Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Paradox of Communities ...

There is a scenario that is often observed in communities ... Especially communities within the organizational perspective ... This is typically not valid in social networking scenarios on the internet, but within the corporate intranet, this is to be found quite frequently.

Communities that begin with good membership, and with a high level of participation (and I think these are among the parameters that can be applied for determining the level of activity that is happening in the community), over a period of time, tend to wither. Membership may be there ... But the conversation soon dries up. This is to be expected, too.

Lets say you meet a friend after a long time ... If you are as old as I am, it could be a really long time. You have lots to catch up on. What happened to so-and-so, where is such-and-such ... There are years to catch up on. The two of you are talking excitedly ... But there comes a point, when the conversation falls silent. When neither of you have anything to say. The pause may be short, or it may be long. It may even go on ... If this is how we as individuals interact, could we expect communities, which are, after all, made up of individuals, to behave any differently? One could say that at least someone in the community would be saying something ... But, that doesnt usually happen.

And, this is where the paradox of communities is. This is not the first time this is being written about, not the last. But, the fact is, communities, in addition to corporate sponsorship (which is something which a lot of us must have see in our experiences, that communities need some kind of encouragement from the management, and that managers have a key role to play here ... something AndrewMcAfee has written about ... and I wrote about the paper earlier), communities also need some kind of constructive intervention, to move them ... reinvigorate them, or move the conversation forward, so to say ... And, I think stories have a role to play here. A story, well told, could lead the conversation to a different plane, maybe into avenues which werent explored earlier.

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