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How to minimize rivalrous dynamics and maximize collaboration on online platforms

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jul 22, 2020
What, in your opinion, are the necessary conditions to maintain collaboration across a big, mixed group of people? How can we prevent rivalrous status games from shifting the dynamics of online communities from collaborative toward the hostile spectrum?

Competition

Competition emerges whenever multiple entities are faced with limited resources in a win/lose situation. This is an inevitable and natural driving force of human behavior. As a tribal species, we put great emphasis on our own position in the social hierarchy. Even in a peaceful environment we subconsciously engage in polite verbal battles to subtly elevate ourselves above others. This tends to escalate as people deploy ever more aggressive tactics to one-up each other. Such status games prevent collaboration and often hijack the direction of conversations.

Collaboration

Luckily, collaboration - a process where multiple entities join forces to achieve common goals also comes naturally to our species. This is especially evident on a cellular level, where every cell contributes to the wellbeing of the organism. It tends to happen in nature whenever we realize that we are on the same team.

There is only so much a person can achieve alone. There are complex goals that cannot be achieved individually or even by moderate-sized closed groups of people. Some goals require humanity to come together in a concerted effort. Examples: climate change, human biological immortality, space travel, terraforming planets, general artificial intelligence, engineered virus resistance, the ultimate cure for cancer, etc.

How can we keep the status games at bay?

Any online platform aspiring to bring people together will need to keep the users’ status games in check. Traditionally this has been attempted through policing and self-policing. This is our evolving code of conduct. Nowadays technology in the form of various AI algorithms can be used to detect and prevent people from uprooting the platform’s purpose of existence.

What are some great examples where groups of people joined forces to achieve a common, complex goal which was otherwise unlikely to be achievable without collaboration? Could we extract principles from these examples and replicate the conditions online?
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Creative contributions

Anonymity

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DC
Dony Christie Jul 27, 2020
I hypothesize that anonymity may reduce the incentive for someone to care about status elevation since the content is not tied to their identity. For instance, I feel a bit hesitant to make this submission since part of me is worried that it won't look good. On the other hand, there's 4chan. From what I recall, a lot of collaboration can sometimes happen on there, but also people can be really mean to each other. Perhaps anonymity combined with a lot of moderation would work well.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
So making it impossible for people to build up their online profiles and thus it would be pointless to one-up each other. But at the same time bringing the consequences to those who are mean to others. There would have to be some kind of incentive for people to not just abandon accounts and be mean from new ones. For example, you would need to build up some kind of value which takes a while before people even start seeing your posts. Then again, such a barrier to entry would discourage participation so the community would be extremely slow to build but high quality if it takes off.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
Interesting. Imagine that - a totally anonymous platform where in every thread you get a random name, you keep it for the duration of that thread but in the next thread it's all gone, you start fresh. All you have is your quality score which either lets other people see your posts or not (yet). The more value you bring to others, the better your score and faster people see your contributions.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
Or.. you start out anonymous and build up your profile with valuable contributions until your identity starts showing. Go the opposite way (get reported for abusive content or posting nonsense) and disappear into oblivion where nobody sees your contributions regardless of what you post thereafter.

Criticism accompanied with alternative

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
I agree with the suggestion of “anonymity”. Along with that, we can have a rule where criticism on a suggestion/ solution should be accompanied with an alternative suggestion/solution. This allows criticism on the criticizing user. Each user will, therefore, invest more in their comments/ solutions. Moreover, towards the end, the solution facing the least criticism may be considered the most appropriate solution.
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MC
Michelle Christine2 months ago
The alternative suggestion solution is important to keep the discussion forward focused and I agree something along these lines necessary. It would discourage unhelpful comments, but could it also discourage participation too much? For example right now I see a lot of risks / inherent issues with the least criticism approach (people generally do live by that system maybe without even realizing it and I don't think it's necessarily led to the best possible outcomes so far), but I also haven't necessarily come up with a better idea that wouldn't have similar problems. Maybe there's value in just the admittance alone that I haven't thought of a better solution? So bringing up potential risks or challenges is still an option and does actually have some value but it may not carry as much weight if you submit it without submitting a different idea.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
This sounds promising. I can't at the moment see an easy way to implement this via software and still keep the process intuitive. For example, if a comment reply had 2 textboxes (one for the criticism and one for the constructive alternative) it would be confusing and not useful in many situations - such as when the reply only consists of a constructive upgrade to what the previous user said

