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The Evaporative Cooling Effect in Social Network

http://blog.bumblebeelabs.com/social-software-sundays-2-the-evaporative-cooling-effect/

The Evaporative Cooling Effect describes the phenomenon that high value contributors leave a community because they cannot gain something from it, which leads to the decrease of the quality of the community. Since the people most likely to join a community are those whose quality is below the average quality of the community, these newcomers are very likely to harm the quality of the community. With the expansion of community, it is very hard to maintain the quality of the community. In this article, the author proposes four examples of Evaporative Cooling Effect, and also gives some advice on how to minimize the influence of Evaporative Cooling Effect. In the following paragraphs I will try to explain those examples and suggestions based on my knowledge and understanding.

First of all, the author argues that openness is a major factor contributing to Evaporative Cooling Effect. When a community is initially founded, the members of that community are those who are willing to spend plenty of time in the community. After more and more new members joining the community, the rate of high quality contributors will be diluted, which leads to the decrease of the quality of the community. In my opinion, during the expansion of a community, the trend of “Evaporative Cooling” is inevitable, so trying to slow down this trend is a wiser choice. The author proposes some possible ways to slow down the trend in the following examples.

In the second example, the author mentions some methods to fight against the Evaporative Cooling Effect. Social Gating is a typical one. In some community, there is a powerful force called Social Gating that help to maintain the quality of the community. Some kind of Social Gating prevents users without some relevant basic knowledge in the area from entering the community; others frequently cancels user accounts that are not active for a long time. Besides Social Gating, charging money is also a popular method for maintaining the quality of a community, because only those who are really interested in the community are willing to pay for staying at it. The third method mentioned by author to fight against Evaporative Cooling Effect is the way of communication between participants. In some communities, people have their own way of communication, which produces a kind of barrier that prevents ordinary people from coming in.

In the third example, the author mentions the last method of slowing down the Evaporative Cooling Effect—giving high status to special contributors of the community. High value participants have recognition and reputation in the community, and others respect them, so they have no incentive to leave the community, which decelerates the process of Evaporative Cooling.

In the fourth example, two patterns named “plaza” and “warrens” are the fundamental elements of social space. Generally speaking, plaza are public while warrens are private. Plaza are easy to expand, because people can see what is going on in the community and decide whether to join the community. On the contrary, warrens are personalized contents in social network, which makes they scale free. Therefore, communities that have a plaza-like structure are easy to expand, thus suffering more from Evaporative Cooling Effect, while communities having warren-like structure are not very scalable, but more stable. A successful social network should somehow combining those two structures, taking both scalability and stability into account.

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