(image credit – tycity)
The more I use and observe social media, the more it seems like psychology to me. I had the pleasure of attending SMX New York last week, and one of the highlights of it for me was listening in on the panel featuring the founders of Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon. Something that really got me into thinking was in the Q&A section where a member of the audience asked Garrett Camp, founder of StumbleUpon, on how SU dealt with spam. The answer was basically that the system eventually corrects itself. People flock to good content and it continues to rise, while mediocre content will eventually fail. Anyone attempting to game the system will reach a level where it cannot go any further and the general community will give it a thumbs down. So, the key point here is to have authoritative content, not a power profile. Power profiles might get your content noticed, but at the end of the day, it will still get thumbed down on StumbleUpon.
This got me to thinking more about flocking behavior. Craig Reynolds was the first to simulate this behavior using computer graphics in 1986. The basic steps of flocking consist of separation, alignment, and cohesion. These simulations mimic the movement of real life flocks of birds very well (created by Paul Richmond):
Try out the simulation – you can even fire a gun to scatter the birds.
Similarly in Digg, your network of friends can only drive a post so far – if you ever hope to reach the front page (which may lead to the Digg Effect, if you aren’t careful). Once reaching the front page, you will see a notable flocking effect. It’s pretty cool to see this visually – check out the Digg Swarm set to popular some time, and it will look something like this: