress community for free (they estimated about half their effort is
of this type). Why? WordPress software improves because of the way it is owned
- everyone contributes to make it better (give ideas, write code, add designs, etc.)
and the result is that everyone gets a product that they could never create alone
(and they have convincingly beaten out the alternative privately owned platforms,
including Google’s Blogger). Automattic does not need to own or sell software
since it sells services related to the software such as hosting and administrative
services. Beyond Automattic, consultants, designers and developers get paid to
build on top of this platform by companies that want to use the platform in new
and unique ways.

Lego Factory lets people create their own Lego sets and in return, Lego is
constantly receiving feedback about interesting ideas and things that people
might enjoy building. They found a way to benefit from playtime that might have
happened independently and not as part of "the commons". Fluther captures
the responses to questions that might otherwise have been unavailable to the
world by encouraging responses from the community, to community member
questions. The results live on to be found primarily be people searching for the
same questions.

Jovoto (Unterberg, 2009) helps advertisers work with over 5000 creative
professionals. Before anything is delivered to the advertiser, participants post and
share their responses so that others in the community can comment and provide
feedback. Advertisers pay to participate in this process. The end result is that
everyone benefits from the work and the feedback. Once this process is
complete, the advertiser can license the intellectual property for use in their

As more people choose to take simple actions like leaving feedback on Amazon,
updating entries on Wikipedia, answering questions on Fluther, the more the
shopping experience improves because higher quality information about products

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

is fed back to the market. Or quite simply, information quality gets better with
more “use” – the tragedy of commons are inverted.

Solve problems that matter

The author first heard the term "making meaning" from a Guy Kawasaki
presentation (Standford University). And this ties back to the findings at
Innocentive about working on meaningful projects. Mr Kawasaki talks about three
ways to make meaning:

1. Increase the quality of life

2. Right a wrong
3. Prevent the end of something good

Open source software projects such as Linux, Mozilla and WordPress touch on
all of these items. Many people working on these projects believe they are
making something better than might be available through any other process –
they are increasing quality of life and righting the wrong of inferior software.
Projects like Wikipedia, various file-sharing networks, Folding@home or the
Guardian’s project to investigate MP expenses (right some wrongs) represent
additional examples of participation for meaning, where no financial incentives

When Jeff Jarvis asks for comments in response to blog posts, those of us that
choose to respond are not looking for compensation – perhaps some peer
recognition, but in many cases, they are simply trying to understand and
participate in a discussion that is meaningful.

Reinforce meaning
Barack Obama's campaign strategist, David Plouffe (Marketingprofs, 2009),,
gave a glimpse into the political campaign. As the campaign evolved, new issues
emerged and people wanted to understand how they could respond on behalf of
the campaign. The campaign constantly reminded people about why they were
doing what they were doing and obliged with supporting data and talking points.
It's easy to forget, but it's not enough to make meaning, people need to be
reminded about what is at stake and why they are doing what they do,
particularly as things become difficult.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Play, contact and recognition

Ford models are encouraged to upload Youtube videos to the Ford Models
Youtube channel (In June 2009, it ranked #65 of all Youtube channels). Models
compete for the attention of their fans. It does not matter if it is a game or real life
(wealthiest, sexiest, brainiest, funniest or best use of sheep in animation), people
want or need to be recognized. In the case of Ford models, it impacts their ability
to land jobs dramatically if they can develop a following on Youtube or via Ford
models other channels on Facebook and mySpace (Toledano, 2009).

Automattic, the operator of WordPress, is interesting in this regard. It's not so

much that there are points, but every aspect of the project includes long lists of
contributors - as Raanan Bar-Cohen points out, just take a look at the names on
the about page. WordPress also uses metrics to compare, rank and rate
contributions from its community, which brings us to our next section.

Ratings, rankings and leader boards

Rankings and scores are the currency of many communities. It is a way for peers
to tell who is the most read, most viewed, most published, most sales, most
senior, etc. Almost anything that can be measured or judged will qualify for
scoring. The main differences tend to be around who is judging or if judging is
required because "more impartial" measurements can be taken.

Continuing with the WordPress example, it provides statistics around most of its
contributions that include everything from ideas, to designs and code. These
include "votes" such as number of downloads and ratings.

Fluther, makes use of a points system that combines a variety of scoring

schemes. For example, users can score other users contributions such as +5
points for a good answer to a question. Alternatively, the Fluther operators, give
+2 points if you show up at the site 2 days in a row. Not surprisingly some of the
highest scoring “Flutherers” are some of the most influential and important
community participants. Some have gone on to become employees, while others
receive more administrative rights to help guard against abuse and nurture the

On BigSoccer, "rank" is conveyed a little differently in the form of seniority (based

on join date) or level of participation such as total posts and blog entries. In short,

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

participation is the main explicit metric. Shortyawards (Galant, 2009) (Shorty

Awards) combined this idea on a few levels. Individuals recognize other people
by nominating using a twitter message formatted in the following way:

@shortyawards I nominate @twitterperson for a Shorty Award in #category for

some reason

Nominations are summed to produce ranked lists of people and ultimately these
ranked lists result in awards. Simple voting took place on Twitter over a 2 week
period and resulted in the first comprehensive directory of leading people in a
variety of Twitter categories.

Social interaction
The author does not know why people feel compelled to shout answers at TV
game show hosts. But Ben Finkel of Fluther describes how people just like to
share what they know. For many, if they are asked a question there is some
innate desire to share what you know. On Fluther, this is what people do. It has
played out in a variety of formats on sites like Yahoo Answers; blog comment
sections; twitter responses; links commenting on other people’s work, etc.

On the community supports itself in this way. Have a question?

Chances are that the person who responds to you is just another member of the
community, helping out and telling you what they know. In a broader sense, blogs
are not that different and nor are reviews. In many cases, I am simply showing off
what I know.

What do all these things have in common online? They tend to be on the record -
that is, these answers, posts, opinions are findable by others and therefore can
serve as evidence of your knowledge and opinions, beyond the point in time
where you answer the question.

Showing people that their contributions matter

All this feedback means nothing, if people don't believe it is making a difference.
Some communities have a policy of showing that they are responding. Fluther
does this rather via constant updates about your questions and answers. It's
harder when people are submitting ideas.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

When Google released their mobile application, Google Latitude, they showed
gratitude. They received a great deal of attention, but they didn’t claim it for
themselves, they credited the person who initially suggested the idea and
featured Lana from New York on their blog. Recognition can take many forms.

Work where people already are

Today multiple "sharing" features exist for content online, As discussed in the
Tools section, YouTube made this easy to understand and do. The result was
staggering – according to Roelof Botha (Botha), most of YouTube's traffic came
via links shared via e-mail, in part because Youtube made this easy to do – one
did not have to send large video files.

37Signals make it easy to form groups across organizations using Basecamp.

Getting started is simple for everyone, so inviting people to join your project or
set up your own is not just easy for the person sending the invitation - it's also low
risk because you know people will find it easy to join and get started. Jason
Fried, one of 37Signals founders, confirmed via e-mail that 37Signals does no
advertising. There is no need when you design in ways for others to help you
market and sell your product.

Purposeful play
As you play GWAP the games generate useful output, too. Making a contribution
need not feel like work. In fact, there is no reason why this can't be fun, too.
Perhaps the least amount of work, is not even knowing that you are working,
because you thought you were doing something else.

There is probably a thesis-worth of gaming-related ideas from some of the more

successful online game franchises particularly those involving large numbers of
players. Communities organized around World of Warcraft are interacting at
multiple levels - on the one hand they are playing a game which constantly tracks
their progress and publishes it for others to see, but they also share feedback
with the game developers to help improve the game they are playing.

42 Entertainment created an elaborate game designed to spill into the real world,
generating real world news and attention for the movie, The Dark Knight. The
game was rewarding to players (and claimed to attract 10m participants) who
participated in activities that made real world news and help to promote the

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

movie. The players got an entertaining experience and The Dark Knight was
widely promoted as a by-product of their play.

Figure 13 User interface for GWAP, a game that produces useful music meta information as
people play

Leading from any position

Most of the organization discussion has focused on ways to align interests of the
organization with the people participating in Mass Collaboration efforts. However,
the leadership roles that are effective for community leadership, appear to have
some unique attributes. In fact, when asked about leadership during interviews,
almost all interviewees expressed a view that emphasized leadership from
anywhere versus a more traditional image of someone at the front of the
organization showing the way. This is how some interviewees described
leadership in their community organizing efforts:

“People who have reach and influence, People who carry weight” – Gordon

“When you win, you lose control” – Jeff Jarvis

“When does top down leadership matter? When Michael Dell says – ‘This is the
new norm. We need to do this’.” – Jeff Jarvis

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

“Realizing that you don’t lead [is the greatest leadership challenge]” – Bastian

“Support and collaborate with your community and avoid trying to ‘suck up all the
oxygen’ by trying to do everything” – Raanan Bar-Cohen

“Every individual in our community has the power to be a social leader because
the content they share is relevant to their own sub-network (i.e. friends).” – Brian

“Our role in leading the community is to enable the participation and

communication … not to dictate the terms of the community.” – David Camp

The following section explores leadership roles by looking at the formal leaders,
such as organization founders or people responsible for attaining specified
outcomes. Then informal leadership is examined and finally, “emergent
leadership” is explored – that is, situations in which people assume leadership
roles for specific tasks.

