Friday, April 15, 2005

Community Building

What does it take to be Flickricious? Sony might find out.

Absolutely, Mr. Sony, don't shut the PSP hackers down! This kind of hacking is the scrimshaw of the computer age, and if you suppress it, you'll lose a huge opportunity to connect meaningfully with people.

As for the question, with how many users does the meaningful commmunity activity begin, I'd have to say it doesnt matter how big the community is -- on Flickr we saw this kind of spontaneous participative creativity arising when there were only the first 300 or so users, and I've seen this happen in online groups as small as 10 -- and this on a mailing list.

These kinds of communities are not as "step out of the way and let the community do its thing" as the article would suggest. First the community has to come into existence, and while this looks easy, it's actually a very difficult thing to get going, as the many companies who have attempted to create online communities will attest.

In the beginning, the creators of the community space have to create the tone and attitude of the place, set the parameters of what is and what is not allowed, and participate heavily, engaging directly with other people, mercilessly kicking/banning trolls, creating a real sense of there being a there there. Friendster, and the banning of "Fakesters" is often used as an example of a misunderstanding of online community -- but I think this misunderstanding went back further, to the beginning. I was an early member of Friendster and, the first message I got was from the founder. "How do you like the service?" he asked, and not -- and this is really the crux of it -- "Pynchon! Man, how can you read that stuff! DeLillo is 10X better." or "ZEPPELIN ROX! Zoso is my *so* favorite album!!!" I'd filled out a profile. See what I mean?