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01 May 2006


Nancy White

It takes me forever, but finally a calm space on a Saturday to reply. My first instinct is "no duh" - of course we see a gap between corporate community indicators and community-community indicators. The rapid rise and fall of corporate sponsored communities in the late 90's is a classic example. People will be coopted for a while, but not forever and when they leave, they leave fast.

This second blossoming of online community there are different patterns and some of the community sponsors are actually looking at how they can evaluate from both their perspectives and the community's. It is sort of the "triple bottom line" approach that we see in some corporations where they measure not only the cash and asset bottom line, but the impact (hopefully positive) they have on their community or environment.

The success of eBay, Bookcrossing and many others is not just that they pay attention to their communities, but that they DO pay attention as a basic business process. They listen.

So it seems to me that one critical element of a community indicator that is shared by both the sponsor and the community is the ability to listen and show that one is listening. In both directions.

Make any sense?

Nancy White

OK, I just realized I did not answer the question. My mind was going in a different direction.

"What happens when a community indicator is good for the internal community but harmful to external society?"

Well I suspect that online it is just as it is offline. Some things that happen include:

* the community grows stronger in it's defence against the outside world (nothing unites like a common enemy)

* the community is shut down (look at the noise around MySpace, even though there are no stories about the good things that come out of the network. By the way, I see MySpace as a network of small communities, not a community unto itself for the most part, except when they unite against the world!)

* people in the communit get sick of the attention from the external world and the community falls apart (I suspect most communities thrive better when not under the microscope)

* the values clash generates some real dialog and issues are clarified. I think this is my utopian dreaming, but I do believe it is possible. For example, Global Voices seeks to augment the voices of bloggers in countries not well covered by mainstream media. Part of this mission actually puts some bloggers at risk. So when a blogger is attacked by his or her government for participation in GV, the GV community then stimulates action to protect and support the blogger. So the community indicator within the community is freedom of expression and being heard. In places where freedom of expression is not a community value, there is the clash.

Again, I'm writing fast. i hope this makes sense.

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