Friday, September 09, 2005

Who Cares About Creating Community?

I am finding that I cannot say enough about the recent announcement by Minnesota Public Radio about MPR's joint venture with Gather.com.

This is significant in many ways....

The perception of hosted social software like Gather.com has been that packages of this sort are the province of young people. With LiveJournal, MySpace, and Friendster, there's ample evidence to support that contention.

Yet as more adults between the ages of 35-59--the group that does not quite fit the cohort represented by those 3 sites--spend their free time on the 'net, many may discover what is so appealing about those sites: Community.

In the past, adult community needs were met by various bbs's and usenet newsgroups. However, those methods do not allow for the same sort of stimulus and interaction that blogging allows. As some of those sites become more troll-infested, and the anonymity factor inherent in bbs and usenet groups becomes less appealing, finding on-line communities of common interest, where one can be known as well as know others thru their blogs, will increase in importance. Futher, there will also be a need for those who "age out" of the other communities to find new age-appropriate communities.

As it is now, there is no alternative to the safe haven of something like LiveJournal. One must go into the less secure spaces of Blogger, Typepad and Moveable Type if one wants to blog and, possibly, create/find community to exchange ideas. There are many though who would like to blog but want the distance from spammers and trolls that is afforded on LJ and MySpace. They would like their voices to be heard, to share their thoughts, to find Like Minds and not have to fend off spammers, trolls and freakazoid gawkers.

The desire and ability to find Like Minds in blogging is, even now, a concern for those of us 35-59 year olds who do not wish to be strictly sources of regurgitated information and pithy political commentary. Finding community and conversation around information or opinion is as problematic in the blogosphere as creating a respected and not strictly information/political blog may be. Comments features, which all blogs have, are supposed to facilitate community, but many information-oriented blogs do not receive comments--thus, no conversation. Of the ones that do, often the bloggers themselves do not interact with the commentators. Many who search to build community search to interact with the blogger of a post as much as with those who buzz around the comments sections.

But, even when one interacts with commentors, the chances of finding commentors within one's geographic area is never guaranteed. We bloggers have a better chance of making friends with a fellow community-oriented blogger halfway around the world than one in our own backyards...thus making the Global the Local...but hardly anyone you could meet out for a cup of coffee...

So this venture between MPR and Gather.com has great potential for 'net savvy adults who desire to find like minds, have great conversation, and create communities thru blogging. Why should the kids have all the fun?

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2 comments:

Dawno said...

I've been thinking about this and the previous post now and then since you put them up. I really wanted to make a thoughtful comment -- I'm not sure this is it but I didn't want to let it go any longer.

Now I don't actually "get" the concept of social software yet. More research is needed. I have a link to Ross Mayfield's blog, I might need to go back and read up. Anyway, perhaps it's because I'm at the older end of the online spectrum at 48 but I agree with you as to what's appealing - the sense of community. And it's true what you say about interacting with the blogger - it's why I comment at all, I'm attempting to make a connection because something I've read reached out to me.

I enjoy my little group of Live Journal friends, I've 'known' them online for just over two years, some of them are very close friends, some are roommies. The ones who live close enough to each other do get to meet up, it's nice for them. I'm content to just enjoy the conversation so geographic proximity isn't essential to me.

What I like best about the LJ programming is the 'friends' feature (aside from my friends, of course). I can read what all of them are saying, respond pretty much instantly and all without much trouble since it's all displayed in one place.

With the blogs I read, trying to remember where I've been and what I've said, then going back to see if anyone was interested in what I said is a bit challenging. There needs to be some dedication to the conversation.

I also get the feeling that I need to write things in my own blog that other people might be interested in reading just to keep the conversation rolling rather than writing whatever I feel like.

I'm looking for balance around that impulse and find that I can pretty much say whatever I feel like, silly or not, on LJ but I feel like I should be bit more serious on NVNC. Part of it is needing to connect but also wanting to be taken seriously if someone happens across my blog who doesn't know* me (*for some online value of "know"). Maybe if, down the road, I have some regular visitor/commentors I'll be more relaxed about letting the 'lighter' side of dawno loose on ya'll.

Tish Grier said...

Thanks very much dawno....your comments make alog of sense.

The easiest example of social software right now is MySpace. but, frankly, I think any blogging software can be social software in a very broad sense. Some of us use things like Blogger not just to disseminate information (which alot don't do) and not just to hear ourselves talk. We blog as a means/way to be social withing a new medium. Kind of the way people used to(and some still) use forums, message boards, and the like.

My other blog is more of the social blog than this one...which is geared more for "intellectual masturbation" of a sort ;-) And I understand about keeping track of what you've said and where you said it. it can be daunting! but, the thing is, eventually, you figure it out. I have a list of bookmarked sites I check regularly.

As for friendships in the blogosphere...well, without MeetUps, it can be hard to meet other bloggers who are local. I have a easier time meeting people halfway across the country than someone in my own backyard. How to address that problem, though, is my next challenge.