Social news site Mixx introduced a new feature today: Mixx Communities. Mixx always had a strong emphasis on 'groups,' but the Mixx Communities take this to a different level by offering a higher degree of customizability and a stronger emphasis on communication between group members.
There has been a recent trend of allowing groups of users to take greater control over their experiences on social news sites and Mixx's efforts add some interesting ideas to this.
Building a Community
Setting up a Mixx community is very straightforward. Besides deciding on obvious things like a name, color scheme, and categories, users can chose to pre-populate their community with content already available in Mixx by importing items tagged with up to ten different keywords.
The communities also feature their own message boards and the ability to add polls. There is also a 'member lounge', where the recent activities of group members are displayed. Karma points a user earns in one of the communities are added to the 'general Mixx karma pool', an important feature for many power-users who tend to jealously guard their status on the site.
Mixx communities are somewhat similar to Reddit's sub-reddit feature, which also allows users to create their own hosted communities. Reddit, however, does not allow for any degree of customization, but it does have more granular access controls than Mixx.
All Mixx communities are open to all users, while Reddit has public, restricted, and private modes. Update: Mixx does actually have very similar access controls to Reddit's - but they are not part of the set-up procedure like Reddit's are and have to be set after the community is created.
Now that Reddit has open-sourced its code, anybody can of course create any kind of reddit-clone, but the communities on Mixx cater to a different audience.
The 5th step in the set-up process is probably the most interesting one for publishers: Set Up Advertising & Revenue Share. Mixx allows publishers to link their Google AdSense account to their Mixx Community page and then shares 50% of the revenue with the publisher.
This will probably help Mixx to gain a larger following among small to mid-sized blogs and maybe even some larger publishers who will create their own communities on the site. Still, social news sites are notoriously hard to monetize through pay-per-click ads and I wouldn't expect most community owners to make a lot of money from this.
Making Users Happy
Allowing users to take greater control of their experience seems to be a trend among social news sites lately. As these communities grow, some users often start to feel alienated. Allowing for the creation of more formalized sub-groups most likely helps to retain a lot of these users who still feel very attached to the service.
It will be interesting to see if Mixx's competitors like Digg, Newsvine, and Propeller are going to follow suit here anytime soon. Digg especially, because of the sheer size and diversity within its community would probably benefit from allowing users to create smaller Diggs on its site, too.