Publicly displaying an "ignore-score" for each account

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 24, 2020
By publicly displaying an "ignore-score" for each account (how many people ignore you, how many you ignore, and what the overall norm/average on the platform is). People could hypothetically become more mindful of how they talk to others. They would not want many others to place them on their ignore list (signaling the world that there is something wrong with the user) so they would be nicer to each other. They would also not want to ignore too many others (only when absolutely necessary) because ignoring too many others would likewise indicate that there's something wrong with the user. This would effectively conserve the ignore function for the absolutely necessary/deserving situations.

Scoring patterns

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
Two kinds of scores can be attached: 1. Along with the “thumbs up”, each contribution can have a “bad faith” score. Other users can use it label a contribution that is not intended to provide any kind of nourishment (creative contribution, praise, positive criticism, etc.) to the session. Such contributions go to the bottom of the session. 2. The above score can be used independently or in combination with the following. Each user has a daily limit of contributions he/ she can make on the platform. Once the “bad faith” score of the user’s contributions reaches a threshold percentage of the active users on the session, his/her daily contribution limit decreases. The user now has a choice to contribute peacefully and increase the daily contribution limit or continue to contribute in bad faith and eventually lose access to contribution. If we (the platform developers) do not want any user to lose contribution access completely, we can bring it down to once daily, or even weekly or monthly.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
How would we prevent people from using the "bad faith" voting function as a trolling tool, to purposefully mess with other user's scores and make them feel bad?

Rivalry

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zohaab Ishrat
zohaab Ishrat Aug 31, 2020
Online rivalrous dynamics can’t be completely abolished because the environment itself is inherently competitive. It is in human nature to debate, disagree, and to establish their narrative. We never accept our mistakes but if we must, we don’t take it constructively. Our mentality perceives getting proven wrong as being insulted. It is not that we must do something about platforms; rather, it is the mindset that must be changed. Consider the example of a classroom. Constructive contribution results in participants getting labeled as a nerd and being wrong results in getting humiliated. The fear of being proven wrong triggers a defensive mechanism and makes us paranoid. We start to isolate ourselves which results in social disorders like agoraphobia or Paranoid Personality Disorder. But online environment has no restriction, no social norms, nothing holding us back. So everyone lashes out. One of the main contributors is the absence of a check and balance system. It’s never about the platform but can relate to the topic of discussion which can determine the course of discussion. For example, a discussion on a game available on multiple consoles will end up bad; but a discussion on a scientific or academic topic is highly unlikely to. If we talk about factors that can reduce online rivalrous dynamics, accountability stands at the top. More accountability, lower the rivalrous attitude even if it doesn’t result in increased productivity. If a thread is being disturbed by an unwanted intruder behaving erratically, members should be able to poll-out that member. In the light of stated above, we can establish that there is no concrete solution to eliminate online rivalrous dynamics. But there are three basic directions that online platforms can take to prevent, if not completely stop online rivalrous dynamics: • Change the mindset of the masses on micro-level. • Choosing the topic of discussion more wisely. • Taking measures to create sufficient accountability so there is more order than chaos. We can’t stop someone present online with the sole intention of shit-posting which is one of the main contributors to online rivalrous dynamics. But we can develop a mechanism to filter out such users.

Be a good example

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J
J. Sep 03, 2020
People like to be a part of something. It doesn´t need to be something big, just individually meaningful. Since the Brainstorming platform represents a collaborative environment of creative-thinking people, where ideas are being publicly submitted to an evaluation, does it make sense to minimize rivalry? When they feel like doing it, people choose to read the materials on the internet. They choose sources, topics, and if they want to be a part of it or not, but they do not choose the other participants. The only thing they want is to develop a feeling of importance through sharing their own ideas or contributing to others. That is why I think a highly competitive niche with a random-profile anonymity solution (as Darko mentioned above) would be the most productive option. But it would be even more interesting and inspiring to see the platform itself to literally represent their idea of collaboration through projects and shared topics with selected forums, social media platforms, or similar. Imagine how many problems are being discussed daily in, for example, the Youtube comment section or below a New York Times article.

