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24 March 2007


Jay Fienberg

Great post. I was thinking about "build it and they will come" and the issues that make it hard for the "its" to have a lasting usefulness to people. It's like:

Build it, and they will leave some place else to come to you. As you soon as you build it, some one else will build another, and they will leave you to go there.

I think there are a couple deeper philosophical issues at play here (that we'll have to discuss more some time):

1) there's no there there, in the sense that there are only arbitrary technical restrictions holding an online place to any there-ness. The web is everywhere, and once people have to come to "everywhere," then there-ness isn't the main attraction.

2) what we build online are impermenent creations, and as they would naturally tend to decay and die, we need better ways to creatively grow new things rather than fight the decay.

Jim Benson

Absolutely, Jay.

I always do love the focus on tag-lines like "Build it and they Will Come" that miss the point of the art that spawned the tag line. Field of Dreams was about having the vision and acting on it. Not about just building random crap and waiting for human dung beetles to come and feast on it.

The current view of social media is always "conversation this" and "conversation that" but no one seems to think the party would ever end. Or that there might be new conversations.

Jonathan Trenn

An excellent series of points here.

I would have used #2 first with seemingly so many preaching that you build the initial structure and let others then grow it - making it self-perpetuating, because now that you've built it, people will come.

That's not a criticism...but I've seen PowerPoint presentations that practically use your myths as Gospel in that order.

Next time that happens I'll point them to your blog. ;)

Ed Vielmetti

I am fascinated by the endless morphing of social network applications (or whatever they are called) and how they change over time depending on the needs of their alpha users.

The oldest of these in Ann Aror (dating back to the 80s) still dodders on with archaic software in more or less its initial manifestation, but in many real ways it has spun off a parents group (on Yahoo), a weekly walk by the river, a smattering of weblogs on a variety of platforms etc.

There was a Dutch language post I picked up via delicious that I couldn't fully understand but that I think argued that the optimum social network application size was in the 300-500 range. This apparently maximizes social value at a minimum of overhead dealing with teh n00bs and trolls. Bigger is not better.

Mark Smithivas led me to a discussion of the world of Evite (Spanish for "avoid") and all of its 2.0 clones and how people react badly to being invited to things with tools more impersonal than email. So perhaps the application you are fighting against with your shiny Ruby on Rails new code is someone with a grimy old Yahoo group and a clever wit with email.

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