By Vidya Pradhan

sezwho-logo.pngAn interesting article in the New York Times talks about how comments are becoming the new social currency on the web. “There are those who have blogs,” goes the article, “and then there are those who leave comments on other people’s blogs.” While the 2 groups may intersect once in a while, there is still a large population of comment writers who roam the web communities leaving their virtual footprints behind. It is to recognize the impact of these unsung participants that Jitendra Gupta and his team developed SezWho, a “distributed context, rating and reputation system for social media sites like blogs, forums, wikis, video/picture sharing sites, discussion boards and anywhere else where people collaborate on the web.” With the proliferation of social media sites, the quantity and democratization of user-generated content often makes it difficult for the lay reader to determine where to find the best quality. Who is adding value to the community and who is just venting? Jakob Nielsen’s article on participation inequality suggests that a 90-9-1 rules applies – 90% of readers never participate, 9% participate occasionally and 1% of the users make up the bulk of the content. In real life community forums, the participation is likely to be much higher. SezWho’s team suggests this is because in real life, there is an incentive to participate in the form of reputation building. In online forums, not only is this positive stroke missing, but since the threshold to participation can be quite high, it is harder to get people to comment. What is missing is a way to encourage online participation by offering a reward and this is where SezWho comes in. The SezWho product allows readers to review comment writers, thus building the writers’ online reputation. The plug-in wraps each comment with a rating box and a profile of the writer, which gets updated every time the writer writes a comment and every time a comment gets rated. About 80% of the writer’s overall rating comes from the ratings from readers while 20% comes from the number of comments the writer posts. This is to take care of the inequality between commenters who write well and those who just write a lot. While there are sites like Metafilter, which are almost exclusively devoted to people who comment, with the primary content taking a backseat to the comment generation, SezWho is meant for existing community and social media sites which would like to have this functionality to both encourage wider participation and increase traffic. How SezWho increases a site’s traffic is rather convoluted but, interestingly, it is through the efforts of the comment writers. The idea is that good commenters will spur cross-site traffic as readers follow them from site to site. For social networking sites the benefit is more obvious, with reader ratings helping new users to locate quality within a mass of content. “The way the web is organized right now is very Web1.0,” says Jitendra. “It is organized around sites rather than people.” SezWho hopes to change that. By focusing on the writer rather than the site, SezWho hopes to build meaningful participation across communities. Providing a way to rate user-generated content also seems like a good idea and the company, which went public with its beta version only about 2 months ago, already has over 110,000 subscribers. In case you’re wondering about the revenue model, SezWho plans to offer paid services which expand on this basic idea in the near future. Also in the works is a ‘Red Carpet’ feature that will allow the site to display the celebrity comment writers it has attracted. Water, No Ice has recently added this plug-in. Do check it out and let us have your feedback.

19 thoughts on “SezWho?

  1. Alex

    Actually one of my friends first read this article and asked me to visit this page. This article has very useful information, it will be helpful for many. It’s really amazing to read this description. Thank you so much for your help and for your efforts.



  2. gestroud

    Sez Who i’s an excellent addtion to any web site. Easy to install and implememt. It definitely encouraged my site’s user to participate more.



  3. Like Ra

    I really appreciate what Mr. Gupta and Co have created, but since you in your “great piece” (I second Jitendra here) asked for feedback, here it is. (I also published it here:

    I can start with what I like about the widgets:

    the idea is great
    the filter and voting results look good (on the post/comment page)

    And that’s about it.

    Now what I don’t like:

    synchronization does not work (pictures, results, etc.)
    the profile is literally uneditable (e.g. you can’t change the Blogs and Emails settings)
    it does not keep userpic proportions, even if the picture is smaller than 80×100
    RedCarpet shows irrelevant results (I even removed it from the site, but added it back today to see if there are any difference)
    the more comments, the less the ratio. E.g. polite answers like “Thanks much for the info!” will never be rated, but will definitely reduce the rating
    sometimes better a not valuable comment, than nothing. Have a look at this thread. Sandeep’s comment is rated low. But he expressed his opinion I agree with. See previous comment
    the posts and the original authors should also be included in the rating
    users are not willing to give out their e-mail addresses
    sezwho is mostly oriented for the site owners, ordinary readers are hardly interested
    SezWho stimulates using same nicks/email addresses for all participating sites, thus reducing the privacy of the users
    all user comments can be accessible from one point, thus reducing the privacy again
    not widely accepted yet, so even less interesting

    Probably I forgot something, but that covers almost everything.

    In my opinion SezWho can become popular within communities, not across them.


  4. Like Ra

    Another bug. The rating of the posts resets after a page reload. E.g. the post rating (on the original blog) Sez: 2.5, the statistics page (on sezwho site): 3.4.

    So, no synchronization again.


  5. Like Ra

    Proved! A user with one comment and one good rating is placed well above the users with lots of posts even if more than a half of them highly rated.

    So, what’s the point?


  6. Like Ra

    Also, it does not work with Internet Explorer 6.0.

    Why not to follow the same “respect” principle used in many forums?

