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    • Former MSE Helen
    • By Former MSE Helen 11th Sep 12, 2:22 PM
    • 2,324Posts
    • 971Thanks
    Former MSE Helen
    'Turning the MSE forum into a true social network…' blog discussion
    • #1
    • 11th Sep 12, 2:22 PM
    'Turning the MSE forum into a true social network…' blog discussion 11th Sep 12 at 2:22 PM
    This is the discussion to link on the back of Martin's blog. Please read the blog first, as this discussion follows it.

    Please click 'post reply' to discuss below.
    Last edited by Former MSE Helen; 18-09-2012 at 10:37 AM.
Page 1
    • ray50
    • By ray50 11th Sep 12, 6:31 PM
    • 34 Posts
    • 7 Thanks
    • #2
    • 11th Sep 12, 6:31 PM
    • #2
    • 11th Sep 12, 6:31 PM
    Sounds good. Martin. Certainly an honest organisation to get "into bed" with.
    You can't please all of the people all of the time,so I've given up trying...I'm on a high getting my life back on track...Hope U can too
    • CKhalvashi
    • By CKhalvashi 11th Sep 12, 7:39 PM
    • 8,976 Posts
    • 25,696 Thanks
    • #3
    • 11th Sep 12, 7:39 PM
    • #3
    • 11th Sep 12, 7:39 PM
    Sounds a good idea; there's much more anonymous on MSE and the like, rather than Facebook, which may turn this intoa good idea.

    "I kada sanjamo san, nek bude hiljadu raznih boja" (L. Stamenkovic)

    Call me Remainer or Romaniac, but not Remoaner. It's insulting and I have the right to have my voice heard too.

    I can spell, my iPad can't.
    • torbrex
    • By torbrex 12th Sep 12, 5:42 AM
    • 61,883 Posts
    • 124,626 Thanks
    • #4
    • 12th Sep 12, 5:42 AM
    • #4
    • 12th Sep 12, 5:42 AM
    if we wanted a social network site, we would join one, lets just keep this an open forum.
    • Ken68
    • By Ken68 12th Sep 12, 11:31 AM
    • 6,502 Posts
    • 4,141 Thanks
    • #5
    • 12th Sep 12, 11:31 AM
    • #5
    • 12th Sep 12, 11:31 AM
    Too much as it is. Some people can talk for England but what I am looking for is a cheaper product or a way to do something that brings living expenses down.
    More like HUDK and less like Facebook.
    • SunnySusie
    • By SunnySusie 12th Sep 12, 12:51 PM
    • 264 Posts
    • 326 Thanks
    • #6
    • 12th Sep 12, 12:51 PM
    • #6
    • 12th Sep 12, 12:51 PM
    Isn't the point that a forum is missing the "network" bit? Yes, it's social, but it is isn't organised around a network of contacts, it's organised around boards and threads.

    And what was wrong with the good ol'days where if you wanted to contact the CAB you went to their site. So when contacting a company do you go to facebook? Twitter? A forum? Their own site? Email?

    I'm not sure how helpful this diversification is, just makes everything seem more complicated to me. So one has to sign up to Twitter, Facebook, MSE, email, and potentially many more... this doesn't really excite me I must be honest!

    If the beeb was going to set up boards wouldn't it make sense to do so on their own site? They have the infrastructure, obviously have the audience and I would rather have a central place to comment rather than having to sign up to dozens of boards.

    Either way, it's a big win for MSE and the more partnerships that form the more dominant the site will be. Gonna be tough for independent sites to get a look in.
    • Ken68
    • By Ken68 12th Sep 12, 2:00 PM
    • 6,502 Posts
    • 4,141 Thanks
    • #7
    • 12th Sep 12, 2:00 PM
    • #7
    • 12th Sep 12, 2:00 PM
    The BBC boards are heavily monitored, like being at school.
    But do agree the CAB would be an asset. And the RHS to help our greenfingered board. And more of the Energy Savings Trust to oversee the gas and electric.
    • JimmyTheWig
    • By JimmyTheWig 12th Sep 12, 3:48 PM
    • 11,860 Posts
    • 11,398 Thanks
    • #8
    • 12th Sep 12, 3:48 PM
    • #8
    • 12th Sep 12, 3:48 PM
    Isn't the point that a forum is missing the "network" bit? Yes, it's social, but it is isn't organised around a network of contacts, it's organised around boards and threads.
    Originally posted by SunnySusie
    I agree.

    I think the other difference is that MSE is username based where social networks are real name based.
    • RuthnJasper
    • By RuthnJasper 12th Sep 12, 8:55 PM
    • 3,647 Posts
    • 8,688 Thanks
    • #9
    • 12th Sep 12, 8:55 PM
    • #9
    • 12th Sep 12, 8:55 PM
    Not sure if I'm missing the relevant point here - but I have given (and occasionally received) advice and support on certain issues here on MSE (for which I've been subsequently and gratefully thanked both on the threads and via PM) which I would never have raised on Facebook because I am more easily identifiable there and do not wish the majority of my FB friends to have knowledge of what happened to me in past years.

