I took part in an interesting conference call today with some colleagues and the team from act.ivi.st, who I have mentioned before in this blog. They gave us an overview of the technology behind the websites they work on, and I have to admit that I was impressed. Although I can see the limitations of the platform it is certainly on the right track and they have ambitious plans to enhance their offer.
The way I now envisage act.ivi.st is as a hub, drawing in people from social media, to a central point where opportunities for action are provided. The range of platforms they can access is pretty much infinite, so long as it has an API (as most social networking sites do) then they can get into it and build an interface that'll link in to your hub.
The actions you provide are currently limited to online activities, many of which refer you back to the social media site you just came from. However they are looking at ways of creating interfaces to real world activity. Joining a Facebook event is one example, certainly using Facebook events to mobilise large groups is effective. I hope in time they are able to find a way to reward someone for turning up to a march, rather than rewarding them for the promise of turning up to it however, right now the technology simply isnt there.
I'm not convinced that the reward system is necessarily a motivating factor at the moment. Its cute, but I think the purpose it serves is more subtle. Its a validator, if you see that 1000 people have generated 100,000 points through their activity, it is inherently justifying what you are about to do. Other people have done it, therefore it's safe and you can do it without risking ridcule. The leaderboard is one feature which I personally could do without.
As I've said before, speed kills, and act.ivi.st is well placed to be deployed quickly to match a campaign. Although it should be said that the quicker the campaign is rolled out, the more generic it'll end up looking. I would imagine that you'd want to give yourself at least a month to build the site in an ideal world, to give it a unique look and feel. The more popular act.ivi.st gets the greater the risk that you'll see dozens of identical sites pop up with slightly different names. I'm sure thats something they'll address in time, but its worth being aware of. On the other hand, it is pretty, and for the moment its extremely novel. Most people won't have seen anything like it, and this creates a baited hook for people.
There is also a substantial backend, so you are able to see what your members are doing. Members can be asked to provide contact information, which is of course useful. But they also provide biographical information, so getting a rough idea of what types of people are doing which activity is possible. I can see possibilities for rough polling being built into these sites in time.
Overall I liked what I saw. There are some good ideas here which will grow stronger in time. I got the feeling that to some extent the team at act.ivi.st are still learning what their platform can do, and I think thats a huge positive. They dont know what can't be done and they're willing to give things a try. As their client base grows I expect their services will diversify and the complexity of their package will grow in leaps and bounds. They are part of the cutting edge, doing stuff that no one else is and finding new ways to use existing tools.
I really recommend you have a look at their website and dig into what they have to offer.