Visualising the Community DNA for OpenIDEO

Following on from my last post about designing for social engagement on, I’ve started playing with our user data to better visualise the make-up of the community.I thought that DNA sequencing might be a nice visual analogy for the unique signature of a social ecology and so created a DNA sequence of the Maternal Health challenge.

The DNA is really interesting, revealing a few things that I found surprising, and very likely many more insights that are hidden within.Below, the Community DNA shows each user as a vertical column. If you’ve participated in the Maternal Health challenge at all, you’ll be a vertical column in this map! The colour-coded rows show each of the interactions available:

  • If you’re following the challenge
  • If you’ve applauded anything
  • If you’ve made a comment
  • If you’ve submitted an inspiration
  • If you’ve uploaded a concept (our challenge is still has another week to go of concepting to go so this DNA is still evolving)

Intensity of the color indicates number of interactions for that user. Note that this DNA doesn’t reveal the number of submissions to the site, only number of users and what they’re up to. For example, there’s a lot more individual comments on the site than there are inspirations, but in the DNA they look relatively the same.

Insights for me personally:

We’re engaging a new set of people in each phase! You’ll notice that with the Concepting phase, a chunk of people that didn’t participate at all in Inspirations has started submitting their ideas. This confirms our initial design ideas about breaking up the design process into phases to cater to users with different skillsets and inclinations. It’s essentially how the Design Quotient works, breaking out the 4 different types of contributions you can make on the site and allowing users to gain points along the dimensions they’re most interested in.

People are engaging with multiple interactions on the site, from submitting a new piece of content, to commenting on other people’s work, to applauding. We still have a portion of the community that submit and then don’t participate socially. It looks like these people are submitting multiple items, but perhaps lurking the rest of the time.

About half the people who’ve participated at all on the site have submitted something! Great news. This turns my pyramid model on its head a little, or at least suggests a few more classes of users:

  • Passionate contributors – Those that do everything from concepting to inspirations, commenting, applauding.
  • Engaged contributors – Those that contribute new content and engage socially on the site.
  • Contributors – Those that just contribute new content but don’t engage.
  • Collaborators – Those that just comment and applaud, build on other people’s ideas.
  • Regulars – Those that just come to applaud.

Over time, I hope to make a few more of these DNA sequences for our various challenges. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Community DNA, what you see in the sequence and how we could improve this view…


  1. For what it’s worth I think you might have got the weighting a bit off. u00a0It takes alot more effort to submit a concept and I don’t feel that is valued in the current scale.

  2. Christine C. says:

    I’m researching collaborative learning in classrooms, and I’m finding that much of the frustration from students perspective is with regards to the distribution of work in project– i think OpenIDEO is a great example of different types/levels of abilities. Some students are better researchers, whereas some students are better at executing problems. Think there’s something to applying this “quotient” system in classrooms to highlight that there are different levels of engagement. Thanks! 🙂

  3. Sina, thanks!Great thought on challenge theme. Still trying to get an overall view of the community across challenges.In terms of participation, I think it has a lot to do with how the question is framed.How we ask the question affects the number of answers we get.We try to make the question general enough as to cover a range of inspirations and concepts, but specific enough as to get at solutions that actually address the problems.Celebrities also help a lot 🙂

  4. This is brilliant. I love how revealing it is of how the community works. I’d like to see how it plays out with evaluating as well. Also I wonder how the theme plays a role in determining participation. Do some themes attract more popular participation than other types of themes (e.g. medicine vs. mobile technology)

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