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Communities vs Networks

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Few days back, Dave Snowden mentioned : All communities are networks, but not all networks are communities.

I couldn’t agree more. Being a member of Orkut, LinkedIn, Facebook (not much active) and few other forums (present and past) definitely increased the number of people I ‘know’ or my network radius; but certainly those are NOT any communities. There are (almost) no contextual discussions, no focussed goals to achieve. And I never look up to the members of those communities or me ‘peers’ for any clarifications or opinion.

I am not saying that those networks can’t be used for contextual conversation. LinkedIn Answers is certainly one of the exceptions, and we need to wait and see how (and if) the new Facebook Platform makes a difference. But certainly the inherited environment of those networks don’t promote the concept of a community. On the other hand – the Internet Time Community at Ning is definitely a community. There people are coming with one particular agenda and focus in mind, the context (Organizational Learning) is the king there.
Also, recently Patrick Lambe pointed out in a blogpost :

…how fragmentary and provisional such visualisations are. It all started with Josh Porter who has been blogging (here and here) on how we form networks that look like concentric circles, where trust dissipates outwards, using Ben Shneiderman’s “Circles of Relationships” visualisation. He got a lot of push back from folks who felt that this visualisation was too static and wasn’t adequate to the true complexity of human relationships.

Then Sarah Cooper published a small flash module that summed up the issue… well, in a flash. Go visit the live module and play with it – but essentially it demonstrates that the same people in your network can command different levels of closeness and trust depending on the topic. Click on a different topic, and the relative trust positions of the players all change.

There can’t be an all-in-one community, but there can be an all-in-one network! The Internet Time Community can become an community because there is a shared and focussed agenda, not because all members there are same ‘type’ of people.

What do you think? How we can use this ‘knowledge’ in organizations?

Written by anol

June 4th, 2007 at 5:45 am

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