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Thread: The Future of Internet Communities

  1. #1
    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    The Future of Internet Communities

    We spend a lot of time here focusing on vBulletin, phpBB, IBP, and other existing forum solutions.

    Elsewhere people are focused on large Internet communities such as Facebook, and MySpace.

    SecondLife and Entropia are Internet communities also, but based around graphical user interfaces and attempting to replicate "real life" online.

    Kaneva is an interesting mix of features from SecondLife and MySpace.

    When I look at these options, I see a bit pattern:
    (00) General communities, old style (Facebook, MySpace)
    (10) Niche communities, old style (vBulletin, phpBB)
    (01) General communities, new style (SecondLife, Entropia)
    (11) Niche communities, new style (big blank space here)
    Has anyone looked into what would be necessary to create a niche social community providing features like SecondLife?
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    Bratzilla is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    Organic Communities - Fit, Focus and Function

    As an "old school" top-down-design, step-wise refinement (did I age myself enough?) kinda person, I'm dealing with just this issue myself for a site I'm about to re-launch that was somewhat successful in its niche.

    I do truly think that the mega-community sites will be few and far between, and that niche communities will develop organically. By that, I mean that the first thing to keep in mind is, well, the community that will be served. Then, look to the existing mega-communities for features that may serve you well.

    For example, one site I'm finishing up was developed for a film student who wanted someplace where she could seriously upload and discuss film, music, etc. YouTube just isn't the kind of environment for that, but YouTube did have features that she needed. The resulting site springs from that specific need.

    In other words, you have to understand the community (group, fans, teachers, paintballers, etc.) first, and the resultant site should be a reflection of what that community needs - "micro-sites" if you will that are fully featured but focused. How "wide" you define your "community" will be dependent upon whom you are trying to appeal to.

    This approach will also hopefully make these kinds of sites a bit more economically feasible for folks - hey, not everyone is going to receive multi-millions in "Angel funding".

    My personal usage patterns follow just this creed. You can find me across several technically-focused forums, but I've never posted to Facebook (though I have an account) or Twitter (which I simply refuse to join). "Fit, Focus and Function" are my mantra.

    Of course, this is a bit over-simplified, but so far it works for me.

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    There is a difference between looking for interaction with other people and looking for an alternate reality.

    Sites like SecondLife offer an alternate reality, an escape from their regular life.

    Sites like myspace offer interaction, or ways to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.

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    Bratzilla is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    Yes, that's the point... :)

    Quote Originally Posted by texashiker View Post
    There is a difference between looking for interaction with other people and looking for an alternate reality.

    Sites like SecondLife offer an alternate reality, an escape from their regular life.

    Sites like myspace offer interaction, or ways to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
    Actually, you're right and this does play into what I'm talking about.

    Some people want "real" interaction, others "fantasy". For me, anything online isn't quite real, but that's beside the point.

    What both groups have in common is, well, what they have in common. All social neworking sites, regardless of specific interest, are by their nature going to share certain features typically needed to facilitate interaction. Whether to discuss Shakespeare or World of Warcraft, you'll need, say, somewhere for them to post, some way for them to contact each other, and so forth. How many people really are themselves online? Hell, my own nick is nowhere near my real name.

    Let's take Facebook. This was developed really for professional networking by some people in college who were thinking about what they would need upon graduation (a way to make the connections that could further careers and so forth), if I remember the story correctly. It just grew from there, but you get the point - see a common need or desire, and fill it well.

    A more fantasy-oriented site was developed effectively for the same reason - the group wanted to interact (be it in virtual worlds or whatever) and so a site was developed for them. Same basic approach still applies. The specifics of each virtual community of course will ultimately reflect the needs of that community. However, the process is generally the same - identify the group (or the need), and serve it.

    Hope I'm making sense, which can be in question after a 15-hour day.

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    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bratzilla View Post
    I do truly think that the mega-community sites will be few and far between, and that niche communities will develop organically. By that, I mean that the first thing to keep in mind is, well, the community that will be served. Then, look to the existing mega-communities for features that may serve you well.
    I definitely concur. Niches are where most of us will make the most money, and that will require deep commitment to entire community of people in those niches.

    Quote Originally Posted by texashiker View Post
    There is a difference between looking for interaction with other people and looking for an alternate reality.

    Sites like SecondLife offer an alternate reality, an escape from their regular life.

    Sites like myspace offer interaction, or ways to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
    People meeting in WoW and getting married offline makes me think that this is an artificial distinction.

