Crowdsourcing ideas with Dialogue App: 5 levels of user engagement
Posted on September 19, 2011 by JessN The basic principle of Dialogue App is very straightforward: users can submit ideas and tag, rate and comment on other people’s ideas. But from these simple interactions can emerge complex discussion, lively debate, and innovative thinking. The key to the process is a low barrier to entry. People can approach the discussion with a low level of commitment and, as they become more engaged in the discussion, they can increase the time and effort they put into contributing. Level 1. “Just browsing, thanks” Any visitor to the Dialogue can read all user-submitted content (except content which has been removed by moderators). They can browse the ideas, sorting them by date added (most recent first) by popularity (highest rated first) or by level of engagement (ideas with most comments first). Visitors can also search for ideas by keyword or tag.
Tabs let users sort by most recent, highest rated, and ideas with most comments
Even at this stage, before they’ve submitted anything at all to the Dialogue, visitors can make an important contribution to the discussion. Each idea has Twitter and Facebook buttons, so they can share the idea with their social network contacts, extending the reach of the discussion and inviting even more participation.
Tweet and Facebook buttons let users share ideas with their friends
Level 2. “Couldn’t agree more”
After browsing the ideas for a while, it’s likely that the visitor will have opinions, positive or negative, about some of the ideas. Dialogue App lets users anonymously rate other people’s ideas with a number of stars between 1 and 5. Visitors like this level of interaction because it’s perceived as low risk. Their name is not associated with the rating, and they can change or retract their rating at any time, but they are still having a measurable impact on the discussion.
Users can view the current rating of an idea, and add or change their own rating.
Another way of participating anonymously in the discussion is by tagging ideas. A ‘tag’ is a one- or two-word description of the idea, which other visitors can use to browse similar ideas. A ‘tag cloud’ in the sidebar of the site shows the most commonly-used tags. The more often a tag has been used, the larger it’s displayed, which gives a really clear overview of the key topics being discussed and their relative importance.
The tag cloud shows commonly discussed topics
In order to participate actively in the discussion (adding ideas, comments, ratings or tags) the visitor must register on the site. It’s vital that the signup form does not put people off, so the Dialogue App just collects the bare minimum of information: a username, email address and password. It takes seconds to fill in. There is the option for clients to add extra fields to this form, but we generally recommend against it, as a long signup form is one of the easiest ways to lose people’s interest.
The signup form asks for the bare minimum information.
Level 3. “Yes, but…”
Once a user has registered and expressed their opinion anonymously about ideas, they will often want to provide more detail, argue a specific point, or justify their postive or negative rating. Registered users can add their own comments to all ideas, except those that have been closed to further discussion by a moderator. Comments are quick to submit: the form is designed to encourage users to keep their comments quite short, although in practice a comment can vary from a couple of words to several paragraphs.
Users can post a comment to the end of the discussion thread
All comments include the username of the person who posted it (the user’s real name and email address are never made public). Seeing their name associated with their comments naturally increases the user’s sense of participation in the community, and so we see this as the next step in their commitment to the discussion. Level 4. “And now for something completely different” Of course, new ideas are the core of the Dialogue, and a really engaged user will want to put their own ideas up for debate, as well as commenting on other people’s ideas. Submitting an idea requires a little more effort than submitting a comment: users need to give their idea a title, then describe the idea, and they are also asked ‘why is your idea important?’ This encourages users to think more carefully about their idea before they submit it and helps maintain the quality of the discussion.
Users are asked for a title, description, and explanation of why their idea is important. Ideas can contain basic formatting such as bold text, and users can embed images and links to other websites. Users who have submitted ideas are very likely to return to the Dialogue time and again to read the comments and further engage in the debate.
Level 5. “A bit about me”
Once a user has posted ideas or comments to the discussion, and seen their username published alongside their submission, they are likely to notice that their username is also a link to their personal profile. A user’s profile shows a list of all the ideas and comments they have submitted, and can also include selected pieces of information that the user chooses to publish about themselves, if the Dialogue is configured to ask for it. While we discourage asking huge numbers of questions in the signup form, the personal profile is the place to collect information about more engaged users, who will often provide it voluntarily.
Dialogue App can be customised to ask users for demographic information
Users with large numbers of ideas, or highly rated or discussed ideas, can become minor celebrities in the context of the discussion, and often like to give more information about themselves than just a nickname. Profile information can be public (eg occupation, city/county of residence, areas of interest) or private (eg ethnicity, postcode, email address etc). When setting up a new Dialogue App we can advise on commonly collected demographic information, and how best to ask for it. Dialogue App is proven to be an effective tool for policy crowdsourcing and budget consultation. The numbers show just how easy it is for the public to get involved: we’ve run Dialogues such as HM Treasury’s Spending Challenge where 36,000 registered users submitted 45,000 ideas, and over a quarter of a million ratings. HM Government’s Your Freedom dialogue attracted similar levels of participation. If you’re interested in finding out more about Dialogue App, contact firstname.lastname@example.org | 0845 638 1848.