Formal leadership
From the interviews, most of the formal leaders seem uncomfortable describing
themselves as leaders – they have helped to establish core teams, communicate
the vision and get communities started. They seem to share some traits common
with the “Good to Great” leaders (Collins, 2001) They are not particularly well
known or visible. They tend to be humble and invest in the community, versus
their own celebrity. Interestingly, one seemingly obvious criterion is that they
have followers.

Community organizing requires a slightly different skill set because of the change
in scale and distributed nature of the communities they interact with. So in-person
contact might be much less frequent than in other organizations. For example,
many organizations interacting with large communities are small – in May 2009
WordPress had 33 employees, Jeff Jarvis is just one person, the Jovoto, Fluther
and Bigsoccer teams numbers a few employees. In all cases, they are interacting
with groups of people that number sometimes one hundred times or more the
number of full time employees.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Therefore these community organizations rely on different communication

models to effectively and efficiently interact with a large number of people, but
also work closely with a layer of trusted intermediaries. For example, to reach the
Lord of the Rings fans, Gordon Paddison worked with a group of about 60
influential fans. WordPress also has a small group of very active community
members with whom they can communicate more frequently – as does Fluther,
Big Soccer and Jeff Jarvis. So informally or formally, there is a smaller more
manageable group with whom leaders can interact with more frequency and in
more depth.

Informal leadership
The 90-9-1 contribution model (Ant's Eye View) suggests a specific type of
contribution in online communities. That is, of all the people who might interact
with the community in some way, a small percent does most of the work. And the
people who tend to be the informal leaders can lead because of the actions such
as specific contributions or suggestions. These professional leaders tend to
develop followings as people are interested in their opinions and thoughts.

Sometimes informal leaders are referred to as influencers, which gives a sense

of who might be able to help drive certain outcomes or influence opinion. In the
case of Lord of the Rings marketing, for example, Gordon Paddison set about
identifying community members who had the most followers (website traffic) and
who carried weight – i.e. they had some level of support. This then formed the
core leadership group that worked with him through the Lord of the Rings online
marketing campaign and will largely be the same group that will work with him
again for the upcoming Hobbit films.

It's not unusual for the most involved community members to be spending as
much time as employees which can lead to some complications as people realize
people are being compensated to perform similar roles. In cases such as
Innocentive, leadership follows individual professional performance versus ability
to impact the community. So in competitive situations leadership is more
professional in nature versus a role which is causing others to succeed and work
towards a common vision. In more collaborative environments, different
leadership emerges, not necessarily around professional expertise, but
organizing capacity – i.e. community organizers.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Recruiting community members

A number of interviewees described recruiting as the most difficult part of getting
the community started. The initial people involved, are critical, which is why it is
not unusual for some communities to tightly control initial invitations
( wanted CEOs from start-up companies, before they
launched, wanted to make sure the contributions would be of a high
quality from its initial users). Various companies, who launch early version of
products, simply want to make sure they get constructive feedback, so they hand
pick people they will allow to participate.

From the interviewees, it seems clear that communities are not really created but
rather discovered and engaged in new ways. As Jake McKee described,
communities often exist and have organized before organizations decide they
want to work with them. Rather than building a community, activity is more
focused communicating with the community. This theme was echoed in almost all
interviews – communities already exist in most cases, so getting started, is more
about co-operating with existing communities and community leadership, as the
following examples show:

BigSoccer (existing fan groups and e-mail lists and their administrators)

Lord of the Rings (LOTR) (existing LOTR fan sites and their moderators)

Innocentive (schools, consultants)

Jovoto (communities of creative students around schools)

WordPress (existing developers, bloggers)

Shorty Awards (existing followers on twitter)

Spinspotter (people congregated around news or idea)

Jeff Jarvis (similarly displeased Dell customers, for Dell Hell)

Ideabounty (existing community of creative professionals)

Thunda (groups photographed as part of their service)

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Community governance
Like any society, communities need guidelines and rules to operate effectively.
Some are not codified but have understood behavior from other community
members. Sometimes legal definitions are required; other times, communities
want to be clear what types of behavior are expected in their “space”. Like any
guidelines, they also need to be enforced. In the authors experiences,
communities were quite effective at policing themselves intervening when they
believed the community was being harmed.

It is not within the scope of this work to enumerate all of the governance codes,
however the reader is urged to look at the communities referenced in this work
and review their “terms of service” or “community guidelines” to understand what
is codified.

Specialized creative processes

This research did not attempt to enumerate or classify the various specialty
organizational processes. However it is important to understand the role of
specialty processes in getting to valuable outcomes. For example, Wikipedia
goes to great lengths to define criteria to preserve neutral tone in the pages.
Google continuously discusses what they would like to see in terms of behavior
from people creating links and online content that enable the company to more
effectively analyze information and present search results. Jeff Jarvis solicits
feedback and contributions via a variety of conversational mechanisms, from
asking questions to taking clear positions in contentious debates. Innocentive
uses specialists to guide interaction between their seekers and solvers. Lego did
not try to work with a large community, but hired a small subset of people to work
more closely with an internal product development team. WordPress monitors
responses in its support section to ensure that questions are answered (and
intervenes if the community is not up to the task).

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Example evaluations of Mass Collaboration

The following section is intended to show how the OPTO framework can be used
to evaluate Mass Collaboration efforts.

Product development and support -

Why this example was selected

WordPress involves its community in many tasks and is successfully managing a
for-profit business alongside an open source software project. WordPress is
focused on supporting and nurturing their community – it is founded on these
ideas and therefore it provides another reference for organizations looking to
understanding Mass Collaboration.

Sources: participation in the community and interview.

Figure 14 WordPress OPTO scores.

Outcome – 5 is home to more than 5m blogs and visited by about 250m users
per month, according to their analytics. That makes them one of the largest
online destinations. There are blog products managed by Google as well as a
number of other organizations, but WordPress is the largest.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Additionally WordPress Happiness Engineers, play a very important role in

making their service work, but this team can remain small and focused, because
the community does a large amount of knowledge creation and real-time support,

People - 4
People can contribute in a range of ways. There is the core software
development project at And then, like Mozilla, there are
plug-ins and themes. And then a separate area for additional feedback such as
new ideas or problems – appropriately called Kvetch.

Participation levels are similar to Mozilla – almost 5000 add-ons and just over
700 themes as of May 2009. It’s harder to get a handle on how many people in
the community are providing service and support.

It’s really easy to search and find answers – in fact, for many searches using
Google or the or search will get you to the same
content (That’s significant in that this community is likely producing the best
content, then). Other people quickly respond (if not Automattic employees are
watching to make sure nothing goes unanswered). I estimated about 400 or so
new posts per day in the community. WordPress Support fields about 300
requests per day (that employees respond to).

So, in simple terms the community outperforms in terms of responses and

although we don’t have specific numbers, the support forum content seems to
dwarf the support content (and likely informs it), suggesting that users who
search and find content, are finding mainly community generated content
(Abrahamson, 2009).

Tools - 4
WordPress makes use of a range of tools in a similar way to Mozilla. In fact, both
projects have their roots in open source software, so this should not come as a
surprise. Communication happens via a variety of channels such as forums or
IRC. Creators have a place to promote and host their contributions and receive
feedback and key statistics such as downloads, ratings and comments.

Similarly, bloggers have multiple options, including the option to easily move out
of a hosted service to their own, easily modified and customizable environment.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

That’s unique among platforms. Like Mozilla, multiple contribution options exist
from design themes to add-ons and core code for the platform – touching all
aspects of the service except for a few services where the community is likely to
be less effective – such as core support and hosting functions.

As mentioned previously, it really easy to self serve - find answers using Google
or the or search will usually get you quickly to
useful content.

Organization – 5
WordPress enables people to benefit from participation in a number of ways.
Some members sell consulting services to people who use the platform – this is
encouraged and supported. Others receive regular visible thanks for the
contributions. People who participate receive regular feedback about the code or
designs. And so they have aligned motivations well with the objectives of
Automattic, the owners of

Further, Automattic has tried to focus on commercial areas that also help the
community such as hosting and certain types of support that are areas where
communities have not performed well, when left to themselves. This clear
thinking about where the commercial organization can support the community is
unusual and points to a model that other organization might look to – i.e. seeing
the commercial entity as the utility in the way that lights, water etc are provided
by local government.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Nokia Labs
Product development -

Why this example was selected

Nokia makes wonderful products. However, they have been slow to involve their
broader community in core tasks such as product development. While Nokia
Labs is a step in the right direction, the author believes this is a good example to
contrast with successful Mass Collaborations.

