Diagramming the Social Ecosystem

by erin on 10/08/2009

in Designing Social Interfaces,Information design,social patterns

[singlepic id=29 w=320 h=240 float=left]One of the things we have been doing since way before we started the book, was to visualize the social ecosystem and the inter-relationships between categories, patterns and principles. Back in 2007, when I was still at Yahoo! and Bryce Glass was on my team, we developed a diagram for our general manager to talk about the social platforms we were developing and how they worked together.

Christian and I took that diagram and modified it a bit for our Core Conversation at SXSW 09 [pdf] and handed it out to participants.

Since then we have sketched out a variety of ideas, even trying to show some differences in the Enterprise.

But so far nothing really hit the nail on the head. The diagram granularity was uneven and we have been having difficulty figuring out how the principles and anti-patterns fit into the scheme of things.

I have collected a bunch of interesting diagrams into a couple of galleries on flickr to spur ideas and to see how others visualize these same or similar concepts. Additionally, I have been grabbing models off the web that I have found inspiring [see slideshow at bottom of this post].

Christina Wodtke has created an interesting diagram [slide 36] that grows and contracts depending on the scale of discussion. And I like it a lot, but it isn’t clear how to work in things like principles and anti-patterns. I also think some of the concept placements could be tweaked a bit – there’s that level of granularity issue again.

Today, however, I was reading an interesting book online through the Safari feature at O’Reilly and I came across a very interesting diagram. And it hit me, that this would be a great start to visualizing our ecosystem. It’s not as sexy as the diagrams Bryce has done with all the little people, but it has the potential to show all the levels I want to show. So I sketched it out and as I was sketching it, I figured out that the Principles could be shown as a revolving set of ideas around the core and the Anti-Patterns could be shown as if they were trying to get at the core but being deflected by the principles. And in a way they do play off each other this way – if you keep the principles in mind when representing the core, then decisions that would create an Anti-Pattern are easier to make or become non-issues. The diagram also takes all the patterns into consideration as text nodes off each category which then maps to one of the overarching concepts. This categorization is the same in our game and on the wiki.

The diagram may not be 100% there – I have come to the conclusion that no diagram can show it all because of the fact that concepts live across clusters, concepts and patterns often live at different levels of scale with different ramifications and it just isn’t this clean. But I think it’s pretty close and usable as talking document when trying to explain all these crazy relationships.

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