Friday, September 14, 2007

Before Communities and Networks, there were tools

There has a been a lot of debate online about communities and networks and many, including startups riding the web 2.0 wave have run into the habit of claiming that their startup is a community. VCs are also prone to this community fever.

So, it is important to note what Joshua Schachter of del.icio.us said about the pioneering social bookmarking site, a site that I think has more value than social news sites such as Digg, for great archival and research uses.

Joshua has said,
“Del.icio.us is a tool, not a community.’

This is very important. Most online services are first tools and the community of people who got together while using the service, comes later on.

Joshua Porter of Bokardo advocates a focus on ‘personal value over anything else’.

Differencing between communities and networks, Chloe Stromberg from Forrester Research says that 'while communities are bound by emotion and passion, networks are simply communication links between people who have something in common.'

Chloe Stromberg goes to list some popular types of online networks, including social networks such as Facebook, Blog Networks such as Gawker, Wiki Networks such as Wikipedia (meaning all the contributors), Professional Networks such as LinkedIn, Advice Networks such as Berkeley Parents Network, Metafilter (my entry), Dating Networks such as Match.com and Craigslist (my entry) and Emotive Networks such as Carepages, and any ‘cause-network’ supported by the likes of PETA or Greenpeace.

Chloe has done a good job but I think the time is ripe for researching into the value coming out of the current crop of online sites.

For example, when Facebook group for saving Business 2.0 was formed, never mind that this did not work, it nevertheless was an example of concerned people coming together and in this case, the name of the web site was purely incidental. Musicians using Myspace to build their careers is another case.

In both cases, the accent is on value.

Thus, while it is true that communities are not networks, it is worth remembering that before there were communities and networks, there were tools that brought value to people’s lives.


Related Reading
9 models of bloggers’ collectives

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