Source: observation of the community.

Figure 15 Nokia OPTO scores.

Outcome - 2
It’s not clear Nokia is getting much more useful feedback than they might be
simply having people in the company using the software. That said, they are
building the tools and organization and just need to find better ways to get the
word out and incentivize people to participate. Perhaps opening up development
to outside developers? And offering some incentives to help promote this
community, will help move things along.

People - 2
Nokia takes a feedback approach to product development as part of Nokia Labs.
Participants are encouraged to try the latest Beta versions of software. It is not
clear who decides which Betas will be developed, but users are given some

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

background and then invited to download and try the software before it is shipped
out to phones.

The community is still very small, although some active contributors are
emerging. This is one of the main challenges for any open-innovation or co-
creation process - getting enough feedback.

Tools – 3
The tools are intended mainly for feedback. So they are organized into the
different types of desired feedback: bugs, reviews, comments and suggestions. It
might be hard to neatly break these up, but this is one of the organizational
challenges with feedback, so not too much they can do at the moment.

There are tools for private feedback, but no other easy ways for the community to

Organization – 3
Interestingly on May 8th, 2009, a survey was posted to ask people their thoughts
on the Beta Labs. This is commendable, however there seem to be other
elements missing, such as active recruiting to get people to participate. And it’s
not clear there is much alignment yet, in terms of incentives.

There is however some attempt to recognize some of the big contributors via the
blog and a thoughtful reward, in this case. Among other things, it might make
sense to invite partners and distributors to participate in this process too.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Product development and support -

Why this example was selected

Starbucks is in a business about as far as possible from technology and
software, unlike some of the examples offered so far as benchmarks. While many
of the Mass Collaboration ideas have come from the technology field in areas
such as Open Source software, Starbucks shows how any organization can
embrace Mass Collaboration and make it work for them.

Source: observation of the community.

Figure 16 MyStarbucksIdea OPTO scores.

Outcome – 3
The outcome is somewhat subjective, since it is hard to measure the exact
impact on Starbuck’s business. In simple terms, they have about 13,000
additional people per month joining their already 172,000 employees who are
already receiving a great deal of feedback and ideas from customers in their
physical stores. Overall though, Starbuck’s is soliciting feedback on everything
from their products and service to their communications and corporate social
responsibility – if nothing else, they are able to augment whatever other research
they are doing. In terms of quickly getting feedback on worthwhile ideas and

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

getting them implemented, Starbuck’s is giving more of their customers a way to

participate and “own” more of the experience.

However it is not clear how many ideas are making it through the process – are
ideas particularly hard to implement? Not good enough? Looking at the list of
“Launched” ideas, it seems to be a trickle when compared to the volume of ideas
being submitted on voted on. If this site is ultimately about usable ideas, this
seems like a weak outcome. Then again, if these few ideas have a large impact,
who is to say.

People - 4
From the start, Starbucks had thousands of contributors –nearly 75,000 ideas in
the first six months of operation. It’s not clear exactly how Starbucks generated
this type of response, but they overcame one of the most difficult problems –
getting critical mass for Mass Collaboration. That said, what percent of people
who visit Starbuck’s each day are submitting ideas? The site receives
almost 13,000 visitors in May 2009, according to If Starbucks
serves about 20 million people per week in 2004, that makes the level of
participation very low. At this scale though, Starbucks is likely benefitting from far
more ideas than most organizations (direct competitors or otherwise) so this
might not be critical.

Tools - 3
MyStarbucksIdea makes use of a suite of tools developed by,
best known for their Customer Relationship Management tools. The interface is
simple and follows familiar online user experiences for submitting ideas,
commenting and voting. This means it is easy for people to get started. The use
of blog seems simple, but it is appropriate to enable flexible communications on
issues from updates on the progress of ideas to introductions to new Starbucks

It’s not clear why there aren’t easy ways to interact with the site via mobile – after
all, I suspect that many good ideas occur to people while they are at a Starbucks
location. Beyond that, search is weak, so it’s not clear if an idea has been
submitted before (so I don’t know where to join in). It also seems like people
should be able to interact either in very general terms, as they do now, but also
down to specific locations, as there are likely some location-specific ideas.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Organization – 4
Behind the scenes Starbucks is doing a number of things to make sure that
people have a good experience using the tools by cleaning up duplicate ideas
and making sure sufficient moderators are available to participate in the
conversation and enforce their terms of service. Beyond the maintenance
Starbucks has managed to involved the right people from across their
organization – rather than having people search out the right department or
groups to talk to, everyone just comes to the site and makes sure that the right
Starbucks people “own” the right ideas. This removes a layer of complexity for
customers who can just focus on their ideas and not the logistics associated with
where it goes. Finally, Starbucks goes to great lengths to show what happens to
the ideas and how they are impacting the organization.

From an incentives perspective, if people can make change to their Starbuck’s

experience, this seems like an ideal situation, particularly if they see their ideas
getting implemented. Starbucks lets others help to filter the idea, which ultimately
helps them make decisions about what might be best. It is not clear how the
system might be gamed, but this does not appear to be an issue.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Creative for Communication –

Why this example was selected

Jovoto aims to connect advertisers with creative professionals via a unique blend
of competition and licensing models for an broad community of creative
professionals. It is still in its early stages, but the feedback from the community
and clients has been very positive.

Sources: participation in the community and interview.

Figure 17 Jovoto OPTO scores.

Outcome – 3
Jovoto is still early in its development, at least from the perspective of scale.
Being able to point to more successes would increase the outcome score. To
date, a number of public competitions have been held as well as an unspecified
number of private competitions (used within organizations or privately organized
communities). That said, the feedback from the clients suggests that they are
very excited and happy with the outcome and when these include some very well
known German brands, there is reason for optimism.

Jovoto deals in ideas, not necessarily final products (although some of the work
is very well executed), so there is still a final execution step which has an impact
on whether or not the ideas from the Jovoto community take flight.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Finally, a very promising early Outcome is the way in which the community works
together. It may take a while to scale the business, but just having creative
groups come together, share their work and give feedback is a breakthrough that
moves the advertising creative process closer to what has been achieved with
open source. Jovoto has just started to experiment with approaches to enable
easy team-forming. This seems to have great promise.

People - 4
Jovoto has attracted over 5000 community members from the creative industries.
A recent competition for the city of Wurzburg in Germany attracted 90
submissions in 5 weeks. Most submissions received ratings and comments,
suggesting that everyone is getting some value beyond the winners – a critical
alignment factor. For political candidate Frank-Walter Stein Meier, over 1000
ideas were submitted, with 2400 comments and over 10000 votes (Jovoto). The
community is primarily German and so it is hard to compare Jovoto to some other
communities like Crowdspring, Innocentive or Ideabounty, as one can see
from Google Insights, comparing the four. That said, the participation numbers
suggest a very active and engaged community.

Beyond the numbers, one of the elements that is not clear, if how much
responsibility is being given to the community – there is room for direct
interaction, but it is not clear where he discussions are about the community itself
– what’s working, what needs to change, etc.

Tools - 4
Jovoto has created a suite of tools dedicated to the task at hand. The Jovoto site
is used to manage competitions and provide a forum for community interaction.
Adding and reviewing ideas is simple and a variety of notification options ensure
that people can choose how they want to stay connected and communicate – in
short, Jovoto adds very little overhead to participate and this is its major success.

The user experience, reminds one of 37Signals products, which are, from a user
experience perspective, experiences worth emulating.

From a pure communications perspective, Jovoto makes use of a number of

communication tools including a blog, forums, e-mail and Twitter, so the
members of the Jovoto team are in constant contact with the larger community,

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

clients and people submitting ideas to competitions. However, there are some
possible additions in terms of free interaction within the community, outside of the
competitions – for example, to discuss Jovoto itself.

Organization – 3
From the outset, Jovoto has focused on empowering creative professionals. This
means they constantly seek feedback and respond with new features, policy
changes, etc.

The core processes and decisions represent a step forward from other
competition-style communities. Most importantly, while clients can license ideas,
as they can in other competitions, Jovoto has added a new dimension by finding
a way for the community to interact and provide feedback while balancing the
need for intellectual property rights. This means that Jovoto is unlocking the real
potential of the community – the comments, votes and questions that enable
work to be improved, clients to make decisions and ultimately benefit everyone in
the community. This also serves to align interests because in addition to the
possibility of winning, participants are also gaining useful feedback about their
work, which they would not get in pure competition formats (how most
“Crowdsourcing Creative” endeavors are structured).