    The MSE Forum, as it currently stands, has proven itself to be a vast wealth of support and advice on any number of issues from the spurious and humorous to the deeply distressing and life-affecting. Of course there are trolls, flamers and general time-wasters; but I feel that they are in the minority as compared to the lasting help and value that the forum as it stands can offer to folk from all walks of life.
    • lollipopsarah
    • By lollipopsarah 12th Sep 12, 9:01 PM
    • 1,295 Posts
    • 1,660 Thanks
    Well said Ruth, as for me I cannot bring myself to join faceache and the other things, they just do not appeal/seem complicated and are far too public allowing too much hassle.
    just my opinion.
    • tyllwyd
    • By tyllwyd 13th Sep 12, 9:14 AM
    • 5,407 Posts
    • 4,393 Thanks
    I don't see the problem with things as they are? Why would it help to have the forum recognised by the media as a social network? I'm not a member of any social networks because I don't want to be. I'm a member of MSE because I can dip in and out, ask questions and respond to threads without any of it linking back to my 'real' life. If it lost that slight separation between my online identity and real life identity I'd be off.

    And about having corporate-sponsored boards - I hate the idea. I don't like responses posted by official company representatives on the board. Nothing against the actual representatives, but the answers are always so bland, and following the official line, and asking the poster to contact them to discuss it away from the board - the whole point of coming to a board like this is like going to a pub with your friends and discussing the subject in a group over a drink. Once official representatives get involved it's like phoning a help line, and it is just as interesting and fun as phoning a help line can be.
    Last edited by tyllwyd; 13-09-2012 at 9:18 AM.
  • jamesd
    Company reps are useful and tend to try to be helpful but they aren't always good. Consider:

    1. Person posts information here about a problem to get feedback on how to proceed before contacting the company. Company rep finds that there happens to be enough information about the situation to search for the person in company records and identify the poster and contacts them. That's two unfortunate issues:

    1A. the company rep has breached the data protection regulations by collecting and using personally identifiable information* without prior consent by the user to that use and MSE has probably also breached them as the hosting site, because it shares some of the obligation to protect the data from use outside the ways for which consent has been given. Neither "identifying you from your postings on MSE by correlating them with the information you tell us" nor "companies using your postings on MSE to identify you in their records" are likely to be areas where the user has provided consent.

    1B. it's undermined the forum as a safe place to seek feedback.

    2. Same thing but done in a topic dedicated to the company that has a comment in the initial post saying that you're asking the company for help posing and the company may check details to try to help if you don't request that they not do so. The prior notification reduces the data protection risk, the ability not to be checked also helps to reduce it, though the Information Commissioner prefers opt in not opt out, the ability to choose between company and non-company topic may be taken as being sufficient opt in.

    Case 1 puts the company in control, case 2 puts the consumer in control - they can choose to ask the company or community first.

    For offers to help outside a dedicated topic it's probably good for company reps to wait at least until most of the initial discussion and opinion seeking has died down before offering to help, to try to reduce the potential undermining effect. It can't ever eliminate it because there's always the big brother effect of seeing that the company is watching if it's participating. But deferring and letting the consumer choose when and how to initiate direct contact with the company can mitigate the adverse effects while helping to facilitate communication.

    Company reps definitely can be good. I actually won a user-nominated award this year in part as a result of my replies to blog posts related to my company's business, identified clearly as an employee of the company in those replies and with employees of several competitors involved in the selection as well. *2 So I'm a company rep myself, just not here - and never will be here, it's an unrelated topic. Having 15-20 years of online community experience and being very sensitive to the emotional, cultural and legal issues helps.

    *personally identifiable information is roughly information that can be used to identify an individual either alone or when combined with other data. So an IP address isn't inherently personally identifiable information but if a company combines it with their web access logs it is. A few details from a question aren't inherently personally identifiable but as soon as they are used to try to find someone in a company database they are.
    *2 details provided privately on request to MSE if interested.
    Last edited by jamesd; 13-09-2012 at 2:01 PM.
  • jamesd
    I'm not greatly keen on thinking of MSE as a social network. Like Wikipedia it's more an online community than a basic social network. One of the differences is focus and direction, both here and at Wikipedia there is a goal for the community. Social networks tend to be more about building connection graphs for marketing use and abuse than building productive communities. Social networks can host such communities, of course.

    Viewing Wikipedia as a closed community is pretty clearly wrong.

    Viewing MSE as a closed community is unfortunately easier because MSE's forum is company property. While Martin has been a very thoughtful and good host the involvement of a business as a host inevitably makes it harder to be seen as a neutral gathering place. This hasn't been much of an issue but change of ownership probably will make it a tougher one.

    The challenge is in part to find a sustainable financing model. Wikipedia managed it with donations and a very low employee to user ratio, via extensive volunteer use and increasingly well developed tools for moderation by those volunteers, along with generally good social norms. MSE has chosen an approach with a high employee to user ratio and can't use the charity approach at present. It might be viable with adjustments and more scale, if that can be achieved - scale is critical to small scale donation use, it's what shifted Wikipedia from initial fund raisings in the low tens of thousands to millions.

