Friday, July 21, 2006

Blogs and Community - Some thinking out loud

Earlier this week I had the chance to share some of my thinking and observations about the intersection between blogs and community. It was very helpful so thanks to the folks at the BBC and eMint! Now it's time to share this more widely. It is a work in progress... full of holes. I've converted my PPTs to pictures as they offer some anchors and visualizations that help. The text is interspersed. I'm going to split this up into a series of posts so the download is not too onerous.

Part 1: Framing the Issue

I'm interested in this question for three reasons. One is because I had my formative online community experiences in the time of discussion boards and email lists and it informs my views. In the past two years I have been exploring my views of online community in the context of other tools such as blogs and wikis. I'm interested in the similiarities and differences.

Two is because I am often asked by colleagues and clients about how to strategically use blogs in groups and I want a design lens to use in that work.

Finally, I'm interested in the differences between blog and discussion board communities, particularly around the issues of identity, power and the balance between the individual and the group. Thus this attempt at looking at patterns of blog based communities.

In my home town of Seattle there is a neighborhood called Fremont. It has traditionally been the home of artists, liberal thinkers and a great deal of creativity. Underneath a bridge in Fremont is this lovely, community made Troll. The Troll is for me a visible symbol of the heart, art and sensibility of the community. they took a bare patch of land and made it magical. That's community. Online we also stake a patch of territory and make it ours.

The perennial question is always, what is community? I've wrestled with that elsewhere,so instead I'll ask a few questions about what makes a community in and between blogs. As you can see, lots of questions. Do you have some answers?

It is interesting because using these questions, I find that blog communities show up slightly differently than discussion board based communities. Boundaries show up differently and more permeably. Identity and power varies depending on the blog community structure (more on that later.) What is similar is the flow of learning back to the community. I have not been able to discern any difference and find that a key shared element to most of the types of communities I work with. (Usually very topic or purpose driven, rarely commercial.) And does anyone know, what is the proper spelling, commenter or commentor?

These questions are one way to look at a community or group. Here is another one, a network framework.

We can look at a group, network or community and see if these roles show up. I've found this really useful both as a way to assess what is going on in a group, and as a way to support by identifying missing roles or nudging some energy from one role to another. I've also found evidence of all of these in blog based communities. (Source: Value of networks: Ben Ramalingam ODI working paper Functions: what networks do.)

So enough on context. The next post will start the exploration of the three forms of blog communities I've been looking at. Please, add your thoughts and comments as we go!


Anonymous Denise said...

How do you do that? Just when I'm getting bored with the whole blog/community thing, you come along and post something like this and get me all wound up again.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Nancy White said...

I somehow knew you needed a kick in the patootie! Evil grin.

My question is, how is you found the post so fast. Wow!

I should go work on part 2 now just to drive you even crazier.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

And why did it take me so damn long to find this post!! Great questions. I"m looking forward to your session at blogher ...

5:34 PM  
Anonymous ros cannell said...

Nancy it was great to hear you speak last week at the the eMint gathering in London.

The Ramlinger roles are food for thought! I have also been thinking about assessing what is going on in online community. To date I have been using Rob Cross and Andrew Parker's framework described in book "The Hidden Power of Social Networks", that is, Central Connectors, The Unsung Hero, The Bottleneck, Boundary Spanners, Information Brokers and Periperal People.I have found it is a useful tool for understanding the flow of energy in a 'walled' community.

Perhaps different lens are required for different online communitues?

1:21 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

I love the Troll and its story. My cousin lived in the area and took us on a visit years ago.

What a great series, thanks!

4:19 PM  

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