Healthy friction

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A
Ana Suarez Aug 25, 2020
In all debates there is (and there should be) a certain amount of 'friction' (not saying violence, insults, name-calling or any type of disrespectful way of addressing your 'contestants'). We do know, in that moment, in that chat, that I like Messi and you like CR7, and we would go to war to defend who is best (Messi, of course, hahaha). This, in my understanding , is still constructive not only for you and me who may end up watching futbol for days and have a lot of fun but also, because, this is the way knowledge has been constructed before formalizing it in what we now know as books, journals, papers, magazines, etc. I think we underestimate these interactions. Now, my contribution is to allow the debaters block each other if there are being attacked. If moderation starts getting notified of a used being blocked by many others, then something is wrong and s/he should have his/her account removed for good.

Rewiring the scoring system

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Antonio Carusillo
Antonio Carusillo Sep 16, 2020
The rivalry is embedded in every system where there is more than one person involved and where a reward is given, whether it is the number of smiles, upvotes or so. Therefore, we should rather rewire the scoring system in a way to promote collaboration, constructive criticism rather then self-accomplishment. For example by using a collective scoring system rather than an individual one. The Anonymous system may work, however, the name - even if a fake one - should be maintained cause otherwise it may hamper the development of new collaborations. The people won´t be able to tell who they are interacting. So the Anonymous user may have a Barcode or a QR code identifying him/ her from the others, without giving away personal info. The anonymity will incentivize the people to write and contribute without the fear of exposing themselves to other´s opinion. We should dismiss reactions like: " Thumbs up", "Smiles" and so forth. Same goes for feedbacks beneath the contribution. Or at least they should not be visible to everyone, but the feedback should stay "private". Only the author will know whether the content was liked or not. This way, the author will benefit from the feedback and use it to improve him/her-self. On the other hand, we should reward the collaborations or further sessions/ contributions sparkling from them. For example, close to the session title there could be a Scoring Table indicating how many contributions have been added to the session and by who. Also, every time a session is started there should be the possibility to " Start a session WITH..." where you can invite others as co-authors of the session. Very likely the co-authors will be the same that contributed to a previous session. In this case, the Scoring Table will also show how many Co-Authors are present. The session with most co-authors and contributions will be showed up first. So that the joint efforts will be rewarded. This way you will promote collective-work, collaborative thinking and ultimately brainstorming. No one will be priced as single but rather the ability to engage more people and start follow-up sessions. Sessions alike or similar may also be merged upon agreement from the two sides. An example is the Tooth and the Limb regeneration which may be merged in an overall Tissue regeneration session.

Expose communication that is influenced by the desire to put others down

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 06, 2020
When you notice communication becoming less friendly due to one-upmanship, expose it. This idea can help.

A set of universal guidelines for collaborative communication

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 19, 2020
What if the world adopted a universal set of guidelines for collaborative communication. Similarly to how the world adopted open-source software via Github. These guidelines would be specifically designed to:
  1. prevent rivalrous dynamics from diverting the dialogue away from the intended objective
  2. maximize inclusion
  3. expose and prevent conflicts of interest
  4. you add this point:)
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MC
Michelle Christine2 months ago
Protect the rights of differences in opinion

Increase understandability of information (translating information not just across language barriers but barriers of education, experience and natural limits of comprehension and attention spans)

Seek not just the best simple solutions but more complex combinations of solutions, where a solution in one area may only work if another solution in another area is also implemented

Expose and prevent conflicts of interest
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 months ago
Michelle Christine I updated the list to include your point

I'm wondering... Are the differences in opinion a result of people not understanding the necessary background information? Given enough time, patience, open-mindedness, capacity, and willingness to communicate, teach and learn, would different opinions always be mended into one?

I don't know if it is, but If that was the case, then including the "protect the rights of differences in opinion" could serve as a go-to clause that stops progress. Saying "we will just have to agree to disagree" would then be equal to saying "We are not on the same level and let's keep it that way. Feeling comfortable with my view is more important to me than changing it, no matter if there is a truer variant out there.". This is why I have reservations about formalizing differences in opinion. The differences are assumed by default. In ideal conditions, they would be mended or bridged as much as possible.

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