(photo courtesy of -sel- on flickr)
John Hagel III
As I read John Hagel’s post on Community 2.0, where he defines what he means by “virtual communities”, I am struck once again at how terrible a blog is in attempting to create a sense of community.
Let me offer my own definition of virtual community so that you will at least know what I mean by the term. For me, virtual community involves:
- establishing connections on electronic networksamong people with common needs
- so that they can engage in shared discussions
- that persist and accumulate over time
- leading to complex webs of personal relationships and an increasing sense of identification with the overall community
The key elements of virtual community, therefore, are shared discussions, shared relationships and shared identity. Now, these may seem arbitrary but, as I’ll discuss below, they contribute to building shared meaning, shared trust and shared motivation in ways that are distinctive and responsive to the growing needs among participants.
These elements also help to distinguish virtual communities from a variety of other Internet enterprises:
- Social networks – focus on identity creation and connection with friends, but lack the same degree of shared discussions and shared identity as VCs
- Electronic markets – primary focus on transactions rather than relationships
- Content aggregation sites – display and access interesting content but limited focus on shared discussions and shared relationships
I honestly cannot believe that blogs help create any amount of identity for anyone other than the writer. There’s little, if any, ability to connect with friends (except the writer), and virtually no shared identity. What I say goes, and what design I want stays.
Blogs certainly aren’t electronic markets because they’re not designed for the transactions. Blogs can fit the content aggregation site model, but they’re kinda lame when they just aggregate other people’s content. Anyone can aggregate content now with a plethora of tools at their disposal.
Fixing the problem
So, how can we fix this? Should we fix this?
Blogs do certainly have a place in this world as personal publication tools. But, I’m not interested in solely publishing my thoughts. I am more interested in connecting with you folks.
What I like about blogs are the completely customizable nature of them. This design fits my personality in some ways. It reflects certain things about me. It also gives me the power to publish what I want, when I want to, without any notifications, spammy corporate-ness, or other nuisances you have to deal with when you join third party social networks.
What a blog lacks is the ability to connect with my friends. I don’t need the messaging systems (I have and like to use email). I don’t need the “friending” features, because my ideal online virtual community would be self-selecting. I do want to see when my friends post on their blogs and when it relates to things I’ve posted. I want to see their videos, photos, and more all in one place. I want to share files quickly and without hassle and have a common chat room. I don’t want to browse for new people, I want to be introduced to them by my friends, and then I want to say I like them or not.
So, that’s what I want. What do you want? How do we fix this thing we call the social web?
[tags]blogging, community, social, publishing, hagel[/tags]