So who says Web 2.0 doesn’t foster communities?

Wanted to blog on this article and my buddy, Damon, beat me to it. In a recent CIO Magazine article, Christopher Koch writes about the myth of community and how it’s being bandied about as collaboration was during the previous bubble.

Couple of questions Christopher asks and Damon addresses well. Here’s my take:

1.  What’s the perceived value of sites like Second Life, MySpace and YouTube? 

For the target audience that MySpace caters to — the youth. They “use it for identity production and socialization in contemporary American society”. For those interested, check out an excellent explanation by Danah Boyd as to what teens do on MySpace:

Of course, ask any teen what they’re doing with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out.” Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.

The perceived value for youth is it gives them a walled stadium where they can hang out w/ their friends and the fact that there are millions of teenagers drives corporations to advertise there — an obvious value.

2.  But can you really build a community around kitchens or power tools?

No, you don’t build communities around power tools like you would around the Macintosh. I agree w/ Damon that not all products/services are created equal and therefore the opportunity to create communities and evangelize varies among different products.

So, does Web 2.0 foster communities? Web 2.0 is only a tool that helps extend your offline communities into the online world. It’s a much more effective way to stay in touch w/ your vast family of connections dispersed all over the globe.. blah blah blah

But let me ask YOU – TIME’s Person of the Year 🙂

Do you believe Web 2.0 fosters communities?

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  1. The Future of Communities Blog » Blog Archive » Is it true that there is no community in web 2.0?

    […] evidence that Web 2.0 and more specifically, social networking, are creating real communities (via Mario Sundar & Damon Billian). In the article he says: “I think community is the code word of denial […]

  2. Damon Billian

    Hi Mario,

    Yep! An introvert:) If I am writing a comment on someone’s blog, I generally feel way more comfortable doing it with folks that I know (you, Jeremiah, Noah, etc.) to some degree. I am now much more comfortable posting on other sites now that I’ve been active online again for a bit.

    Ahh…now I see what you’re saying. I’ve actually found that shy/introverted people are actually more inclined to participate in communities (relative anonymity/lack of face-to-face interaction helps those that may be introverted).

  3. Mario Sundar

    Introvert? Now, that’s news to me 🙂

    The point I was trying to make, was not that they don’t offer feedback, rather that their online behavior may not mimic that of their more outspoken blogger/chatterati friends.

  4. damon billian

    Hi Mario,

    Believe it or not, I am an introvert;-) My Myers-Briggs personality is an INFP;-)

    Some of the most brilliant people I know aren’t extroverts. Many of them, perhaps just because they are so smart, don’t always interact with people in ways that we understand. Many eBay users that contacted me with feedback were not board regulars (relative to posting and interacting) but I got a lot of value from the lurkers.

  5. Mario Sundar

    Also, Damon, I’d like to add that online networking for an introvert will not work. I’d like to reiterate that you’re in the online world, as you are in the offline world.

  6. Damon Billian

    Hi Mario,

    “Do you believe Web 2.0 fosters communities?”

    Overall, yes! I just think that people have to have rational beliefs about what can “become a community”. A good percentage of products/services probably don’t have a need per se, such as some boring household product (spoons, forks).

    I do think it is somewhat dangerous to think that there isn’t value in social networking. The value of social networking entirely depends on the people doing the networking & they are the ones that perceive the value (not the company and “outsiders” to the network). I know a lot of people that spend hours on MySpace, something that could help shift some purchasing decisions down the road (I posted an article from Wharton about networking-based marketing last week). I think we’re also going to start seeing shifts in social networking, with more niche sites popping up to cater to specific audiences.

    Side note: I disagree with the claim that some make about lurkers not being part of a community (just because I don’t live in the same neighborhood as you doesn’t mean I don’t live in the same town;-) I just might choose to digest my information in a different way than someone that feels compelled to make a post/profile. Don’t they always say “watch out for the quiet ones”?

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