Over the last several months, there have been several concepts floating around that I'd like to tie together this morning. In the end, they all reveal something important: People's expectations in relationships are fundamentally changing. This is probably evolutionary but is being triggered now by how our relationship to people, ideas, and things are now more controllable.
On-demand television means we watch whatever, whenever. Videos, the same. E-commerce means we can buy what we want, when we want, for a good price, get comparisons with like goods, discuss it with other users, etc. All of this to the extent that we want to. We don't have to do any of this, but there is the option.
The Unconference is a great example of our new relationship. Google it. Unconferences have grown out of people's growing lack of satisfaction for being talked to. The egalitarianism of the Internet has led many to expect that they will be in on the conversation - not a recipient of unchallenged wisdom.
For years people have said that the value of any conference is the mixers and not the seminars. That's because we learn more from our peers than we do from experts, surely. But more importantly, it's because we care more about things we actively engage in. We retain more when we are active. We get more when we give.
Ross blogged about having do-it-yourself conferences. Smaller ad-hoc conferences are cheaper to host, less work to create, and more prone to collaboration. Nancy White had a con call the other day that was not invitee-only, but interest only (I missed it, unfortunately) about Us/Them behavior. It was a conference, she set it up in a few minutes, blogged it, people attended and now good work is being done. Ed has an excellent post about that.
Further it becomes clear with posts like Jerry Michalski's this morning that hyperstructure is losing its relevance. By that I mean that preprogrammed learning, entertainment and information is no longer the preferred method of either gaining or disseminating information. Perhaps counter-intuitively to some, current technologies are not making people less likely to seek interaction with others, but to primarily seek interaction with others.
The Internet can now provide the details and the data. We no longer crave the talking head to speak to us. Now, if we are with people, we want to be with people.
Through these rapid-fire ad-hoc smartmobbic groups, we can quickly build community based on transient, yet important, topics. Multiple, free formed, small groups can think about things, create alternatives and implement ideas. Through a Wisdom of Crowds approach, those interested in perpetuating the outcomes of these groups can look over the body of their work and see patterns that result in preferred alternatives.
Rob May showed this in his Business Experiment. Perhaps the most telling part of this experiment was that one of the discussion groups on the experiment was "Other similar sites." Rob was noting that The Business Experiment was not being done in a vacuum and we can easily learn from the actions of the crowd.
To tie this into my recent posts about rankings and tracking of expertise on the net, I want to note the transience of thought on the individual, the right to multiple associations, and the healthy aspects of not being an expert.
These groups and communities on the net are well formed. And, yes, the conversation is well formed and on-going, but we should be wary of rankings that build up expert or superblogger status on given individuals.
- Ad Hoc Groups are created to solve problems
- Blogs' subject matter is transient
- Community is fluid
This leads me to wonder how we would establish relevance of blog posters by community indicators when the communities themselves are in flux by design. Communities defined by a given area of interest will tend to highlight those who are perhaps overly focused on those areas of interest. It may yield a search of those who are tunnel visioned and not those who are innovative.