The end result is that the Jovoto community behaves like a software
development and design community like WordPress, where the open source
licensing has made this interaction possible – Jovoto is getting the benefits of this
interaction, while preserving the ability for work to be licensed.

Some of the challenges include:

- How will the community scale across different languages?

- How will Jovoto work alongside existing advertising agencies?
- Will people continue participating if they don’t win?
- How will competitive issues be managed – for example, if I am fashion
brand and I see a competition for another fashion brand, why could I not simply
create an account and observe the discussion?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Successful Mass Collaboration efforts have specific approaches to organizing,
people and tools to achieve their outcomes. As a result, a framework can be
used to evaluate and improve relative performance of Mass Collaboration efforts.
When efforts evaluate poorly, they are unlikely to deliver improvements over an
organization’s internal creative processes.

In addition to the evaluation framework, organizations need to think through a

variety of issues from how they respond to outside influences to what forms of
value exchange they will use. While the framework describes common attributes,
there are a number of issues on which current practices are divided, most notably
ownership models and decision-making. The following sections discuss these

Organizations must be influenced

In the best examples of Mass Collaboration, communities have significant equity
– they are able to influence the organizations they work with and organizations
demonstrate a willingness to be influenced. For example, while Apple approves
all applications, the experience most people have with the iPhone is largely
though the most popular applications developed by third parties. Similarly
Starbucks has launched a number on the ideas selected by popular vote by their

In our interview, Jeff Jarvis pointed out that “You win when you lose control“;
however leadership is required to determine what control to share (or give up).
Successful organizations figure out what tasks the community is good at and
where communities need support. They are able to determine when leadership
emerges from the community versus when leadership is required by the

It seems that as organizations can invest in communities, so communities will

invest in organizations. In the best examples of Mass Collaboration, communities
have significant equity – they are able to influence the organizations they work
with and organizations demonstrate a willingness to be influenced.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Different ways to exchange value

In some Mass Collaboration efforts, the community requires little support while
providing significant value. This often demonstrated when groups with few
resources organize around an idea or initiative such as Iranian news coverage.
People willingly gave time and other resources to the cause because it was
meaningful to them. In other cases more investment is required to recruit,
motivate and organize communities and develop specialized tools for specific
tasks. Therefore there will be cases where value created by the community, may
not justify the investment in these community building efforts.

Barter versus monetary compensation

Wordpress benefits from the freely submitted designs and code from its
community, however they estimate that almost half of their development effort
finds its way back into open-source code to be shared with the community. This
in kind commitment to the community costs money since Automattic pays its
developers. Fluther is getting content that is valuable enough to generate
advertising revenue; however, it must spend time and money to provide an
environment where community members enjoy interacting and responding to
questions. This type of exchange seems common in a number of successful
Mass Collaborations. However, once communities involve payment this appears
to change the nature of the community – that is barter and monetary
compensation do not appear to co-exist in Mass Collaboration.

Build or join
Much like build versus buy decisions, the paths to Mass Collaboration might
involve joining an existing effort or starting up a new one – for example, one way
to get new ideas in a creative process is to work with an organization like
Innocentive, Ideabounty or Jovoto. An alternative pursued by organizations
Google, Amazon, P&G, Lego, Fluther and Wordpress is building the necessary
organizations to recruit and organize their own communities. The benefits of the
intermediary communities might be their ability to engage their communities with
more new challenges, which is more attractive to the participants. However, for
brands, there are benefits to direct relationships with the communities.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Attention is the scarce resource

Presently, a relatively small number of organizations are vying for the attention of
their customers and partners. However, as more organizations attempt to engage
with their customers, how will available attention be impacted? Competition for
attention is likely to change the economics of Mass Collaboration, however, the
author expects that organizations will engineer ways to refine tasks and reduce
the demands on participants to do more with less attention. This suggests that a
focus on task selection and appropriate tools is essential to ensure viable
economics as the cost of attention increases.

Economic value from non-economic assets

In addition to economic resources and in-kind exchanges, organizations have to
become familiar with non-monetary currencies they can use to motivate and align
interests with communities. These soft currencies include: “meaningful work“,
“reputation enhancement“, “ego-boosting” or opportunities for “social
interactions“. These currencies enable organizations to achieve economic value
using non-economic assets.

Different paths to successful outcomes

There are a number of divergent approaches to successful Mass Collaboration.
As Mass Collaboration matures, optimal approaches might emerge.

Different ways to own outcomes

Some of the best Mass Collaboration examples are from the open source
community, for example Mozilla, Linux and Wordpress. Wikipedia is licensed
under Creative Commons, conceptually related to open source licensing for
media. These ideas of ownership often has strict requirements prohibiting resale
and requiring attributing for example. This is consistent with the value exchanges
in these communities – people are not compensated direct for these works.

Jovoto, encourages people to submit ideas for public commentary, without giving
up any rights (other than any risks associated with public disclosure).
Organizations like P&G, Starbucks, Innocentive and Ideabounty have strict rights
management processes – by submitting an idea participants agree to give up

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Do ownership models encourage different levels and types of participation?

While Wordpress’s licensing model enables more types of participation, what
have they given up in terms of potential licensing revenue? In P&G’s case, would
P&G get better participation if they used a different ownership model – i.e. if
participants did not assign rights to P&G but shared rights in some way? As
competition for attention increases, ownership models might become an
important part of what motivates people to participate.

Different ways to decide

Mass Collaboration processes do not rely on voting – while community
organizers might strive for consensus, many decisions are also made by small
groups or individuals.

For example, while the community can vote on Jovoto, there is also a vote by a
jury or client. This is consistent with box-office versus Academy award votes –
they do not have to agree and can serve different purposes. One of the primary
benefits of Mass Collaboration is more participation in the form of ideas and
feedback. Decision-makers need not give up control over decision-making but
consider this as additional input to decision-making.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

The following section discusses recommendations for future work.

A better framework via Mass Collaboration

Mass Collaboration should be applied to this work. To date, participation has
been limited to 41 named contributors, including interviewees, people who have
participated in conversations and those who have reviewed versions of the thesis
documents. Ideally thousands of people will contribute to the framework.

Understanding why Mass Collaboration efforts fail

The research focused primarily on trying to understand successful Mass
Collaboration efforts, primarily because much has been written about these
efforts and they were easy to identify and study. However, there are an
increasing number of efforts that are underway and making either little or no
progress. The Nokia Labs evaluation is an example of an effort that has not
delivered results. These efforts will provide additional ways to test the proposed

Scaling Mass Collaboration

As Mass Collaboration efforts include more people, scale issues emerge. Firstly,
efforts become more susceptible to “gaming” – that is, people trying to take
advantage of the openness to achieve specific objectives or simply disrupting the
process (often referred to at “trolls” or “griefers”). It is therefore useful to
understand how Mass Collaboration efforts can best be secured.

Secondly, as the number of participants grows, people are unable to maintain

deep connections with an increasingly large group. It is therefore useful to
understand strategies for decomposing communities to enable people to maintain
relationships as communities grow, without losing the benefits of increasing

Many other possible outcomes

This work has focused on a particular set of outcomes for creative processes
such as product development and communications, but many more organizations
might benefit from Mass Collaboration. Non-profits and governments might
achieve new outcomes - there is already some evidence that this is happening as

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

President Obama extends his participation models from his election campaign
into the administration. In scientific research, a number of efforts, are emerging,
too. This work focused on business to consumer relationships, but business-to-
business interaction might benefit in a similar way. Further research is required to
understand how these types of organizations might use the proposed framework.

Who should own the outcome?

Finally, one area that needs more investigation is ownership. Who should own
the outcomes? It is not clear what relationship exists between ownership models
and the type of participants they attract – for example, do open source projects
attract better programmers because of the ownership model? Is P&G limited to
certain types of community tasks and participants by its choice of intellectual
property models? It would be useful to understand the relationship between
ownership and the types and quality of community contributions.

More open collaboration presents opportunities, however organizations such as

Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, Mozilla, WordPress, Starbucks, Dell and P&G all
have different approaches to ownership – or more specifically choosing what is
owned under different intellectual property regimes.

Google holds multiple patents related to its search algorithm and at the same
time has a number of very public dialogs on what features or products to build as
well as a host of ways in which people can get access to and build on this IP.
Conversation with P&G is difficult unless you agree to one of two specific paths –
you have a patented/protected idea you would like to discuss in terms of
licensing or you will willingly “share” ideas without financial compensation.

This issue is likely to evolve as Mass Collaboration grows. Stakeholders will likely
become more aware of their value and expect some offerings in return. Will it be
more appropriate to use open source or creative commons licensing to attract
certain types of participants? Can licensing models be refined? For example
Jovoto asks clients to pay specifically to participate in collaboration, however
intellectual property is still clearly owned by core contributors and must be
licensed if it is to be used beyond the collaboration environment.

