An interesting post titled "Casual Players and Community" at Zen of Design had a line in it that struck me upside my haid, though:
I hate to say it, but community is kind of a hardcore feature. At least, being deeply involved in it. Casual players may avoid guilds, not run instances, and never go to the auction house. But at least theyâ€™re playing with other people...
This may apply to more than just MMOs. Could being social on social networks actually be an activity that is, to a degree, something that folks only do... a wee little bit? I know that the whole purpose of MySpace and LinkedIn, etc. is to connect, meet-up and be social... but there is *content* there, too. Are there MySpace lurkers who just witness the social activities and goings-on as entertainment/info value?
I've talked before about social share and share of participation. About trying to evaluate and quantify whether or not adding social features and/or functions to a service provides measurable value. If users see interacting with each other in a space as a "hardcore feature" -- something that's a good "to have," but not a "gotta-gotta-have" -- that's one more thing to keep in mind when designing in social-ness.
Why? Because if the social aspects are going to be important to you as the provider, then you'll need to make them granular (i.e., baby steps for the "100" and "10" folks), and visible, so that the low-end participants can get some entertainment/info value from them. Meaning, "I don't want to talk to anybody, but I like to see what you guys are saying." That's impossible, if others' conversations are somehow hidden.
It should also be easy (to the point of being trivial) for true, new "social content" to be added onto. For example, if I've got a chat going with two of my buddies in which I explain how to do something in an MMO/VW (let's say I'm a "Social 1" and am describing how to do something complex, and don't mind being a "guide"), it should be very, very easy for one of them to record the chat session, and then copy it to another friend later who has the same issues, but without having to go through all the "social-ness." Shy player (in the 10% zone) leveraging past social interactions with a yappy 1-percenter.
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