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Incentives for Users of Social Software

January 14th, 2009

Report on the presentation of Panayotis Antoniadis, January 14th, 2009
See slides for more details.
Warning : this report outlines the understanding of the post author (Alban Galland) and nothing more.


The presentation was focused on how to understand and model users behavior in P2P systems. The design of incentive mechanisms must indeed take into account not only economics but also social behavior.

The social networks are directly connected to the notion of self organized communities. P2P systems are going more slowly social than centralized systems, because of legal reasons or because they are less open to participation (friend-to-friend networks control their access). Web-based communities are efficient but sometimes they already are using P2P for content distribution. Some may argue that this content distribution could be used to manage all the community and that the web-access layer is then useless. This layer also leads to privacy and censorship problems which encourage systems enabling independence. Other reason to use P2P systems may also come from applications using distribution features. Actually, benefit is still not totally obvious : web-based and P2P seem in fact complementary. For example, web-based systems could be used to meet people and P2P systems to interact with friends (in a private way).


There are two kinds of challenges :

  • Technical issues : content distribution, information integrity, different privacy/security issues. In general, identity matters in social system and some data should not be shared
  • Incentives issues : participation, resource sharing, trust

The presentation is focused on the latter one.

Example of Wireless Neighborhood communities

Hybrid on-line communities are both physical and virtual communities. The notion is connected to P2P systems and ad-hoc networks. They are used to provide Internet for everybody avoiding hotspots, but it is also fun to have a private network and it is a means to organize something in a neighborhood. There are already localized communities (lifeAt, i-neighbors, peuplade.fr, Facebook neighborhoods, meetup…) These services usually allow users to exchange services and information with their neighborhood, but are web based (not physical). There are also grassroots communities of wireless networks (seattle wireless net, awmn). The idea is to bring both components together to create incentives.

About incentives

Economics vision : the users share resources through market or reciprocity (token, reputation…). The goal is to design markets such as when they reach equilibrium, users have the targeted behavior. Modeling the optimization process is possible knowing utility and cost. But there is a problem of information because utility and cost are usually unknown, even by the users themselves which are then hard to predict.

Social vision : Even without economic reasons, P2P systems are still working : people make efforts without direct economics incentives. Some reasons are spirit, value/cost ratio, self-efficacy, altruism or in general social incentives…

In general, incentives cover a wide range from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations : payments, reciprocity, long term benefit, popularity, status, self-image, sense of efficacy, community vision, interest, fun…

The economics vision could be difficult to apply on the resources layer. For example, FON let you share a bit of your wifi with other Foneros, based on global reciprocity. But there is a deep problem of symmetry of resources usage since fewer people will try to access wifi of people living in an isolated place. There is other models as the yellow chair project or the wifi-thank-you site where incentives are purely social. In general, incentives are not additive : the more you control (extrinsic incentives), the less people are self-motivated (intrinsic incentives).

An interesting idea is to use a cross-layer incentive : sharing low-level resources is rewarded at the level of the community and reciprocally the good members of the community get more low-level resources.

Application to social-software design

The key features of a social-software are

  • the general vision or promise
  • the community outcome
  • the personal image of the user
  • the local activity : the user must feel that somebody has seen her profil or interacts with her
  • what the user see about the rest of the world
  • the types of relations and interactions…

On-going work

After studying at the Computer Science Department of University of Crete and at the Department of Informatics of Athens University of Economics and Business, Panayotis is now a post-doc researcher at LIP6 Laboratory (University of Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris) working on the design of incentive mechanisms for network shared testbeds (like Planetlab) and virtual communities (on the Internet and wireless networks). Panayotis is collaborating with Benedicte Le Grand, Marcelo Dias De Amorim, Ileana Apostol and Tridib Banerjee. He is member of the wip project.

Updated 01/20/2009 thanks to P. Amtoniadis helpful comments

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