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From Stefano Mazzocchi <stef...@apache.org>
Subject Re: [ANN] Introducing Apache Agora - reloaded!
Date Fri, 15 Jul 2005 05:03:07 GMT
Will Glass-Husain wrote:
> Replying to the community list as requested...

Thank you.

> Neat app!  Not immediately intuitive as to how to interpret it, but with a
> little experimentation I could see patterns.  For example, it was
> interesting to notice how my email moved from the outskirts of the circle
> with data from early months to the center of the circle in later months
> (for
> the projects I'm involved with).
> I'm still unclear on what to look for in terms of community "health".  

eheh, I'm not sure either :-)

> What are some of the general macro patterns you've seen with this tool?

First of all, the 'size' of the pruned graph is generally a good sign
because it means there is less chance of a few key players moving out of
the project and leaving the social network disconnected.

Another interesting thing is that the people at the center are actually
the people I expect to be there. In projects that I follow, I was hardly
ever surprised: the distance of their node from the 'center of social
gravity' of the community was always (and I mean *always*) reasonable.

I don't know about the projects that I don't follow, but I've never
heard anybody complain.

I also found out to be very effective in understanding how much
"traction/influence" a person might have in a community by dragging his
node. Sometimes, if more people are involved in a discussion, I pull
their nodes apart and see where the center of gravity shifts. Normally
the result of the discussion tends to settle toward the person that
moved more the graph.

This is amazing, because agora does *NOT* even try to understand what
the messages say, but only that the message did happen.

I suspect there is a deep reason for the apparent incredible signal: in
well behaving communities, people do not reply if they don't have
anything to say.

I suspect Agora would fail miserably to be as effective in disfunctional
communities where people keep emailing eachother with flamewars.
Luckily, this is rarely the case in the foundation.

> What insight does this provide into the community?  The docs provide a good
> micro
> level description of how the app models the relationships between
> individuals, but don't discuss the macro patterns that emerge.   It'd be
> interesting to hear some of your thoughts.

I wrote this years ago, as an experiment. Then I started to use it more
and more as a 'telescope' to look at communities that I didn't know, to
understand who were the key players in that communities or, if I heard
something worrysome about somebody, whether or not to worry that it
could have a big impact on a particular community.

Unfortunately, this came before the incubator was setup, so the mail
archive on nagoya, who was based on eyebrowse, was kinda left alone and
a lot of the mailing lists were not there. Some people from the
incubator wanted to evaluate the growth of the project with Agora, but
they couldn't.

There seems to be a lot of information in there. I have my own way of
using it but I don't know if it's a general rule and I don't want people
to think that their project is "better" than another just because their
graph is bigger or more densly connected.

But it is fascinating to compare different mailing lists, especially
over time. For example, whether or not 'dev' is more or less densily
connected than 'users'.

And it's also very useful to understand the 'bridges', the people that
write email in more than one mailing list, those are very important
people for the ASF, as they bring crosspollination and allow information
to flow thru the various islands (and improves our ability to
evolutionarely adapt to change in the technical and social ecosystem).

It's a social telescope. And normally it's a lot of fun to use
telescopes, even if you don't understand everything about the why the
stars and galaxies are they way they are. I feel the same way about
Agora: you don't have to have a model of what is happening absolutely,
as long as you can spot differences between various projects.

But I don't know the metric for community health and I don't think such
a thing even exists, so if that's what you are looking for, you are not
going to get it from Agora (nor anything I do).


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