What are the benefits of different ownership models to enabling different Mass
Collaboration approaches – what should organizations try to own versus share

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

more broadly with stakeholders? Moreover, under what terms should sharing
happen? This will likely be a source of much future research.

Since you have come this far, why not join us at

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

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Times More Effective than Advertising, Finds Proctor & Gamble. Retrieved from
The Moderator Community:

Tim O'Reilly. (2005, September). What is Web 2.0. Retrieved from O'Reilly:

Tobaccowala, R. (2008, May 17). Berlin School Presentation. Denuo.

Toledano, J. (2009, May 4). (S. Abrahamson, Interviewer)

Unterberg, B. (2009, May 20). Founder, Jovoto. (S. Abrahamson, Interviewer) (n.d.). Jakob Nielsen. Retrieved from

Von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing Innovation. Retrieved from MIT:

Weiss, R. (n.d.). Berlin School of Creative Leadership Course Materials. May

2009 .

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved fromædia_Britannica

Wikipedia. (2009, May 4). Wikipedia Statistics. Retrieved 2009, from

Winsor, J., & crowd), (. (n.d.). The Crowd Has Its Say. Retrieved from
Business Week:

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

The following 41 people have helped in a variety of ways by contributing support,
time and insights, which I have tried to summarize here and apply properly to this

My Wife, Andrea – for reviewing, discussing, supporting and inspiring me, while
working with me and still managing to be a loving mom to Max and Oli
My Parents, Lawrence & Karen – for their interest, unconditional support and
for getting through an early draft
Makoto Arai – for his help sourcing and explaining all the information about
MUJI most of which was only available in Japanese
Eoin Banahan – for his support and feedback throughout the thesis process,
even as I changed direction multiple times
Ranaan Bar-Cohen – for his interview about Wordpress and Automattic Inc and
his additional feedback on the thesis
Brian Benatar – for his interview on Thunda, interest, support and insights
Marcel Botha – for his general support and specific help discussing the role of
Mass Collaboration in the product development process
Roelof Botha – for sharing his insights from his current and past startup
experiences with Paypal, Youtube and Zappos that have defined successful
products and marketing in recent years
David Camp – for his interview on Spinspotter and for reminding me how many
hard questions were still unanswered
Michael Conrad – for disagreeing strongly with my initial thesis and his
enthusiasm. feedback and support as I progressed
Jason Fried – for responding to my queries about how 37Signals has marketed
their organization without spending on advertising
Ben Finkel – for sharing his thoughts and feedback in our interview on Fluther
Greg Galant – for his interview on Shorty Awards and very humorous, yet
insightful twitter feed
Mauricio Garnier – for being sufficiently skeptical
Nick Gogerty – for bringing the anthropologist-quant-trader perspective which
led me to the most useful reference texts
Rikke Gruntvig – for reminding me that this has to result in something
immediately useful

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Doug Guthrie – for introducing his leadership framework at the Berlin School
that inspired the development of this framework
Jesse Hertzberg – for his interview and thoughts on BigSoccer and organizing
communities which he will hopefully have a hand in at Etsy
Jeff Jarvis – for his wide ranging interview and for provoking, encouraging and
sharing his thoughts via any and all available media
Jeff Leventhal – for his interview and constant flow of new innovative ideas
particularly related to the changing ways in which people work
Ben Linder – for talking through how product development might benefit from
Mass Collaboration
Lee Maicon – for encouragement and insights about the advertising industry
Craig Marcus – for a flow of relevant inspiring e-mail at the most unexpected
times that will likely make this much easier to explain in a presentation
Jake McKee – for his interview on Lego and his other community organizing
experience as a consultant as well as a constant stream of useful blog posts and
twitter updates
Gordon Paddison – for being far ahead and sharing his wealth of knowledge
about how brands and communities can work together online
Saneel Radia – for talking me out of my original thesis idea and then constantly
testing and supporting me on this idea even when he had his own work to do
Anjali Ramachandran – for organizing the Crowdsourcing Example wiki
Leah Ramella – for encouragement, constant feedback and document reviews
Matt Riley – for his interview, interest and insights
Adriana Scalabrin – for her support and detailed, clear, insightful feedback and
Rob Shwets – for his constant humor, relevant interview contacts and out of the
blue great insight
Amanda Siebert – for a last minute review and feedback when I needed a
perspective from someone who had never heard me discuss the work before
David Slocum – for slogging through an early draft and providing detailed,
insightful feedback which was frankly beyond me to properly incorporate
Dwayne Spradlin – for his interview, insights and useful twitter feed on
Dimitris Tranakas – for shouts of encouragement and “Bravos”
Geng Tan – for pulling together some of the initial case studies to clarify how
Mass Collaboration gets done

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

James Toledano – for his interview on the Ford Models community and sense of
Bastian Unterberg – for his interview and his support for a non-designer in the
Jovoto community
Gregg Watt – for his support and feedback
John Winsor – (who I have never met) for asking interesting questions and
sharing his thoughts on how Crowdsourcing will impact the advertising business

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Annex A: Survey questions and responses

The following questions were posed to people responsible for organizing
communities for their own companies or on behalf of clients.

How did you find people to engage for your community?

What do you get from your community (that you don’t think your could get
from within your organization)?

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Who are the leaders in your community?

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

I'm surprised you didn’t ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 1: Ben Finkel, Fluther

Background Notes
Ben Finkel
CEO and Founder,

Fluther - been around for a few years

Looking at first round of funding
Alexa stats
Taken the community very seriously - "actively managed"
Community vibe had to be correct
Team of volunteer moderators
Pull down questions that dont fit it
Most of the traffic comes from Google - adsense alone is generating revenue

How did you find people to engage for your community?

Starting is the hardest part
How do you convince people to use something that needs critical mass
E-mailed everyone I knew - friends, family (a few hundred) - only 10-20% gave it
a try)
Service has to incubate to find a group of people
Was quiet for a while
On the first day - making up multiple identities to make it look like there were
more people
Months where not much happened
Meeting at a party, tell more people
Didnt take a lot of people - 100 core interested people made it quite active
Requires the most caretaking
Each person can have a lot

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
What will the business look like?
Havent really built a plan. Spent more time responding to what people want.
What do people care about and what do they use.
Get people to post really good answers to question

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Put their own Q&A into to their own site.

More interested in serving the community
On a daily basis get requests that they respond to
Initial version of site, was meant to be realtime, but then morphed into more a an
Answers product
Designer interviewed users during redesign - hybrid between realtime and
Beauty of release - put out a minimal product and then get feedback and people
will surprise by what they ask for.
People prefer simplicity
Most people just want other smart people on the site

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?

If you ask someone to fill out a survey - offer $1 and nobody does. if it free, they
will help
Great satisfaction in sharing knowledge that you already have
Natural social desire to share and tell people what you know
Innate to want to respond, if you have the answer
Public recognition of having people see the answers
money makes it more difficult in some instance
original - when google launched, you couldnt pay for the top position - some
things cant be bought

People coming from google

Most traffic from people who are simply browsing around and will never create
Core group of very active users
"Theory of broken windows" - if things go awry, things can break down very

Who are the leaders in your community?

No profile in age or interest
People who get more satisfaction from helping
Feel part of something

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

As people climb the ladder of involvement - sometimes people ask if the

moderators paid. Moderators aware that they are not paid. There is a sign-up list
of people who want to be moderators.
As you grow, how do you manage?

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?
Grew organically as they were needed
For example as moderators were added, created as a reference
Important to be transparent - need to have some consistency
If a member has been around longer, they have more latitude VS someone new
who may show up and pitch a product.
Moderators also get training docs, but not much around guidelines

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Going from a monolithic community to multiple communities - let the product live
on multiple sites that attract different types of communities
How do you scale the community?
Look at Yahoo Answers - quality has dropped off. Feels like people who use
have become mediocre.
How do grow but keep high content
Social filtration - lets you filter based on what you know about or just from friends,
so it is less random

Do people meet up?

Some meetups in cities, but organized by the community
People posting that they are having fluther meetups

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 2: Jake McKee, Community Guy

Background Notes
Jake McKee

How did you find people to engage for your community?

what are the business objectives? for example do you want customer insights?
do you want help communicating?
general want to get benefits from being "closer" to the community

Important differences between groups: Public VS Private OR Product Dev vs


Have to distinguish between a community(a collection of 3 or more people

communicating or organizing together) versus communication to the community

Often there is an existing community that has organized somewhere and you can
find ways to reach out to them

LEGO Recruiting Example - seems much like a complex hiring process

- who was valuable in this instance? strong communicators, with good technical
skill and ability to work with the product development group without disrupting
and while showing benefits to the group of bringing in people from outside the
- had an existing community of people interested in mindstorms
- initially wanted to recruit 4 to participate in the mindstorms product development
- eventually these people helped recruit 5 more people into the process
- people were asked questions to evaluate specific areas of expertise
- there contributions were observed - what types of creations? did they RANT or
did they seem more stable?

