Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dick Cheney's Beautiful Face

I'm pretty good about filling out user profiles when I join online communities. I don't go all out and write an about us section until I've used a site a few times and figured out whether I think I'll participate in the future, but I do almost always add my name, a link to this or the other blog, and a picture right away.

I leave the name for transparency's sake, because it feels like the right thing to do.

I attach the blog link (A) because you never know where you might pick up a great new reader and (B) because I like finding blog links associated with comments and contributions (I think blogs are fascinating introductions to people and often do a good job of putting user generated content in perspective).

And I post a picture because communities are just simply more fun to use when users are all represented by meaningful images and not blurry gray question marks.

But, understandably, lots of people don't fill out profiles at all. Writing and uploading take time, and most people either want to dive right into a community they've just joined or dive right out.

And this is on my mind right now because we're pulling together the beginnings of a Carrot Project community; I'm seeing a high percentage of empty profiles and faceless users; I'm wondering if and how we might be able to creatively remedy that; I remember one trick that one community used to get me to switch my picture with the quickness; and I want to know what we can learn from the trickiness.

Horribly embarrassingly, I forget the community, but their tactic was brilliant in its simplicity. They had a default user profile image, an image that represented every single new user, and that image was a Dick Cheney headshot.

And, if I remember correctly, the tactic did have a noticeable effect. I remember being impressed by the fact that just about every single contributing user in that system was represented by an image to which he or she had a personal connection.

One question, I guess, is whether that's important, whether profile pictures (or profiles in general) are useful in the creating of a community culture that breeds smooth, honest information exchange.

Another question is whether a culture is really a culture if manufactured by top-down cleverness.

Another is whether cleverness like that reveals community management personality and whether community management personality contributes to a site's stickiness.

Another is what the heck that site was so I can give them due props for their humor and irreverence and due scolding for failing to turn what was in my case a fantastic first impression into a steadily contributing user (or at least a one night stand ex-user that remembers their name).

And another is why I'm rambling on about web community theory when I have Carrot Project feedback flowing onto the site and into my inbox.

*Note: The Orangutan is my go to profile pic, and the bunny is what's representing just about every member of the Carrot Project beta community.

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