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February 17, 2004
The Difference Between Communities and Networks
One of the most common questions about social software and social networking services is: Online communities have been around for a while, what's new?
Here's a simple framework to explain the difference between online communities and social networks:
- Moderator controlled
- Topic driven
- User controlled
- Context driven
The fundamental change that spawn new models was the falling cost of group forming to the point where individuals rather than organizations can create their own communities. I actually see the term online communities doing more than going out of style. If I could come up with a new term for them without offending anyone I would, and reserve the term community for when either of the above two models has healthy social dynamics. But there is more here than naming, lets give some examples:
- Bottom-up social networking services like Orkut, Tribe & LinkedIn allow individuals to construct their own networks to filter the world and groups to organize it
- Meetup allows anyone to organize a physical meeting
- Wikipedia allows anyone to contribute or edit without restriction
- Weblogs let anyone do more than personal publishing, but form ties with content before connection
- RSS and Atom allow people to choose whose views they want to subscribe to, and more importantly, unsubscribe
- Technorati and Feedster are the most personalized search available, if you are a network participant
Try getting a contentious message through a moderator or unsubscribing from someone's views on a mailing list or discussion board. Try having a topic shift to your context without straddling across platforms. Try moving a community beyond its original purpose. Fundamentially, its about choice demanded by today's consumers and businesses.
Amy Jo Kim
, who pointed out the place vs. people-centric difference
to me (I was thinking it was interest, rather than place), adds a critical factor for where social software is going -- mobile devices are people centric
Keep in mind the near total adoption that smart phones is expected to gain -- and that camera phones will outpace sales of phones and cameras in five years. Your network is in your pocket and will do more than guide
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