“I see you”

The Community Ecosystem

Ok, so I pretty much said my piece on this in my comment on that blog post. No worries, I can always find more words. It’s my blog and I’ll repeat myself if I want to. 🙂

I’ve always wondered how the interactions on sites evolve — or don’t. I don’t get a lot of comments here, but I also don’t have that big a readership, and folks I know are as likely to email me to comment on something they read, or just mention it next time they see me.

Of course, Andrew occasionally likes to incessantly ask “Are you blogging this? Are you going to blog this?” because he thinks he’s funny. Or he wants to be famous. Or something…

The “bigger” sites have always fascinated me in terms of their functioning dynamics. Does an interactive community develop, or does it remain a big group of people silently reading and enjoying. Or reading and disagreeing. Or reading and wondering if that information or those opinions really reflect anything other than what’s going on in one person’s head?

For those who comment, what attitude or tone do they take? Do they treat the site’s owner like a colleague, with reverence, or with that weird and somewhat creepy possessive familiarity that internet fame can bring?

Until now, I’ve mostly thought that the culture of a site came down to the person publishing the site. Writer’s style, content, and “atmosphere”, though if you asked me to quantify that last one, I couldn’t. But Chris’ piece got me thinking a lot more about the writer’s actions than material.

What and how much does the writer intentionally do to reach out to, connect with, and give to the greater online community? Are the writer’s efforts global or targeted — by topic, demographic, industry, geography, etc.? (Or maybe just trying to get noticed by A-listers or dugg…)

The comments about Zulu greetings really struck me, because that’s exactly what we do online: see each other. Unless I somehow make an effort to communicate with someone whose site I’ve read/enjoyed, that person will never know (unless they do some serious stats digging, I guess, and even that won’t tell them what I think).

As an extension of that, communities grow through those with similar interests, connections, etc. connecting with each other as well as with a site’s creator — reading each other’s comments, following links posted, discussing via tools like Twitter, etc.

I also think that these mechanisms for connecting decrease the “barrier to entry”, as it were, making people more inclined to come out of their shells and not lurk. (Lurking for most of us is pretty normal behaviour, and abandoning it takes an outside-the-comfort-zone effort.) The cool thing is, the more you connect, the easier it becomes to do. And engagement leads to passion — a cornerstone of community — and passion, of course, leads to evangelism, which makes the community (and a site’s traffic) grow even more.

Expectations that others will come to you are a losing proposition. People grow tired of being the only one who seems to make all the effort, in online relationships or off. If you want to build a community (or a business, or just make new friends…) be part of one. Even if at the start it’s only you. Think community. Until people start engaging back with you in your environment, work outwards — read, comment on, and post thoughts on others’ work that engages you.

You won’t always end up as part of new or existing communities, but more than likely you’ll find you end up as a connected and contented part of the ones where you truly belong.

This (r)evolution is gonna be messy…

Humanity’s Identity Crisis

In no small part because the folks in charge of analyzing, describing, and regulating such things are rarely the ones who “get” it…

We can expect great uncertainty about our species identity and the nature of what we should count as real. It will be an anxious time. This deep anxiety and uncertainty will breed many weird cults and strange beliefs — as it did within Philip K. Dick (just read that address!). There will be psychosis and wars built on the uncertainty of what is a human. The abortion war and the war over slavery are only two hints of the degree to which this question can provoke mortal conflict.

Yet even those who escape the violence — the mass of ordinary citizens and net surfers — will be pressed by a blanket of unresolved doubt. Who am I? Can there be more than one species of human? Can a robot be a child of God? Is slavery among intelligent machines acceptable? Should we extend the circle of empathy beyond animals and living things to made things? If it hurts, is it real?

Pondering

What if writing was still restricted to priests and nobility-serving scribes?

This came to me last night from a line I read in Spellbound.

For someone whose life is pretty much centred around communications (particularly online), it’s kind of a huge thing to consider.

Fashion: harder, better, faster, stronger

Yesterday when Sherry and I were out shopping, we visited a number of shoe stores, unsurprisingly. The 40s-inspired look is still going strong, which we think is fab. Of course so is the 80s look, which isn’t so much.