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

- outside perspective
- valuable insights for people who are often too close to the process (product
development, key business decision)
- amazing how poor this can be handled - discussed recent Facebook fumbles
- same reason companies look to consultants to get more perspective, more
feedback for any number of reasons

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?

The ideal is that "everyone goes home happy". That is, the people in the
community get what they want and the organization gets what they want
There is some tension in this relationship, as it can tend to exploitation.

Who are the leaders in your community?

- varies by community
- for example, a leader in one context might fall flat in another
- main issue is how the group addresses its needs and from this leaders are

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Yes, it's usually a good idea to do "training" for companies... I don't like the idea
of guidelines because it tends to tell people what they CAN'T do (whether
consciously or subconsciously) rather than helping them get excited about the
opportunities and respectful of the risks. I like to couch the process in "training"
documents, sessions, mentoring, etc.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Biggest challenge, for me in my experience, is always pushing participation in the

early days. I've launched a community site, of I know eventually it'll roll out on its own
with having a self-fulfilling success, so to speak. But getting people engaged
when the existing content is so thin is tough.

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 3: Jesse Hertzberg, Etsy

Background Notes
Jesse Hertzberg.

How did you find people to engage for your community?

started locally in nyc
once the core group was active, approached group in boston and offered the
same. Then DC.
After this national growth followed.
These groups were using mailing lists. Gave them a web interface and then
in each city that was getting a soccer team in the US - these were people putting
together a supporters club
was a larger community following the US team - this mailing list was used to seed

Yelp example - started in SF, then moved city by city

Still have not met most people

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
Biggest is message boards - conversational and largely unstructured
More to crowdsourcing - wiki content, statistics, but not as popular

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?
Outsider factor - there is no bar or place you can shoot the breeze about games
in UK etc.
People know each other in real life
They organize to see games together
When people try to lobby the city for rights for a team.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Example - soccer fans trying to get a stadium built in Newton - said - I went on
Bigsoccer and this is how I started to petition. - was on CNN.

People who meet on BigSoccer and get married...6 or 7 marriages.

Guy followed girl around online for a long time and then 7-8 yrs later got married.
Moved to England.

Coordinate travel since soccer involves a lot of travel. People need help around
tickets and planning.

Who are the leaders in your community?

Informal leaders - guys who take the time to write something intelligent. People
want to hear what they want to hear what they have to say. Sort of like the

Formal - moderator, super-moderator. Policing and enforcement. But also

marketing. Watch out for SPAM and trolls. Make newbies feel welcome. Recruit
new people to join them.

Chief Admin - people recruit or volunteer - pyramid organized by region, by

league, by team. There is an interview process - understand their thinking, what
their role should be. Have guidelines - pages and pages. [get list from Jesse]

Most common issue - preventing power trips for new and younger moderators.

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?
Nothing beyond terms of use.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

So many micro-communities popping up, so its getting hard to compete.

Blogger - community develops around that

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Size - signal to noise gets hard as you get started - newbies have a hard time
getting involved because more established

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Advice - be authentic. People know when you are faking. People can tell from the
people who are leading the community. Dont re-invent the wheel - there are tools
that work online already. No need to reinvent technical components. No need to
reinvent message boards, for example - works just fine. So be careful what you
try change. Wherever you can lever another community, leverage it. You can go
to where people are (if you need ad revenue, creates a different problem, as you
need people to come to you).

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 4: Dwayne Spradlin, Innocentive

Background Notes
Dwayne Spradlin
CEO Innocentive

Lisa Reinhold [for last 2 questions]

VP of Client Services - manage challenges - work with seekers on price-based

How do you find people to engage for your community?

Seekers - traditional sales team
Some viral
Some WOM
Some PR
Work with partners such as consultants

Solvers - all WOM based

find other people

Solver network - thousands per month (PHDs and Masters Degrees)

About to do a Facebook app

Experimenting with
- Events - Design Indaba example -
- Other online

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?

Old model - limited

- only hire people from the best schools
- inhouse
- know where innovation comes from

Cost of sustaining innovation outpaces their ability to manage costs

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Innovation comes from where YOU DONT EXPECT

Not advocating replacement of R&D but need to do differently

How do you engage the whole world in the process?

Be inside innovators


More realistic economics

Ducati, Lego, Starbucks, example

2008 - IBM Global CEO Study - companies that are more open to outside
innovation are doing better - Question Asked: what % of ideas come from outside
- business, innovation, etc - took each company and looked at top ones in each
industry. Outperformers admitted that 33% more ideas come from outside.
Companies are realizing what P&G

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?

Solvers - paper by Karim R. Lakhani - studied the solver community

Key Findings - survey the solver community - 3 main reasons - split pretty evenly
- work on problems that MATTER (retired people continuing to work on
interesting issues)
- peer engagement recognition - want to be recognized for solving a problem
- money is 3rd (Seekers signal importance by putting a bounty)

Who are the leaders in your community?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

A lot of IP treatment
- Seekers trust - manage IP and confidentiality
- testing different ideas

Turned on Solver Blog - lets Solvers and Seekers to tell stories on Blog - let
winning solvers tell stores

MAKE HEROES - get them interviewed on Radio

Win Awards
Put on resumes
Leaders emerge on discussion boards

in the next few months - collaborate project rooms

Team leaders - take on specific roles
Solvers will begin rating each other

"Groups are very good at policing themselves"

Launching a new discussion board - invite only - only top solvers - want to
nurture a group of community leaders.

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community? [with Lisa]

- more like a network

- solvers dont communicate yet
- solvers communicate with seekers -
- lots of confidentially issues - some things cannot be discussed
- depends on seekers perspective
- an innovation program manager posted to each challenge - they have domain
knowledge and have helped to draft the challenge. Then the innovation program
manager then becomes the "first responder" in helping to answer most questions.
They play the intermediary role. In some cases, they will facilitate response.
- seekers like to remain anonymous - dont want people to understand what they
are doing. they have concerns about competitors knowing what they are

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

- not for profit clients want more openness, but still concerned that IP would
become unavailable - locked up or not available.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community? [with Lisa]

underlying issue - how do you build trust?

get to meet seekers directly, it can be easier

for solvers, much harder since they dont get to meet

how do you play a fair role to balance

where we can be transparent and communicate about the community - for

example featuring solvers, awards, how many people, qualifications.

asking for regular feedback and making sure that we are acting on the feedback

solvers are referring other solvers - this is the source of the more productive

some specific partnerships - to recruit people with specific skills

academic relationships

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 5: Raanan Bar-Cohen, Automattic

Background Notes
Raanan Bar-Cohen

Head up media services. Work with large partners and publishers. Host for BBC,
Time Inc, etc.
Hosting a site for big blog. Not a service company - focus on platform. So
connect with professionals, as necessary.

Positioning -
WordPress will turn 6.
Wordcamp - in May 2009
Founder of WordPress - wasnt happy and started with b2 cafe which was an
open source project
Automattic is 3.5yrs now
Can you align yourself and support open source AND build commercial
Spend a lot of engineering time contributing (with company resources)

So Automatic is the biggest customer for the open source project.

Open source and Automatic version are in sync
250m uniques per month
11th or 12th larges site
Solving scaling issues

Very open about how the company is run - from how servers are set up to code

Wordcamp - just starting organically

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Completely distributed - everyone works from home.

How did you find people to engage for your community?

Word of mouth
Existing developer community
Mailing list
IRC channel
Documentation sites
Trac System - can pick up a ticket and solve something

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
No professional services, no custom dev.
Hosting only
Support program - developer to developer

Community - good for professional services - from free themes to custom agency

Advantages of the company over the community - focus on heavy lifting - where
centralization is good
1000 servers
Centralized hosting
Contracts with hosting and CDNs
Need consistency and responsiveness
Manage a directory of plug-ins etc
Version notification - manage notifications
If a hosted service goes down - want to be responsive

Allows community not to worry about some aspects of what they do.

Most innovation comes from outside.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

There are more smart people working

Large organizations are more and more comfortable with open source - because
there is a stable well-known company behind WordPress. Less amorphous.

NO MARKETING and NO PRODUCT PEOPLE -> Invested Happiness


400,000 new blogs added per month

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?

Lots of recognition - for fixing bugs OR contributing to release OR new themes

OR support answers

Low barrier for people to get involved

Community reviews patches that are submitted

Meritocracy - if you do good work, will be recognized

A lot of students get involved in WordPress - good way to learn

Resume - people mention that they have contributed to a community. Its on the
public record.

Why do people contribute?