    Companies marketing offline good and services inside SecondLife is another example where SecondLine acts not as an alternate reality but as a facilitator of reality.

    Kaneva purposefully mixes both more than any previous platform.

    I am starting to think that the "next big thing" might be different than anything we've seen thus far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DotComBum View Post
    Can Twitter be considered as a community?
    Kind of, especially with the new-released TweetBoard
    |Nico Lawsons

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    pawmarks is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    future communities

    Great list of types! My background dates to multi-line Wildcat atop a 3-node Lantastic OS, as well as running a 74-channel 10,000+ member Worldgroup (aka Major BBS) server, circa 1995

    Started messing with open source platforms in 2000. Showed up officially as tech editor of the original Postnuke GSG (getting started guide) 2001, I believe.

    Currently using 3 platforms for the most part:

    Blogs - Wordpress

    Forums - PHPBB3 (boy, has that one come a LONG way lately)

    Diverse Membership - Xaraya (thx largely to knowing most of the orig Postnuke developers who left for the Xar project years ago)

    For the past 6 months or so, I have maintained and argued in favor of the the theory that the current SMM sites are already obsolete by design, and will soon be deprecated and relegated to a far lesser role than today.

    The replacement? what I refer to as a "master server / slave server open source distributed data model social network topology"

    Bit of a mouthful, isn't it? In essence, it takes the current "old mainframe paradigm" of logging into a remote presence (myspace, twitter, et al) with a dumb terminal (winblows, mac, linux clients) and shows it the proverbial door. Instead, you log into your own server, which is running whatever application you see fit to have running (any of the above site platforms mentioned above should be fine, plus many more) and then, as long as your platform has the appropriate extensions to participate in the global social network, you're in. And so is the world - ie, your site is no longer orphaned from the global community - anyone who is also a member, and sports the same extensions and ties to the master server (where the ONLY thing that happens is authentication, security, record-keeping, maintenance of the extensions and API, etc and NOT any sort of content production ) can cruise right on in, just like they can currently in a Facebook group without having to reinvent the proverbial wheel ONE MORE TIME (account creation, redundant email validation, profile development, yada yada)

    Why is it going to happen? I just don't see how Youtube, Facebook and Twitter can adequately monetize their services without chasing off the geese that are presumably laying the golden eggs (of traffic and participation)

    an open source peer-to-peer solution (but happening at a Linux server peering level, not a desktop client level) solves all that - no pressing need for advertising of any kind - leave that up to the individual site op (who has to keep in mind that visitors are fickle just like they are going to a "normal" web site - if the visitor grows weary of "advertising abuse" they leave, never to return.

    And I predict when the new model is deployed (ALL the technology already exists, it just hasn't been USED YET), it's going to be INCREDIBLY DISRUPTIVE - perhaps more so than any other technology since the web began...time will tell

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    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pawmarks View Post
    Great list of types! My background dates to multi-line Wildcat atop a 3-node Lantastic OS, as well as running a 74-channel 10,000+ member Worldgroup (aka Major BBS) server, circa 1995
    Blahaha... I was RBBS, QBBS, and RemoteAccess -- running under OS/2 in the end.

    I also taught LANtastic classes.

    Quote Originally Posted by pawmarks View Post
    For the past 6 months or so, I have maintained and argued in favor of the the theory that the current SMM sites are already obsolete by design, and will soon be deprecated and relegated to a far lesser role than today.
    I think so too, because systems like MySpace/Facebook/etc... don't give members enough opportunities in the way of ownership and control. Members aren't owners, they are "users." I think we really need more of a "web" of autonomous social media "islands" connected in ways that make sense but not connected in ways that don't make sense.

    MySpace/Facebook are too connected; Forums are too disconnected. We need a better middle ground.

    Quote Originally Posted by pawmarks View Post
    The replacement? what I refer to as a "master server / slave server open source distributed data model social network topology"
    It's FidoNet 3.0!

    Quote Originally Posted by pawmarks View Post
    And so is the world - ie, your site is no longer orphaned from the global community - anyone who is also a member, and sports the same extensions and ties to the master server (where the ONLY thing that happens is authentication, security, record-keeping, maintenance of the extensions and API, etc and NOT any sort of content production ) can cruise right on in, just like they can currently in a Facebook group without having to reinvent the proverbial wheel ONE MORE TIME (account creation, redundant email validation, profile development, yada yada)
    Are you using OpenID?
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