[This post originally written for publication in the Ledface Blog]
Next time you are at a cocktail party, take a step back and observe. What do people talk about? How conversations evolve?
When people meet for the first time, they exchange facts. They look for coincidences, they try to establish connections. “Did you grow up around here?” “How did you meet this group?”
Then, they engage in social gaming, trying to position themselves within the group, competing for attention and admiration. “Last summer, we went to Hawaii.” “I developed this software at work that…”
Once Trust is in place, people share effortlessly
You then see groups breaking into smaller ones as people find their circles and conversation deepens. “I should introduce to this person, I think she will be able to help you on this.” “Can I ask you about your trip? We are going to Hawaii next month.”
Social relationships in the real world are built on identification and trust. Once relationships are in place, we are wired to share information, collaborate, and help each other.
Do we help others expecting reciprocity?
It is easy to rationalize that we help others to get help from others through reciprocity, that living in society is a game of giving and receiving. But that is only a typical analytical inversion of cause-effect.
It might be true that reciprocity is at the very core of life in society, but we don’t trust, share and collaborate to get something back. Living in society is more efficient and effective if we collaborate, so we evolved (in the Darwinian sense) that way over generations.
Social Media let natural collaboration instincts flourish
Social Media is “social” simply because it can better support some of the social behaviors we display in real life. Classical media (print, broadcast, etc) force us to be analytical, linear, introspective, independent.
Being more open and symmetrical, social media let people establish relationships and trust. As the medium evolves, we should expect that people exercise the natural pleasure in sharing knowledge and helping others as they do in real life.
Ask anyone about their passions and they will share knowledge, dispense advice, and talk about it for hours for the pleasure of an audience, without the expectation of tangible reward.
Look at Facebook or Wikipedia. Why do people share information with others? There are no extrinsic incentives to do so. The same way we search for connections, talk about ourselves, share knowledge offline, people are social in Facebook because computer networks created an environment that emulates the social environment.
Ledface and the essence of Crowdsourcing
When I talk to people about Ledface or other Crowdsourcing projects, a common question is “Why would people want to help others? What is the reward? Is there a gamification mechanism?”.
Our analytical mind believes people only move with a tangible rewards or some sort of ego game playing. But the essence of Crowdsourcing is exactly to set conditions that free people from the industrial revolution training (analyze, segment, create independence and accountability, earn money doing something you dislike so you can spend time doing what you like) and express the natural instincts of collaboration.
Gamification is important, Collaboration is the name of the game
Should crowdsourcing tools and environments use gamification and consider the use of extrinsic rewards? Sure. At a cocktail party, before trust and collaboration develops, you must create a favorable setting and let people find each other. We all do play social games in society, there is no reason it wouldn’t be useful in virtual places.
But that is just how things start. Once relationships grow up, collaboration is the name of the game.
Marcio Saito’s (@Marcio_Saito) interest in Collaboration and Co-Creation originates in his early involvement with the Open Source Software community in the early 90′s. He writes about Social Media and Collective Intelligence and is a co-founder and advisor to Ledface, a startup using Crowdsourcing to create a new kind of Intelligence.