Victus Spiritus


Social Gravity

07 Jul 2010

[caption id="attachment_4450" align="aligncenter" caption="Trey Ratcliff captures a breath taking shot of New Zealand, creating social gravity through shared imagery"][/caption]

Today's riff is inspired by the mixed feedback from the avc community on cross posting with a single comment thread everywhere.

Attention Jiu-Jitsu

The concept of leveraging the web as a medium for attention harvesting is nothing new. Businesses have competed to capture user attention:

But none of these large attention gravity wells have come up with a formula for the most valued product of the net, community. It's hard to simulate the bonds of living and working together without actually living and working together.

Social Grav Here and Victus Media

On several occasions I've discussed social gravity as a focus of high value web networks. Our first take on implementing social gravity is part of the user interface to the intelligent media manager. Shared topics are revealed on the browser portal by listing fellow users who are also discussing the same topic in the same timeframe (relevancy). This simple system may collapse under heavily trafficked topics, but could easily be scaled by showing the top N people from one's friends, follow or other lists, a random subset, or sorted by a quality filter (influence).

We value social interaction differently as individuals, as communities, and as large populations

Individual P2P messages

For personal messages or live communication there are rhythms of speaking, listening, questioning and understanding. Each of us has a certain communication style we prefer, which can vary by topic. When I'm talking with colleagues over work, business, or technical details I prefer terseness and rapid back and forth exchanges to converge on vital tasks, and high value attention areas. While chatting with friends the conversations are far more relaxed unless we're both excited about a topic.


For me, a community begins with three or more people. Communication and actionable decisions can be made without all parties present. There is enough trust in each other's decision making ability to move forward without a strict hierarchy. Top down networks, are not communities. While individual influence may fluctuate within a community, there is no clear leader for all topics of discussion. The value of the community comes from sharing diverse perspectives, and collectively moving in the direction of greatest opportunity. New members will join as a community evolves, and older members will fade as the community makes collective decisions that fail to resonate with their individual choices. This is a natural feature of dynamic communities and cultures. The advantage of communities that sprout from social networks is that members can belong to many different groups. The old cultural punishment of isolation due to dissent has lost it's teeth.

Population Broadcasts

Unlike communities, large populations function on a level that is removed from individual social interaction. Driven by efficiency and logistics populations have ironically constructed complex bureaucracies and representatives (which are inefficient) to handle social decisions. And yet we are still subject to the emotional whims of leadership who are unwilling to work through broad philosophical divides between cultures. Careful analysis of motivations and focusing on the root of pain points is a better option than reflexive violence that leave all parties bewildered and damaged.