henry copeland:

Subtle visual cues nudge users to reveal more in online forum -- ScienceDaily

The researchers used a dynamic graphic representation of people standing in a crowd to convey crowd size. The size of the crowd suggested by the icon changed randomly for participants so that they were not merely jumping on the bandwagon of a large crowd, according to the researchers. The connectivity icon showed a network map with one circle labeled "You" to suggest the participant's place in the network. This icon also changed randomly. The researchers, who report their findings today (November 6) at the Association for Computing Machinery's annual Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing in Jersey City, NJ, tested the icons on a sexual health forum because while people tend to be reluctant to share information about their sexual behavior, disclosure is important to help them access health information, as well as help them make better health decisions. "In a marginalized -- or stigmatized -- group, it's often hard to get people to talk or to reveal personal information. However, we found that once the users got the sense that they were in the same boat as others, or that they were connected to others in the same network, they were more willing to disclose their private information and revisit the forum." said Andrew Gambino, doctoral student of mass communication, Penn State. "What we've found is a very basic design solution to increase participation in this group. This might be a way for small groups, particularly ones that deal with stigmatized or marginalized topics, to survive."
- www.sciencedaily.com