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Building new communities - learning from weblogs. Building new communities - learning from weblogs. How weblogs straddle personal and social spaces and the potential implications for developing new communities Version 1.0 / 19 th June 2002 Tom Coates | plasticbag.org.

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Building new communities learning from weblogs l.jpg

Building new communities - learning from weblogs

Building new communities -

learning from weblogs

How weblogs straddle personal and social spaces and the potential implications for developing new communities

Version 1.0 / 19th June 2002

Tom Coates | plasticbag.org


What is an online community l.jpg
What is an online community?

We’re all familiar with online communities like…


Community bbc chat boards l.jpg
Community: bbc chat & boards

A huge number of simple threaded message boards and java chat rooms.


Community popbitch com l.jpg
Community: popbitch.com

Ludicrously badly behaved and incredibly active discussion board


Community barbelith com l.jpg
Community: barbelith.com

Threaded discussion forum, 1000 members, private messaging


Centralised communities l.jpg
Centralised Communities

We’re used to this model of communities - centralised ‘spaces’ in which people come and participate.

People who visit these spaces might be able to modify their experience of the place, but the spaces are financially and culturally ‘owned’ and ‘run’ by people in ‘power’.


Centralised communities7 l.jpg
Centralised Communities

The word used for people participating in these communities is generally ‘users’, occasionally ‘visitors’, but infrequently ‘citizens’ and almost never ‘owners’. Their real life equivalent is the town hall, the pub, or all too often the ‘youth club’…


Centralised weblog communities l.jpg
Centralised weblog communities

  • There are many communities of this type built around the concept of the ‘weblog’ as well. But while these group weblogs have extended some of the functionality of the normal discussion board…


Centralised weblog communities9 l.jpg
Centralised weblog communities

…these are not sites that I’m going to be talking about today…

  • Metafilter.com

  • Plastic.com

  • Slashdot.org


I m going to be talking about sites like l.jpg
I’m going to be talking about sites like..

  • Content

Ultrasparky.org

Run by Dan Rhatigan, a New-Yorker in his thirties.


I m going to be talking about sites like11 l.jpg
I’m going to be talking about sites like..

  • Content

kottke.org

Run by Jason Kottke, a designer and web guru in San Francisco.


I m going to be talking about sites like12 l.jpg
I’m going to be talking about sites like..

  • Content

Trabaca.com

Run by a young man getting used to the idea of being gay.


And what i m hoping to answer today l.jpg
And what I’m hoping to answer today?

  • Is there a community of webloggers?

  • How did this community emerge?

  • Why has it been so successful?

  • What lessons we can learn from weblogs and weblog culture when we try and build new communities?


And in the process i hope to explain why this quot ation is so true and so useful l.jpg
And in the process I hope to explain why this quotation is so true and so useful:

“The web teaches us that we can be part of the largest public ever assembled and still maintain our individual faces. But this requires living more of our life in public. On the Web, the notion of a diary has been turned inside out: weblogs are public diaries. It is likely that the neat line we draw between our public and private selves in the real world will continue to erode, grain by grain…”

David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined (Perseus 2002, p. 177)


But what exactly is a weblog l.jpg
But what exactly is a weblog?

Meg from notsosoft.com asked Google this question… And it said that weblogs are…

  • … a Natural for Librarians

  • ... probably the next logical evolution of print zines, and zines are always nice

  • ... the new Borg.

  • ... my friend!

  • ... just lists of short blurbs documenting pedestrian events in the writer's life, usually with links to other pages the author finds interesting.

  • ... journalism for the future.

  • ... destined to become a powerful, dirt-cheap tool for e-learning

  • ... what some would call the Web's equivalent of a sophisticated early warning radar system.

  • ... a GAL's best friend!

  • ... also often called a news page.

  • ... "useful" because they enableinformational sorting and distribution.

  • ... mostly used to broadcast information.

  • ... a learning tool.

  • ... gut-simple to set up.

  • ... mostly personal diaries. ...

  • ... a form of communication hitherto unknown.

  • ... so bad

  • ... almost as old as the web

  • ... quick and easy to publish

  • ... updated often and may contain profanity


But what exactly is a weblog16 l.jpg
But what exactly is a weblog?

