Tag Archive | psychology

MyFC’s broken windows – repairing broken functionality on a social networking site

The key to the success of MyFootballClub was always going to be control and direction of information, and I have constantly tried to promote this idea on the MyFC website and on this blog.

Many of the problems of engagement and retention that are causing panic for the Operator, Board and Club (not to mention the remaining members who really want this venture to work) come back to this issue – that our activities and information flow are not coordinated by the website.

Coming back to a previous post, All of this, for me, relates to Activity Theory, the idea that we can look at what is happening across our organisation in terms of:

  • Participants – members, board, web team, club management
  • The community, which all these are part of (and sub-communities)
  • The rules that describe how these people take part in the community
  • The divisions of labour – who does what
  • The tools we use to achieve our goal

Groups – bad implementation

The MyFC Operator implemented the Group functionality in July 2008, partly as an attempt to get away from repetitive or cliquey threads in the main forums.  Unfortunately, like other aspects of the website, it wasn’t put in place with proper consideration of how it would benefit the Society, how they relate to the Soapbox and Society forums, Proposals, Votes etc.

Coming back to Activity Theory, there was no clear link between the Groups (a “tool”) and Subjects, Community and Divisions of Labour. There were no clear rules about how they should be used to achieve the Objects of the Society.

It’s no wonder then that the same debates that we’ve been having over the last year continue as ever on the forums with no resolution (and not just the controversial Pick The Team issue).  It’s no wonder that conversations persist concurrently in one or more Groups, Society and Soapbox, as well as having been assigned to Board members for action.

Getting Groups working

Here’s some suggestions for getting groups working. These could be written down as explicit guidelines but we can always just start working this way. Other elements need minor changes to the site by the Operator’s Web Team, who are paid by the Society to maintain and develop the website.

1) Cull Duplicate groups.
E.g. There are 5 groups with PTT in the title, one called “Pick the team f’christsakes” and one called “Selector Solutions”

  • Solution: We make a rule that someone who creates a duplicate group is pointed in the direction of the existing group. If there is an argument for a similar group to be set up, e.g. “Pro PTT / Anti PTT”, then this shall be made when creating a group, for the Forum Team to approve.

2)Encourage more ownership and participation in the groups
Some of these have very few members, and only on has seen any activity in the last month. Despite this, there are similar threads on the Society, Football and Soapbox forums.

  • Solution: Allow group moderators to send “Newsletters” to their membership, with obvious guidelines so that spamming is discouraged.
  • Solution: Allow more than one forum moderator so that the group can remain active
  • Solution: Allow moderators to create quick polls

3)Move emphasis from the Forums to the Groups.
There are many repetitive threads on the forums that never really resolve any of the issues they are supposed to.

  • Solution: Forum Team to direct Forum threads (where appropriate) to a relevant group. e.g.
  • Solution: Encourage Groups to summarise a debate or proposal from their group in the Society / Soapbox forum. Or just what they’ve been talking about recently.

4) Cull inactive groups
There are dozens of groups that have few members in, and no activity.

  • Solution: Archive groups with less than 8 members
  • Solution: Archive groups with no activity for 6 weeks

5) Make special website sections for Society wide interests

There are some groups that should would better serve the Society by being part of a well formed section on the site, rather than being buried within a group thread.  There are two main areas that come to mind:

Upcoming matches:
Make this a distinct section which shows the recent and upcoming games, latest updates to each match etc.

Each upcoming match has it’s own page, with match previews, Jaiku rota, Questions for Liam, fitness, away travel information, who’s attending, match representatives and a place for banter.

Previous matches show previews, photos, Liam’s feedback etc. Each of these elements are available in various unlinked places throughout the site, whereas to have them in one location would tidy things up and put them all in context.

Make this a distinct page, more like a group blog than the same, dull article system.  Use it to show recent board articles, meeting agendas and minutes, proposals, but also calls for action from the members, whether it be physical help like handing out leaflets, or expert advice from qualified members.