- some people showcase skills as a way to market
- others just want to solve problems and meet people
- people invest for a variety of reasons

Who are the leaders in your community?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Examples - - champion of documentation and helping

new bloggers, writes, goes to wordcamps,

- about 40% are Automatic and the rest are contributing for one reason or
10 - Automatic
24 - non-Automatic

Ryan works for corp

Mark does not
Matt = founder
Andrew Ozz for corp
Peter Westwood not

Try not to hire everyone.

More people who got involved for Coltrane release

IRC - 50 - 100 people working on WordPress

Forums - they monitor for specific types of questions. For many questions,
people are asking the community. In some instances, there is a specific issue
such a bug with Firefox uploads, they will jump in and help. So dont respond to
TIPS, Advice, Opinion.

Run 24/7 support for (free)

Support = "Happiness Engineers"
Take support very seriously

Forums on - everyone jumps in

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Roots are in open source. So run in a similar way.

Be transparent.
Honest about what is happen.
Help each other out.
If something breaks - admit an issue and jump in to fix.
Around holidays, shift focus for example - to make sure photos get uploaded.
Eat the dogfood - all use the software.
Data portability - you can take everything you create and move off WordPress.
NO lockin
Easy to start
Not threatening to beginner
Flexible enough for expert

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Support the community versus "using up the oxygen"

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 6: Gregory Galant, Saw Horse Media (Shorty Awards)

Gregory Galant
Saw Horse Media
Shorty Awards

How did you find people to engage for your community?

started with 3 people
sent out a few nominations
already people who were following
other people started to repeat the behavior
had a few hundred followers at the start
small base of pre-existing relationships

if you nominate yourself, you would be nominate yourself into egocentric

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?

traditional approach - a few people sit around and decide

no way to look at all the accounts

quickly built a directory
no idea that there were people twittering about video games
tap into thoughts on 10k people

nomination period - Dec 11 to midnight New Years Eve 2009

reopened for 2 weeks for final voting

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

What’s the incentive?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

if you nominate yourself, you would be nominate yourself into egocentric

- give recognition
- like to get recognition
- leaderboard and competitiveness - I am doing a better job, so should be ahead
- fun element

Who are the leaders in your community?

a. 2 levels
- most voted for

b. A few people who were early adopters

- created new categories
- nominated lots of people

Do you showcase the second group -

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Guidelines on the about page

- combination of algorithms - looked at suspicious looking behavior
- human judgment
- peer reporting (report on their competitors)

Evolved over time as they figured out how people were gaming.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

- what happens as other services evolve?

- stakes are higher - people are going to try game the system
- scale to suite more categories

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

- how quickly it moved

- how seriously people took it.
- award didnt exist a few weeks before
- how many people came to the live
- people cared enough to game the system

How were you inspired?

- command line is a great thing to parse to get info

- struggled with choosing categories, so opened this up
- what happens if someone wants to create a category? just let people

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 7: Gordon Paddison, Stradella Road

Gordon Paddison
Principal at Stradella Road
Formerly EVP New Media Marketing at New Line Cinema

How did you find people to engage for your community?

go to community and create interaction
find vocal
find insightful

listened first and observed

saw how they were participating in the discussion
ID people who had taken a leadership position
i.e. de facto experts

didnt try to take leadership position

worked to be invited into the dialog

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?

- acceptance
- needed the experts
- needed permission
- many skeptics - felt it (the movies) shouldnt be done
- Peter Jackson was unknown at the time
- not be definitive, just a personal reflection
- didnt have to embrace but accept
- april 7 2000 - online only piece to let people know how it was going to be
- first time people got excited
- acceptance only comes from dialog

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

- harder to create a community from

- snakes on a plane - viral success
- fully thought thru program
- best laid plans

- benchmarks
- realtime feedback
- find methods to develop - find paralllel components that tie in

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Whats the incentive?

- greed - business
- fandom - fame
- sex, drugs, rock & roll
- fans - appeal that studio is listening. just didnt expect someone to reach out.
thrilled that people care. turn people around.
- people were treating people like dirt at the time
- fans were happy to fall in line - people would email every day asking for
- people's motivations online are pretty clear and they are clear about that they

Who are the leaders in your community?

- look for people who carry weight

- look at traffic
- look at admin or editor or moderators
- want to find people with reach and influence
- most vociferous

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

- at the start he (Gordon) did everything directly

- then had a few people who were using monitoring
- still in direct contact with most of the key people
- old fan webmaster who had worked with Gordon on LOTR, reached out when
announcement was made about Gordon’s role as Digital Brand Strategy lead for
Peter Jackson’s newest film, The Hobbit
- started in 98
- email still worked - now much harder to reach
- always maintained direct contact with key people on LOTR
- for other projects had guidelines

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

- key influencers like a key account - need to be managed by people, need to be

treated with respect, listened two, just like a client

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 8: Matt Riley, Ideabounty

Matt Riley

Quirk eMarketing

[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

We started with our own networks and spread out. I am ex Ogilvy, as is Nic Ray
(our UK MD at Quirk), so we had a well established network and a good idea of
where to start. So you could say we started with friends. In order to rapidly grow
the base (with 0 marketing budget) we had to rely on seeding content into the
right communities. Our blog is very important in this regard. We try to create
content that will stimulate debate and then we genuinely contribute to
conversations. Its really the only way to do it. Add value.
Twitter , Facebook and niche creative aggregators have been vital to our ongoing
efforts. When ever possible we will try secure interviews with people that are
doing something unique in a field out community are engaged in.

- how are people coming to ideabounty?

Referring and direct (word of mouth) is our biggest traffic driver. Search is
starting to become more important as awareness of the category (crowdsoucing
) is growing.

What do your clients get from your community (that you don't think they
could get from their organization or their current vendors/partners)?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Easy - fresh thinking. The current 'traditional' agency model of charging for
creative product means you pay per person per hour. This means a client has at
most 4 people thinking about their brief, and usually over a long period of time.
So thinking eventually becomes unsurprising and static. We offer an injection of
dynamic thinking for a cost that does not grow exponentially as more individuals
join in.

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

The challenge of the brief (some briefs get high responses purely because of
their contents) , the opportunity to work on real world problems for brands they
might not have access to, and finally and i think primarily the financial incentive of
the Bounty (although our largest bounty did not attract the most submissions)

Who are the leaders in your community?

We don't have any stand out figures. Just consistent advocates - a retweet here,
a blog post there. The nature of the offering is that individuals do not have to
organise themselves into groups to participate - so there is no real opportunity for
leadership to emerge - which is kind of nice- everyone is on the same playing

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Its simple. Be honest. Creatives needs first - client needs only if its not harming
our creatives. Add value - don't spam, contribute.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

I don't think I'm a leader. My team and I try to be the hard workers that make
others lives easier. We dig up the cool content to keep people stimulated. We
work to give our creatives great opportunities to work on brands that we'd like to
work on ourselves. So that's hard - its a challenge to know what people want.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Our biggest challenge is to continue to give people reason to contribute if they

were not successful the time before. The only way we can do that is if we are a
valuable part of their day to day lives.

I'm surprised you didn't ask me this question:________

Anything about the spec work debate :)

Additional question: how do you deal with concerns related to intellectual


I always explain the risks to clients of 'going social' , and its my responsibility to
ensure that we work with our clients to develop a brief that will give them
maximum return and at the same time allow them to retain competitive
advantage. Idea Bounty's greatest upside in this regard is that we don't rely on
'aggregation'. There is no public voting on ideas. The only people that view the
ideas are the client and the creative who submitted it - our legal frame work
enforces this. That way our clients can a) seed knowledge of new product activity
(a powerful offshoot of crowdsourcing) and b) retain the strategic advantage of

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 9: Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine ( & What Would Google Do?)

Jeff Jarvis

How did you find people to engage for your community?

people found me

You dont find them - they find you

Dell Hell - message got attention, not the fact that he was an expert

Twitter - when you say things, it matters -> short half life

there is value to volunteering

worth reading - umair haque ( ) - used to make

money by extracting value, now by adding

support the community by filling in the gaps

Dell - started with people supporting each other in the 90s -> how do you create a
platform to let others succeed?

can you pay the best responders?

can you set up your own support businesses? let people support and get paid

how do you deputize people on the outside? how do you support specific
- get information
- sell ads

Jeff Gitomer ( - writes sales books

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

- wants to remake company around WWGD

- jeff spent a day helping think through
- ask all the people what the value is?
- missing out on - what your customers know - ie. sales people who buy these
- so how do help these people and enable them to benefit

- interviewed by Vrij Nederland
- asked for consultation as part of the interview
- so magazine asked their readers - whats their value? - Kai Diekmann (editor)

- consulted to editer
- showed the flip camera
- turns everyone into journalist
- private label flip camera - 21k cameras sold
- equipped public to give him content - goes directly to Bild
- how do I encourage other people to help me

- went on to create user generated ads

- google "bild user generated advertising"

Professional class has to add value in new ways

- Community Organizers
- become educators
- promotors

NYTimes - working on the local blog

- students are not writing stories
- they are encouraging local community members

Biggest lesson - people like to create and find their audience, so everyone can
have an audience

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Talked with 500 government webmasters - they need to learn how to fail. If you
cant fail, you cant experiment. You cant create.

