Nudging participation along at ChangeEverything.ca

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User-based sites like Vancity's ChangeEverything.ca thrive on participation. And there's a lively community creating changes and blogging about them... which is a tribute to the community, to the site's compelling concept and to the work of community animator Kate Dugas.

Now Vancity wants to take participation to the next level.

Every community site has a large, often-untapped base of what are sometimes called "lurkers"; according to usability guru Jakob Neilsen, they're the vast majority of users. By giving them a quick, simple way to make a meaningful contribution, we think we can start them on their way up the participation ladder.

And the way we're doing that is a new feature called Nudge, which is being released today as a free open-source module for Drupal. (You can download Nudge here.)

Screen capture of Nudge linkIt's programmed by the go-to guy for great Drupal module creation, Khalid Baheyeldin of 2bits.com, and it works like this:

  • When you see a blog post or change on ChangeEverything.ca, and you'd like to encourage the author to keep working on it, you click on the Nudge link below that post or change.
  • The author gets an email message letting them know you're nudging them, along with an optional custom message from you.
  • And you get the satisfaction of knowing you've given someone a little encouragement (and perhaps a gentle push forward).

There's an obvious appetite out there for small-scale participation (witness the popularity of a feature like "poke" on Facebook, which is like Nudge on the surface, but lacks Nudge's use of context and personalization). And it may well be that one of the tricks to getting people to start climbing the participation ladder on your site is to make the first rung as low as possible.

As Neilsen says, "The lower the overhead, the more people will jump through the hoop."

Nudge lowers the overhead for initial participation, but there's an added bonus: the encouragement it gives people to contribute more richly with blog posts and changes.

If you're looking to give participation on your Drupal-based site a Nudge, check out the module. And let us know how you're using it.

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