Community ownership and social networks as markets

March 24, 2012 | 2 comments

Johannes Ernst just put me to shame by writing this blog post while sitting next to me at Elgg Camp San Francisco:

[...] But there’s a stronger undertone from speaker after speaker talking about their projects. It’s about how the community wants and needs to own and control their social network (instead of just merely having a little section inside a worldwide social network). And how the community wouldn’t be as strong if they couldn’t. About the community needing to evolve the communication tools in parallel to how the community evolves. About how it is almost impossible to “work together” with others on a general-purpose site like Facebook, and how even high school students automatically switch to their school social network when attempting to get something done.

You can read the whole post here.

I spoke a little about ensuring the longevity of communities, which is something I’ve begun to think about in a general context: if you’ve established a community site and attracted a solid social network of people, how do you ensure that the community remains vibrant in six months, or three years, or a decade from now? How do you make sure, to put it bluntly, that maintaining a community remains worth your time?

In the same way that a community site augments the social experience for a network of people, I’m interested in explicit market features that augment the online social experience. For example, open source communities like the Elgg community itself: what if the Elgg ecosystem could crowdfund features and plugins?

This also speaks to community ownership. Why monetize a community using AdSense – content piped in from third parties outside the community, which may or may not be relevant but certainly are less passionate about the community’s topic – when you could empower the community to do this for itself? Why not allow online communities to be truly self-sustainable?

It’s been an interesting day, and I’m looking forward to talking to people afterwards. I’ve set up a collaborative latakoo How I Fly site here, for participants to collaboratively share video footage of the event.

ElggCamp San Francisco

March 7, 2012 | 1 comment

Evolution of the Elgg logoA long time (almost three years) ago now, I worked on an open source project called Elgg, which I also co-founded. It was vastly more popular than we had anticipated – from a small start in education, the community pulled it in all kinds of amazing directions – but after almost six years working on it, I decided to move onto other things. It’s currently being run by Brett Profitt, who I have a lot of respect for. Elgg is still widely used as a social platform for niche communities, social intranets, learning platforms and all kinds of things, not least because the community continues to inject it with new life (and new features).

When Brett let me know about ElggCamp San Francisco, I was delighted. It looks great: the attendee list is already impressive, and tickets are cheap – possibly the best-value event about online communities you’ll attend in the vicinity of Silicon Valley, both in terms of price and the professional experience that’ll be under one roof. I’m looking forward to both the talks and the networking afterwards, and if Brett and co are half as professional as they have been with managing Elgg itself, it will be a great day. Buy tickets here.

Meanwhile, latakoo, my current company, is making video management dramatically easier. We’ll be at SXSW Interactive. Find us on Stand 308 at the trade show next week, or book some office hours to talk to me one-on-one.

Elgg logo credits: the top two were by me, the learning landscape logo was by Sonia Virdi, and the bottom was by Pete Harris. You can tell when we brought real designers in.