    Had enough. Removing it from my site…


  7. Jitendra

    Like Ra,

    More comments do not lead to lower ratings…In fact, it should lead to higher ratings…Can you give me an example where this is happening?

    Also thanks for the great feedback…We are reviewing it and will certainly implement a number of them.



  8. Jitendra

    Like Ra, Sorry for being a scatter brain and leaving multiple comments but what do you mean that the Red Carpet does not work as expected…RC widget is supposed to show the highest rated commenters on your blog…Are you seeing something else?

    Let me know?



  9. zzrummer

    Nevada Savors Its Place as Maker of Momentum

    Article Tools Sponsored By
    Published: January 10, 2008

    LAS VEGAS — Scores of college students fanned out in neighborhoods across this city Wednesday, phone banks buzzed with newly minted volunteers and endorsements were proffered as the Democratic presidential candidates ratcheted up the volume in this once-quiet caucus state.
    Skip to next paragraph
    Enlarge This Image
    Isaac Brekken for the New York Times

    D. Taylor, the Secretary-Treasurer of Culinary Local 226, in Las Vegas Wednesday announcing the endorsement of Senator Barack Obama.
    Back Story With The Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye
    The Caucus

    The CaucusThe latest political news from around the nation. Join the discussion.

    * Candidate Topic Pages

    * More Politics News

    Next in line on the Democratic calendar, Nevada was vaulted overnight into the position of breaking a tie, at least for now, after the victory of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. The campaigns of Mrs. Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, who won the Iowa caucuses last week, seemed poised for a sanguinary struggle in the Jan. 19 caucuses, and Mr. Obama was scheduled to arrive here on Friday.

    The Clinton and Obama camps rushed in volunteers and staff members from Iowa, furiously opened new field offices and saturated the airwaves with radio advertisements in Spanish and television spots promoting their health care plans.

    For Mrs. Clinton, efforts on her behalf in Nevada intensified last week after her third-place finish in Iowa. Campaign staff members here impressed upon volunteers that they were direly needed. With her victory in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton, who long ago collected the institutional support of her party here — and until recently enjoyed a double-digit lead in the polls — is now seeking to build on her newfound momentum.

    “We always knew Nevada would be important as the first Western state,” said Hilarie Grey, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton here. “We can be the state that swings the momentum in an entirely different way.”

    Mr. Obama won an endorsement Wednesday morning from the highly influential Culinary Workers Union local at a raucous news conference here in Las Vegas, where more than 100 members began chanting and yelling at what quickly became an Obama rally.

    After praising the other Democrats for fighting for “the Las Vegas dream,” D. Taylor, the secretary and treasurer of the union and its public face, gave the nod to Mr. Obama.

    Mr. Taylor celebrated something that Nevada residents have enjoyed for months, candidates who actually show up in the state. “It’s been exciting,” he said. “For the first time I know of in Nevada, dishwashers, cooks, house keepers, cocktail servers, bartenders from all different walks of life” had access to candidates.

    The union, which has about 60,000 members, is extremely influential in the Democratic stronghold of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and hopes to play a major role in the race, where Mrs. Clinton has had the edge for months. Alluding to Nevada’s racial diversity in relation to Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Taylor said, “We’re not just white bread here; we got pumpernickel, we’ve got whole wheat and we’ve got rye.”

    Mr. Obama is counting on a highly organized cadre of enthusiastic supporters — he has nearly double the number of field offices of any other candidate — to edge him toward another victory.

    In North Las Vegas on Wednesday, an Obama field office was buzzing with activities and people came in from the streets looking for yard signs and T-shirts. (“Tell Mama Vote Obama” remained on the wall, and there was not a sign for the taking.)

    “Senator Obama has invested heavily into this state,” said Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for his campaign here. “We aren’t taking anything for granted.”

    Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, perhaps trying to distract from the powerful union endorsement, made much hay Wednesday morning of its endorsement by Representative Shelley Berkley, whose Congressional district encompasses Las Vegas.

    Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and Mrs. Clinton, of New York, have ventured into parts of Nevada that have traditionally shunned Democrats, like Elko in the north. Statewide, Mr. Obama has 11 offices total, Mrs. Clinton has six, including two she opened since the New Year here.

    The efforts are boisterous extensions of what the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been quietly building as the rest of the nation kept its eyes on Iowa and New Hampshire.

    Nevada, chosen by the Democratic Party to hold an early contest long before numerous other states decided to move their primaries to Feb. 5, has been largely overshadowed by Iowa, New Hampshire and, to a lesser degree, South Carolina.

    (Republicans also have caucuses here on Jan. 19, but they are nonbinding and have been largely ignored by all but Mitt Romney and Representative Ron Paul.)


  10. Piggy

    I came across Sez Who a while ago and thought it looked interesting, then completely forgot to have a closer look a while later.

    I might just do that now that I’ve ‘rediscovered’ it again, thanks to you.


  11. Richard McLaughlin

    I agree that “primary content taking a backseat to the comment generation” seems to be the case, or at least the effort. I know people that use tools to track the top blogs, just so they can be the first poster. First in line gets you traffic back to your site and builds you rep.
    Example: My being the 20th poster here has no rep value.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s