So it turns out that all this social networking hype is not so much a major revolution as just a natural progression from what the web has always been about. I read Amy Jo Kim’s “Community Building on the Web” recently (via a recommendation from http://www.confusedofcalcutta.com). It was written in 2000 but a lot of what she described then is still relevant now. Very little fundamental has changed in the way communities evolve on the web. Except we have now developed our own jargon (“social graph”) with which to confuse novices.
Kim talks a lot about the roles of community leaders, the roles of awards and rituals in fostering a sense of community, how to turn newbies into active members, about different methods of communicating to and amongst community members. If you can stomach looking at screenshots of 1998 websites then it’s still worth a quick flick through.
I’ll leave you with her closing words:
To thrive as a 21st-century community builder, be on the lookout for opportunities to blur the boundary between the physical and the virtual, because that’s where the Net is headed. This could mean bringing existing groups online, facilitating face-to-face meetings among your members, integrating commerce and communication systems, or creating specialized role-playing environments. Whatever you do, remember that the true power of communities – whether on or off the Web – lies in their power to affect people’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and professional lives in a meaningful way. The more your community accomplishes this, the more successful you’ll be.