Peace Data Getting Facebook Users’ Attention

In October Facebook joined the Peace Dot effort from Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, an effort to promote peace and connect peace-minded people across the world via an online directory of organizations with sub-domains. Within 24 hours of Facebook’s Peace Dot launch, the Page’s 1,600 status updates reached more than 200,000 people and was being translated to 65 languages.

Peace Dot was a project that fits well with Facebook’s goal of making the world more open and connected, Facebook engineer Mark Slee tells us, who explains that tracking the way people engage in peace is very feasible with Facebook’s user database.

The page has four main features: a photo slideshow of protests around the world, a widget for users to share thoughts on peace and two graphs. One graph tracks whether people in different countries believe in world peace and another tracks connections between people from two sides of conflict, such as Israel and Palestine. Users can adjust the graphs to see results from different countries or connections made between opposing sides in conflict areas. The idea is to show how people are becoming friends (on Facebook) and also becoming more positive about world peace.

Slee tells us that the page has continued to see good traffic since its launch, despite the fact that it hasn’t really changed much — although plans to do so are in the works. It currently receives 25,000 to 50,000 hits per month and 47,000 unique users have participated by posting to the widget on the right-hand side of the page, he says.

Facebook’s effort with the Peace Dot project has been well received because the page’s design has allowed for data collection that adds a measurable dimension to the ambiguous concept of “peace,” Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab researcher Jordy Mont-Reynaud tells us.

“The concept of peace has a brand problem, it’s considered nebulous,” he says, explaining that Peace Dot attempts to get at the metrics of peace, such as increased empathy or an increased tolerance for different languages. Facebook was a good place to take Peace Dot because it’s where people go to learn more about other people, potentially increasing empathy, he said. Eventually, the project hopes to take Facebook’s metrics-based vision of Peace Dot and run with it, Mont-Reynaud added.

Facebook’s Slee agrees. “Our goal is less to drive traffic to the page than have people keep interacting as, with the whole spirit of the Peace Dot project in general. Our goal is to have it be a catalyst to get other people thinking, ‘What could I do to get involved in this?’.”

Facebook is planning on ways to create more data from its Peace Dot page by tweaking polling functions, for example, as well as figuring out how to make this data available for peace-related research, Slee says.

B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, adds that right now Peace Dot is working on ironing out technical kinks associated with growing from 20 to 50 organizations in the directory, as well as do launches on every continent. He also hopes that, eventually, data will be a big part of the project.

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