Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dream of Community

No, I haven't started SQVID'ing yet, but yes this post has everything to do with the 'business case' (and is definitely important for the whole process). What I keep going over is the whole online community thing.

Online communities: are they good or are they bad? Do they work or don't they? Is there a 'golden rule' for a community population to 'keep it going'? I am in the dark. Recent study in the Wall Street Journal is not that positive: most online communities become failures. Main reasons? Too much technology, too little 'humanity' and there is no community management in place. It's the same problem as it always is: we think that by providing the tools, the rest will work itself out - but it never does. Photoshop doesn't make you a graphic designer and a drilling machine doesn't make you a carpenter (ok, maybe a sledgehammer might make you a destruction worker...). Besides that: most online communities are fenced off: another login, another password and a new set of people you have to connect to.

Online communities need to meet some sort of need for communication: sharing best practices, exchanging experiences, collaborating on projects, rating products, voicing your opinions, keep in touch with people - there are lots of reasons for online communities to be. You could build a community around any of these needs (which happens all the time) but the thing is:

We have (most of) our needs already covered.

We don't want more seperate communities, we want to integrate them! I want my status updates on Twitter to show up on Facebook, I want my blog posts to instantly be visible on all my community pages and I want all my friends under the same roof and not spaced out over different communities. With the ever increasing pervesasiveness of online communities, who is waiting for more closed communities? What we want is more services and applications to integrate with what we already have, like the apps in Facebook or the App Store for the iPhone (hell, the App Store has already cost me around 25 euros and I still go out and buy more! I'm addicted - a fantastic business model).

The success of an online community lies in the fact that they open up communication and integrate with what is already there instead of only providing a loose bunch of tools and isolating its members.

Let's see if SQVID'ing about it, will make things clearer for coming up with a great idea for my 'business case'.

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