A design and policy proposal for improving the democratic quality of social media Marc Smith…
Answer people and discussion people are critical to many social media spaces. Many hosts of communities want to attract and retain them. When these types of participants contribute to a social media space the results can be very positive: questions asked are answered, topics introduced are discussed. But not all participants make a positive contribution, spammers and flamers are often a source of problems in social media spaces. These kinds of contributors also leave distinctive patterns behind:
These patterns illustrate the ways that spammers create only initial turns, never replies. The spammer in the upper left shows a pattern of never skipping a week, and continuously posting just a single message in each thread. In contrast, the remaining Author Lines represent the pattern of heavy discussion people who may verge on flame warriors. The big bubbles indicate the author contributed hundreds of messages to that thread in just one week. The presence of multiple big bubbles indicates the pattern this author has of contributing hundreds of messages to multiple threads over multiple weeks. This high level of focused contribution is an indication of a possible conflict (or perhaps just a spirited debate) and is far different from the pattern of contribution created by answer people or even more moderate discussion people.
Knowing the makeup of the population of your social media space is a key step towards managing these institutions and improving their cllective ability to produce valuable goods and services. What balance of social roles are present in your social media space?