Heels are definitely in, the more skyscraping the better. We saw plenty of women yesterday at the mall demonstrating this, in fact. (I’ll save my thoughts on women who wear 4″ heels to go do a walking-based activity for another time…)

One of the most eye-catching styles we saw was metal-heeled stilettos. Usually a fairly strappy sandal with a high, narrow, metal-clad or all metal heel. Sherry boggled how anyone could even walk in something like that. I have no idea.

But what I did recall was the last time sky-high, pin-prick heels were fashionable: 2001. Prior to September 11th, heels were getting a bit ridiculous. I believe Manolo Blahniks were the shoes of the hour, thanks to Sex and the City. I believe one designer’s had even been banned because the shoes’ heels were basically titanium spikes that could easily kill someone. Charming. More importantly, however, in high stiletto heels, you can’t run. Hell, you can barely walk.

And you can’t, for example, run down 80 or 90 flights of stairs in a building that’s just been hit by a plane. There were news stories about women’s shoes in the context of 9/11. And then those heels promptly went out of fashion.

In the hyperbole of the day, I remember reading at least one article that went on about “Never again!” would such shoes be fashionable, symbols that they were of being pretty much literally hobbled. Fashion that prevented you from saving your own life, etc. And lo and behold, flats and lower, chunkier heels came into fashion.

And lasted a little while. It didn’t hurt that the 60s-inspired look came in then. However, here we are, 2008, and the shoes are back.

I guess style is more important than memory.

Correction

I would save up for a year to go to one conference. It would be this one.

My God, my head would explode from all the smart, funny, creative, insightful, courageous, innovative deliciousness. I would get Kate to follow me around with a roll of duct tape just in case I started to look like I was gonna blow. 🙂

(Yes, just one of the many ways my daughter is cooler than I am — this is her fourth year attending. My other daughter, Rose, Kate’s wife, is busy being ogled by marine mammals, t’would seem…)

Watching/listening to the talks has been keeping me uber-happy the last while. Srsly recommended.

Go big or stay home

I’ve wanted to go to SXSWi for the last few years. I’ve heard all about it; I’ve read all about who’s going and what’s going to be presented; I know about the peripheral culture where all the good stuff happens; I’ve been treated to first and second-hand accounts of adventures had there.

However, I also worked for a company that was neither swimming in cash nor really had a culture that “believed in” things like conference attendance. And I like to do lots of things with my life and my money, not just plan and save for one conference a year.

So I’ve never gone. And it sucks, but c’est la vie. At the same time, though, especially in the last year or so, there’s been something in my brain telling me that going might not be a great idea for me. Why?

Well, I think this sums it up pretty well. And hey, he’s been, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Noise and crowds do bad things to me. Not a fan at all, and if I’m stuck in an unfamiliar environment where I don’t have a well-known escape route and place to hide out and recharge? I’d probably end up bunkered down in my hotel room, refusing to come out. 🙂

Unlike that dude, I’m not a teetotaler, but I’m also not a big drinker. And I hate bars. Michael can crow all he likes about yelling at people in bars at 2am, but not everyone considers that the pinnacle of awesome social interaction.

And while I am single, the implications behind that last bullet point speak for themselves. I’ve been to big corporate events. I’ve been to conferences, and the idea of hooking up at one… blech.

Intellectually hooking up? Sure, faboo! But at the same time, I thrive on small group, in-depth interactions. I don’t thrive on (gag) “ambient intimacy”. I don’t consider myself totally connected to people because of Twitter interactions. And so a giant conference, even full of geeks and totally cool people, isn’t likely to be somewhere I’m going to meet my new BFF.

His final point about not seeing people he actually wants to see is relevant, too. There’d only be one or two people at the conference I actually know. But they’re not people who exist in my in-person social sphere, and they’re the type of people who really look forward to things like SXSW. Which means, by definition, that I’m not someone they’d terribly look forward to seeing there.

And yes, I am capable of socializing and meeting new folks and being funny and charming. But when I’d be expected to do it for five straight days, in big, noisy crowds, and frequently in bars?

I think I’ll just stay home and peruse coverage online, thanks.