  • For our purposes today, a weblog is:

    • A site maintained by an individual.

    • Regularly updated.

    • Organised in a ‘newest writings at the top’ style chronology.

    • Often run using a tool that automates the process of posting (cheap / free low-grade CMS).


Weblog tools and stats l.jpg
Weblog tools and stats

Weblog applications transformed personal publishing by automating many of the less interesting jobs. Publishing to a weblog suddenly only involved typing in your comments and pressing a publish button - from there - like any other CMS, the content was inserted into templates and FTP-ed to a server.

Applications include centralised ones like Blogger, pitas.com and software you install on your own server like Greymatter and Moveable Type.

Over 1,000,000 weblogs have been created to date – although how many are regularly updated is unknown…


But where is the weblog community l.jpg
But where is the weblog community?

  • After all the vast majority of weblogs are maintained by individuals.

  • Weblogsusually contain content developed by those individuals.

  • Are weblogs therefore nothing but a very low-power broadcast medium?


Evidence for the community l.jpg
Evidence for the community

  • Links panels (webloggers’ ‘favourite’ weblogs) - one-way vs two-way / ‘blogrolling’.

  • Specific site mentions.

  • Referencing the source of good links - the ‘via’ phenomenon - a mark of respect and courtesy

  • Weblog web-rings (BoyLogs)

  • Weblog mailing lists (ukbloggers)

  • Comments facilities

  • Mailto: / AIM names / Voicemail

  • Centralised sites and portals

    • Daypop.com

    • Blogdex.media.mit.edu

    • Eatonweb.com


How did this community form l.jpg
How did this community form?

On plasticbag.org I decided to ask people where they first had heard about weblogging and what made them decide to try it for themselves…

I got around fifty replies…

  • “In Holland (where I’m from) there was a guy doing funny things with a weblog. I liked it, checked Blogger and 1.5 hours later I had my own weblog”

“I was fascinated by the fact that someone would write about their life and just stick it on the internet -it seemed a (weirdly) selfless thing to do (I can't explain that).”

“I didn't much care if anyone read it, but I liked the idea that I could access it from just about anywhere and didn't have to worry about "losing" it.”


Weblogs build relationships l.jpg
Weblogs build relationships

The red dots in this diagram represent people – some with weblogs, some without.

The figure in the middle starts a weblog and starts talking about his life or about something that specifically interests him.


Weblogs build relationships22 l.jpg
Weblogs build relationships

Gradually he starts to link to weblogs that he shares an interest with – and if he’s producing interesting content in turn, will get linked to in return.

He begins a dialogue with some of these people, becoming part of one or more overlapping Communities of Interest.


Weblogs build relationships23 l.jpg
Weblogs build relationships

Over time he may introduce friends and family to some of the sites that he has seen – or tell them about the site that he is running – bringing an already existing community in contact with weblogs in general, and his own weblog in particular.

Some in turn may start weblogs of their own…


Weblogs build relationships24 l.jpg
Weblogs build relationships

Because of the personal diarist nature of weblogging, people often feel engaged enough with someone to be interested in meeting them in the flesh – these meetings often involve meeting in turn other people geographically nearby whose interest groups may be connected by a mutual weblogging friend to yours.



Overlapping communities l.jpg
Overlapping communities

  • In the example we saw the weblogger participate in three types of community:

    • Communities of people sharing similar interests to him- or herself, whose weblogs they read or are read by. They are likely to be a member of multiple, overlapping interest communities.

    • A community of people located nearby geographically who are also invested in the medium, even though they may not be in the same interest groups.

    • A pre-existing community of friends and family who may become interested in the medium because of their friends’ or family-members’ sites.


W eblog s spread virally l.jpg
Weblogsspread virally

  • Each one of these axes is not only a community that the weblogger belongs to, but also one of the directions in which the idea of starting a weblog can spread.


One example l.jpg
One example…

Again from my survey:

1) Where did you first hear about weblogs?

There was this site that I used to go to, in order to keep abreast of certain goings on in the world of comics. One day, I noticed that it had become a web log. Everything else, I found by links from that.

2) What made you decide to start your own weblog?