And of course use tags and categories to link common threads together.

6) Broken Windows
There is far too much name-calling, inappropriate or irrelevant comments that slow down the flow of a conversation and make considered debate impossible.  For too long we as a Society have not discouraged it, and the Forum Team have allowed this to continue unabated.  In fact the Operator’s Web Team themselves have been guilty on occasion, which hasn’t helped matters.

This is Broken Windows – in social behaviour this is the idea that a single broken window left unrepaired will lead to further vandalism. On a website site it’s the idea that you would write things on a forum post that you would not say to that person in a pub.  We call it “trolling” and there are various ways to deal with it.

At the least, before you hit return, read out what you’ve just typed aloud to the person next to you. If they punch you in the face then perhaps you should consider rewriting it.

A solution for web forums - thanks to Randall Munroe of xkcd.com

After all, we all have the same goal, don’t we?

The continued success of the MyFootball Club Society and Ebbsfleet United.


Email forwarding – the disease of the information age

Once again I find myself having to reply to Mrs Mediary who has sent me an email forward for verification.

The last time I received one about Jessica Mydek (or someone similar) I sent a scathing reply back to her aunt (who does this kind of this regularly) highlighting the reasons that you should always check such things before forwarding them on. In the case of the cancer/leukemia emails, the best reason is because uncontrolled spam like this has actually caused resources to be diverted from the very people the emailer is hoping to help.

In this case the email forward is about a parcel delivery / premium rate phoneline scam. I would normally delete such a thing, but I’m determined to fight back against this culture of automatic email forwarding, so I scan through for 5 seconds and follow the link.

It takes me to a website which tells me:

PhonepayPlus – Regulating to build consumer trust in phone-paid services
PhonepayPlus is the new name for ICSTIS.

Please click here to be redirected to our new website http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/

So I already know that some of the information is out of date. Sure enough, the home page shows the following in the middle of the page:

Current postal scam warnings:

If you receive a copy of an email warning you about an alleged scam associated with the number 0906 661 1911, please do NOT forward it to others.

This service was shut down by us in December 2005 and is no longer running. Please download this statement from PhonepayPlus for more information.

That would be sufficient for me, but I check the statement anyway. Now I imagine this is probably the process that most geeks like me go through on receiving forwarded email, alternative methods of verification would be Googling for some of the content, or checking Snopes.com to see if this was a hoax or not. Sometimes it just requires a tiny bit of thinking, like the alternative emergency number that went round after the July 2005 London bombings.

Workplace behavioural causes

But why is this behaviour still happening? I don’t think it’s a generation gap, with younger people having grown up with technology through schools and later excessive texting. Workplace email has been common in most areas for over a decade, and these are people with responsibility in their organisation, with years of experience behind them.

This particular email appears to originate from a Finance and Administration Director of an independent school, although he may have received it from someone else, stripped out the superfluous emails and forwarded it on. If so, why didn’t he check the information first? It’s not even like he prepared this a long time ago, this was sent out on Friday – 4 days ago.

I suspect that we’ve become so used to scanning emails that unless there is something that physically requires us to do something, we’ll forward it on to people who we think may make more use of it. So why isn’t there an epedemic of people forwarding incorrect, dangerous or company sensetive information?

Well probably because most of the emails we receive come from the same people and cover the same problems. We’re used to their particular email styles, and can quickly scan for the information that is relevant to us. We’re used to the context of the information and can establish if something needs to be corrected verified. We have a trust relationship with these people and know how reliable that information is. And we’ll respond to these much more readily in order to either to get what we want or to cover our behinds.

When I started this article I wasn’t sure what the solution was. But it’s the same as a colleague sending you incorrect information. You have to go back and highlight what is wrong. Show them how to find the right references or sources. By doing that you can build up that trust relationship again.

I can finally remove aunty.mediary@gov.uk from my spam list.