    It's probably possible to reduce the employee to user ratio here with more tools like the spam report button that use collective action and perhaps reputation (how good is x's reporting success record?) to do more identification of trolling or failures to be nice and an act on reports, revert on appeal approach.

    The legal risks will inevitably remain a challenge for UK content given the costs of defending actions.
    Last edited by jamesd; 13-09-2012 at 2:26 PM.
  • jamesd
    What Facebook and Twitter do is provide aggregation and commonality of tools and presence. Not MSE, Mumsnet but the Facebook or Twitter common interface to MSE and Mumsnet communities if they were hosted by them.

    This aggregation reduces the costs of interaction and helps with common company policy development. There's a common benefit to the various places not hosted at Facebook and Twitter in finding some common facilitation method to make it easier for companies and individuals to interact across multiple sites.

    Get big enough and it's worth the overhead of the extra platform but it's a lot easier for a company to manage its involvements if it's not a different thing to learn and manage for each place.
    • Reaper
    • By Reaper 13th Sep 12, 2:45 PM
    • 6,534 Posts
    • 4,888 Thanks
    The Facebook responses to this article rather put me off making MSE more like Facebook. At the time of writing none of them relate to the article at all.

    Personally I would prefer MSE to be more tightly focused on money and drop pure chat forums such as the "Money Savers Arms" (that will make me unpopular!) and leave that to the social sites, so I am a bit concerned if this is part of a long term plan is to turn MSE into a social network site.

    However CAB is at least finance/law assistance so not straying far from the path.
  • jamesd
    Reaper, chat areas are a useful and necessary part of online community building. They can be troublesome sometimes but water cooler and tea break discussions are part of how people can build relationships. They also provide a dedicated off topic venue for things that would inevitably otherwise happen on the on topic areas, helping to keep those on topic.
    • JimmyTheWig
    • By JimmyTheWig 13th Sep 12, 3:06 PM
    • 11,860 Posts
    • 11,398 Thanks
    1. Person posts information here about a problem to get feedback on how to proceed before contacting the company. Company rep finds that there happens to be enough information about the situation to search for the person in company records and identify the poster and contacts them.
    Originally posted by jamesd
    I've never seen a company rep on here do that.
  • jamesd
    I have, only once so far for an MSE-authorised rep and the rep was clearly trying to be helpful. One non-authorised rep did posit some positive personally identifiable information about a loan I had in response to a post here that I made, trying to contradict a mention I made of a DD being taken earlier than I'd be told it was taken, but non-authorised and authorised are different cases.

    That prompted research in to the subject that in part showed up in my post and in part will be given later as followup to a report to the MSE team where I wondered whether they thought it was a good idea or not. Having done some of that research I ended up discovering that I thought it actually breached the data protection rules even though the cultural and community issues were what originally caused me to react.

    I'm still contemplating just how to reply to that report but you can see how I've gone so far from my post. It's interesting because of the many "soft" issues involved as well as the potential regulatory bright lines. The real juggling isn't regulation it's what's best for a supportive community and those are seldom bright line decisions.
    Last edited by jamesd; 13-09-2012 at 3:30 PM.
    • Rafter
    • By Rafter 14th Sep 12, 9:24 AM
    • 3,837 Posts
    • 1,366 Thanks
    I think it is a positive development.

    The forums are great but can be dangerous with threads going off topic and the danger that some 'newbies' or the less informed may not be able to spot the sarcasm and irony in some postings and the genuine good advice.

    Perhaps rather than 'like' we need 'endorsement' of the best posts from a member of the MSE, CAB or other team to guide users?

    As well as the CAB forum, I also passionately believe that MSE can educate. Not just kids but adults too.

    Martin, you have been vocal about the problems with the 'one size fits all' money advice service although I know you are now on speaking terms again.

    Although 'citizens' generally trust the NHS about health and teachers around education, I'm not sure I trust the government with my financial wellbeing and certainly not my bank.

    I really think there is a place for an independent advice service, endorsed (and funded) by government but independent from it and MSE seems to be the perfect 'social network' or platform to make this happen.

    The 'debt free wannabe' and financial affairs inventory are a great example of this in practice for those in debt.

    If the same can be created for teenagers, students, young workers, older workers and pensioners offering tools, acredited advice and a forum to ask for both opinion and impartial advice I think a major leap forward will occur.

    This has to be far more effective than adult education, TV advertising, educating kids about pension annuities and other poorly timed and targeted, but well meaning initiatives. It is also massively more efficient than 100's of community based advice centres.

    Facebook is all about 'degrees of separation' and MSE has that sewn up for money saving in the UK. I'm guessing when you walk down the street that more than in 4 adults is an MSE user and there are probably a tiny minority of families where at least one member doesn't know about this place.

    Good luck.

    Last edited by Rafter; 14-09-2012 at 9:26 AM.
    Smile , it makes people wonder what you have been up to.
    • Ken68
    • By Ken68 14th Sep 12, 10:06 AM
    • 6,502 Posts
    • 4,141 Thanks
    So agree Rafter, MSE should be the likes of Which and whistleblowing Private Eye. Not the best phrase but the late 'Consumer Revenge' fitted the bill.
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