What do your clients get from your community (that you don't think they
could get from their organization or their current vendors/partners)?

[covered in first section examples]

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

[covered in first section examples]

Who are the leaders in your community?

People who add value

- comments
- links

Bob Wyman - started pub-sub

- moral opposite of a troll
- always create value
- when he leaves comments, leads to more comments

Fred Wilson
- links
- comments

Jay Rosen

All have some level of respect

Do you rewrite the laws of supply and demand?

- not about scarcity
- worse than enabling abundance

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

See – About Me/Disclosures and Rules of Engagement.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

- organizing does not mean leading

- you win when you lose control
- you know better than I do - control, trust, respect...

when does top down matter?

- when Michael Dell says: "this is the new norm" - we need to do this
- in some cases where top or bottom get it but they cant align, someone needs to
step forward [note: very common dislocation between corporate versus field, so
this is likely a recurring them]

I'm surprised you didn't ask me this question:________

thoughts on IP?
- the more you open up, the more value get added
- Jay Rosen - never lost by sharing ideas

Economist - project "red stripe"

- go off and create something for the web
- didnt start with a problem, so didnt solve anything in particular

[my note: if you dont care where you are going, it doesnt matter where you go to]

Nick Denton - I cant afford brainstorming

Look at terms of Guardian News API -

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 10: David Camp, Spinspotter

David Camp

[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

"Targeting people individually and at a group level based on their
affinities/passion points, and demonstrating how our products can enable them to
pursue their own goals/agendas, etc, relative to truth on the web.

Plugging into existing social nets and leveraging digital memes via Facebook,
YouTube, Twitter

Encouraging early adoptors and loyalists to evangelize their friends via online
word of mouth"

What did you get from your community (that you don’t think you could get
from within your organization)?
Validation. Invested and in the know but dispassionate 3rd party feedback.
Every organization big and small suffers from the inhalation of its own smoke. A
good community is the best means of getting valuable feedback on everything
from good, bad, ugly product reviews to ideas about new features, to help
prioritizing and staying out of trouble with messaging and marketing, etc

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

"The key motivator is that people who participate in a community self select in
because they believe in what we are doing or derive personal value or fulfillment
from our service.

Ultimately, most people are motivated to participate either because of the social
capital gained by bragging to friends that they are cool and hip, or the recognition
that we the biz try to provide back to them.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Also, people are intrinsically motivated to participate because everyone wants to

enhance the ways in which their voices can be heard on topics important to

Who are the leaders in your community?

Our role in leading the community is to enable the participation and
communication among those in the group, and to throw out topics for discussion
and action on, not to dictate the terms of the community. Less structure is more.
Admins and moderators are there only for safeguarding against vandalism and
inapppropriateness, and to spark discussions.

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?
No formal guidelines as of yet.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Passive massive. Converting voyeurs into participants (or the 90% of the crowd
into the 10% actives)

I am surprised you didn’t ask me this question:

What is the secret to scale in creating communities, attracting mass which begets
more mass? Does it lie in a deliberate strategy by the organization, or the viral
nature of online crowd behavior?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 11: James Toledano, Ford Models

James Toledano

[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

We leveraged our existing communities on MySpace, YouTube and our big

database and worked closely with Facebook to grow our community online.... We
went from zero to 100,000 in 2 weeks and growing....

What do you get from your community (that you don’t think your could get
from within your organization)?

We get feedback and a newer audience... Facebook is a younger demo and ideal
for us given that our aspirant community is usually young too....

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

They want to be close to the brand. It represents a certain lifestyle and dream if
you will...

Who are the leaders in your community?

We moderate and in time will be more active in blogging too - but using organic
web talent...

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

Simply put, we respect our brand and need to be mindful of our legacy/history.
So that means, we are also responsible and focus on fashion and talent...

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Sometimes you attract negativity or mean-spirited people who want to ruin it for
the others.... So you have to block them.... Other biggest issue is having enough
content to serve the voracious appetites of the masses...

I'm surprised you didn’t ask me this question:________

How can i be a Ford Model ;-)

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 12: Jeffrey Leventhal (founder


Jeffrey Leventhal

Founder of

[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

Word of Mouth and job boards

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
Fast, straight answers from precise experts

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Alignment (of interests)

Who are the leaders in your community?

Moderators on forums, but important that community is neutral as ours is a
marketplace as well.

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?
Yes - straight person to person casual, everything always communicated from a
person, not The Company.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Starting it and generating momentum

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

Why do people join your community?

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 13: Bastian Unterberg, Jovoto

Bastian Unterberg


[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

"jovoto > closed community of 5000+ creatives

1. started via personal networks to gather the first 500 creatives

2. build a contact network around german, spanish and british universitites to

recruit the follow up 2500 creatives

3. started to invite people who applied for a registration about 1000

4. about 1000 got recommended by friends already members of jovoto"

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
insights and tons of interesting conversations, unlimited points of view, honest
feedback (although it's tough sometimes), a lot fun, visibility elsewhere,

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

a fair set up for all participating roles, getting in touch with other like minded
people, challenging tasks, well known brands to work on, freedom, security
regarding exploitation, cash, social benefits like improving your own skills due to
exchange and collaboration

Who are the leaders in your community?

"being a true potential user of your own product is necessary for ""guiding"" a
community, while community management is a key to success. a very close
relation between your core ""users""(< we hate this expression) and your
community management is a must have.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

build your staff out of outperforming community members is a secret recipe for
building a great team, which is being trusted be your community. It is like in real
life: You don't spend time (or at least you don't enjoy it) with people or within
communities you don't trust in a basic way."

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

not really. our community managers are kind "at home" and you don't need
provide them a specific guidance. I believe that a community manager, who has
to "learn" how to interact with a community is a wrong pick.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

"Realizing that you don't lead!

Real-time tracking and identification of the (most) important conversations within

your community. "

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

How do you deal with issues, where community members do not follow law,
especially violating the rights of third parties.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Interview 14: Brian Benatar, Thunda

Brian Benatar


[Not an interview – administered as a survey, therefore responses are written


How did you find people to engage for your community?

We established a direct-marketing service by providing permission-based social
photography in venues frequented by our desired target market (18 - 34, socially
outgoing, brand conscious adults with disposable income). We took our service
to them in environments where they valued that which we provided. This created
the first touch-point with them and by capturing a photograph of them with their
friends (with their permission) we provided them each with a personal reason to
go online and visit our website. At this point we initiated an electronic relationship
with them.

What do you get from your community (that you dont think your could get
from within your organization)?
Our community was established as a means to build an audience of people to
whom we could promote the products and services of our advertisers and
sponsors in ways relevant to their lives.

Our media model is predicated on "the audience is the content"

What do you think motivates people to participate in your community?

Our community interactivity to date has been predicated on photo sharing. We
haven't need to provide rewards or incentives as this visual content is relevant to
users and so they share and interact with it on their own volition.

Through our new social networking community (on, we

intend using social status (based on activity on our site) to determine network
status. Heavy users will be afforded a level of status on our site to which other
users who value the network power of our community will aspire.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Who are the leaders in your community?

Every individual in our community has the power to be a social leader because
the content they share is relevant to their own sub-network (i.e. friends).

Over and above this, celebrities, well known people and people with social
standing and street credibility attract interest through their posts from a wider
group of people, given their following.

Do you have a set of guidelines or a manifesto that guides how you and
your team interact with your community?

We are a service business and so we always strive to respond promptly to

inquiries from our community. The brief is to resolve the issue for the user and
provide them with the information they require.

What is the biggest challenge as a leader of a community?

Although we have had an audience of a long time, and this audience has shared
content through communities like Facebook etc., our own community is
something new and so we are currently broaching inappropriate content issues
etc. Ask me again in 6 months.

I'm surprised you didnt ask me this question:________

How will you sustain your community into the future ?

1. ensuring that we remain relevant

2. being modest - emphasizing that every photo counts (i.e. our community is
centered around photographs and so every photo we capture has bearing on our
relationship with those members of our community who appear in that

3. maintaining brand cache - ensuring that the brand taps into the aspirations of
the people with whom we are interacting; and that the brand doesn't lose its cool.
This involves managing a complex set of offline / online brand cues, relationships
and associations.

4. remaining true to one's origins, whilst innovating in ways that users can readily
detect are meaningful extensions of where you have come from.

Causing Mass Collaboration Shaun Abrahamson

Is there a character limit on this input box ??? So much more ...