Elgg currently outputs some very simply DOT code at elgg.net/_dotty. I originally had the script include the “news” user, which most people have retained on their friends list, which yielded the following friendship diagram:
I’ve since removed it, and the results –
– are interesting. There’s a background sea of people who haven’t friended anyone, who are the ones who have heard about Elgg and have come in to see what the fuss is about but haven’t done anything with their accounts. Then there’s a bunch of clusters, including one great big connected graph in the middle. I’ll try and figure out what percentage of people are connected, but it’s worth considering that for 99% of Elgg.net users, there’s no pressure to participate in the community at all. Check out a top-down system like the one produced by OSPI, and the numbers of people using the system of their own accord (as opposed to being forced) are going to drop massively.
Of course, the Elgg.net use case is different to the system as used within an institution, where it’s likely that users would be even more tightly interconnected, particularly if certain associations were “pre-loaded”. (e.g., the next batch of undergraduate computer scientists automatically made members of the “Computer Science Graduation Class of 2009” community.) Kicking involvement off in this way, as well as making it an active part of communication within the school or organisation, would encourage greater involvement. There’s also nothing to say that the disconnected users aren’t using their personal weblogs for individual reflection.