31 May

Mahalo Opens Up; Recognizes the Power of Transparency

In what Jason Calacanis bills as “Wikipedia 3.0″, Mahalo has just taken a very major step forward by opening their platform to all registered users. Until now, Mahalo has crafted each of their 50,000 pages by hand (hence the tagline “human powered search”). But by enabling users to directly contribute, create and edit pages – Mahalo is becoming a “human powered portal” or “directory”.

What’s particularly important about Mahalo’s move is their focus on transparency. I am a firm believer that websites and communities work only as well as the users’ incentives are aligned. Digg is a terrific example: publishers are incented to submit content; diggers are incented to vote, befriend and share; and everyone is incented to digg as much (and as fairly) as possible.

Jason recognizes that fully opening Mahalo can be noisy or even turbulent (“it’s not going to be as freewheeling as Wikipedia day one”). So they have two solutions.

The first isn’t scalable over the long term, but important for helping define community interactions and demonstrate proper behaviors: “[Mahalo's] staff is going to check every edit made and confirm it is correct. We have three full-time folks on this right now and our expectation is we will only get 10-50 editors per day.”

The second solution is to make activity fully transparent and consequently establish self-imposed community guidelines and incentives. Mahalo has made their User Activity Dashboard public. It’s the same dashboard that their staff follows internally. By publishing this content and making the community’s behavior fully transparent – there is an incentive to behave properly and frequently (attention and reputation!) and there is a consequence for misbehaving (your actions are public and tied to an account).

Most importantly, it establishes accountability. Users are accountable for their actions. Vertical specialists are accountable for the changes in their verticals. Readers become accountable for validating the quality (or lack thereof) of an article. And Mahalo staffers become accountable for either enabling or disabling content, users and topics.

Available data in the Dashboard:
- Recommended Links
- Declined Recommended Links
- Note Edits
- Message Board Posts

Comments