The realisation that I was travelling through South East Asia, mainly with a computer, and that this was an easy way of letting my family know I was out of town without writing to tell them about it individually.


One example29 l.jpg
One example…

This represents quite a leap:

  • From reading a specific site about a specific subject, the reader began to recognise the format ‘weblog’

  • They moved from reading sites maintained by a specific interest group to reading sites from several different interest groups through link panels, ‘via’ links and explicit references.

  • When he decided to travel, he recognised the format as something good for helping to maintain a radically different site that would maintain relationships with friends and family and help him talk about the experience.

    This story was far from unique – despite completely changing context and subject matter, the idea of writing a weblog seems to spread like wildfire…


Question l.jpg
Question:

We’ve seen the directions along which weblogging spreads virally - both travelling through communities and forming new ones as it spreads.

But knowing how they’re spread doesn’t tell us why they’re spread so quickly. What is it about weblogs that makes them so compelling?


Answer l.jpg
Answer:

People


Identification with the people l.jpg
Identification with the people

  • People enjoy reading about other people (voyeurism)

  • Weblogs make it easy to get up to date information about people, friends, situation or interest.

  • People who read weblogs can quickly determine that a weblog is almost always not about an issue but about a person’s interest in an issue or issues.

  • People feel that they can identify with the person behind the weblog - which makes their content more compelling.

  • People identify with them - at least in part - on the basis of ‘they are like me’ or occasionally aspirationally - ‘I wish I was like them’.

  • People perceive that running a weblog is not a particularly difficult thing to do - since they can identify with the very real normal people who do it.

    And they’re right - because barriers to entry are very low…


So let s go back to that quotation l.jpg
So let’s go back to that quotation…

“The web teaches us that we can be part of the largest public ever assembled and still maintain our individual faces. But this requires living more of our life in public. On the Web, the notion of a diary has been turned inside out: weblogs are public diaries. It is likely that the neat line we draw between our public and private selves in the real world will continue to erode, grain by grain…”

David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined (Perseus 2002, p. 177)


The public and personal haved merged l.jpg
The public and personal haved merged

  • We’ve been building communities – centralised communities – that are like town squares or pubs or youth clubs.

  • But the lines between ‘public’ and ‘personal’ online are becoming very fuzzy indeed.

  • The explosion of interest in weblogging points us towards ways to make our sites work less like communal spaces (youth clubs and town squares) and more like actual real-life communities…


The lessons l.jpg
The lessons…

  • Individuals like their opinions to be heard

  • Individuals don’t want the work they put into the web to disappear – they want to be able to show it to people.

  • Individuals like control over their local environment and want to show off their creativity.

  • Individuals don’t identify with sites anywhere near as much as they identify with other people.

  • Individuals will be creative if given a medium which makes it easy to be so.

  • Individuals are prepared and intelligent enough to adapt easy-to-use functionality to a wide variety of uses.


And most importantly and counter intuitively l.jpg
And most importantly and counter intuitively…

The best, the strongest, the most creative communities can emerge out of the interconnected nature of individual spaces.

Making great communities is about celebrating the individuals within them - giving them spaces that they can use to show off their creativity and passions…

And in return these individuals will themselves build a vibrant, creative and passionate community…


Some relevant sites l.jpg
Some relevant sites…

B3ta.com

- A community that creates funny animations, jokes etc.

- If you make something particularly good it will be placed on your profile page forever. This way you can show off your work…

Epinions.com

- Individuals review consumer / entertainment products.

- Every individual has a home page which lists all the reviews they’ve written - all the creative work they’ve done. They are given a certain amount of flexibility to form relationships between each other as well.

Habbohotel.com

- Avatar-based flash ‘hotel’ community.

- A good proportion of the conversation happens in ‘private rooms’ - which are relatively undefined. You can decide the shape of the rooms, the décor, buy furniture, only allow in certain numbers of friends. The centralised space is for the naïve users…


Building new communities learning from weblogs38 l.jpg

Building new communities - learning from weblogs

Building new communities -

learning from weblogs

E-mail me: [email protected]


Thanks to l.jpg
Thanks to…

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

  • [email protected]

    And all the people who took part in the survey…


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