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lean online consumption

September 18, 2007

TechCrunch40 is going on, so of course all the big names in blogging and new media are there having a fabulous time and discussing what is new in technology, social media, and interestingly, community. (Don’t know WHY I wasn’t invited! So many people read my blog! Oh wait…)

But Jeremy Pepper brought up an interesting conversation thread on community that I wanted to add my two cents to. We’ve been talking a lot about online communities lately, and how to reach them. Pepper mentions representing start-ups trying to boost membership to sites, etc. and it is a struggle I have experienced with clients, trying to bring people into the fold of a new technology or service. I’ve been reading a lot about lean consumption, and I think it is a concept that should be applied to internet communities and technologies. Many of the most successful internet start-ups seem to involve a service that provides a user-friendly and easy way to create communities or participate  in communities without having to put in a lot of time and effort in from an end-user standpoint.

In a time in which we are increasingly responsible for more and more aspects of consumption, from choice to purchase to delivery to disposal and replacement, our time becomes ever more precious. For most of us, participating in an online community is not something we want to have to put a lot of effort into. Examples.

Facebook requires almost zero effort to build a page. Those who want more have the opportunity to expand, but when I first joined Facebook, all I needed was an e-mail address, a picture, and a name. YouTube requires nothing if all you want to do is watch, if you want to participate all you have to do is film, give them your name and e-mail, and then upload. One of the reasons I think some social networks have failed is because they demand too much time and effort from the end-user. You are relying on the willingness of your very busy public to drop everything and participate.

In the end, community has become a catch phrase for any site that you can belong to. All that ties these people together is their participation in the same content pool, even if that pool is so large that two users could browse all day and never see the same video. But perhaps this is a new definition of community that will drive future collaboration down the road. The question is, through what portal? And I think, at least for now, that it will have to be a portal that has low demands on user-input while it yields high returns in user-benefit, quality of content, and easy to use interface.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chad permalink
    September 20, 2007 7:25 pm

    I can agree with you on your idea of “community” although I would use the word “platform” instead as communities can be so much more than just being a member of a particular website. You mentioned the FaceBook platform and how easy it is to signup and consume its services. As I agree there is also more room for improvement. Most FaceBook users have pictures and look up friends and that is all. Where is the rich content?!!? Where are the individual applications that DO something/anything?!!? As platforms develop beyond web 2.0 we will see end-users becoming expert programmers on each individual platform making for a much richer user experience and bringing these platforms to the next level.

    I point you to a blog written by the founder of ning.com
    http://blog.pmarca.com/2007/09/the-three-kinds.html

  2. sailkat permalink
    September 20, 2007 8:50 pm

    Well I agree that Facebook has unlimited potential in what it can provide for users. But I’m not sure about your comment that there is no rich content. I think you need spend more time on Facebook, because there are a ton of apps, widgets, and new ones are being created every day. Outside users can create widgets to be posted on Facebook pages as well, and my blog has an example of one widget that reaches beyond the confines of the site. But I think the difference between using the term “community” and “platform” is more technical. When I talk about community, I am talking about the relationships between people who are using online services to interct and communicate on myriad levels. When I think about platforms, and the link you sent me makes a similar point, it is more about the technology that supports these relationships and communications.

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