Power of community

Earl Mardle writes a fascinating post – Technology Plus Conversation Equals Community Raised by the Power Law comparing the pros and cons of allowing active user participation in websites. Drawing on an article by Chris Bowers he notes how in the US right-wing websites have been more effective at gaining the attention of mainstream media and have followed a more hierarchical model. In contrast, left-wing sites have been more willing to embrace users, live with some chaos, and have outpaced their rivals in popularity.

I’m not especially clued up about US politics but this is a very interesting read. Here’s a small snippet:

The key to it, and this will scare the hell out of most businesses, is that you have to cede control. You have to be open to all kinds of unexpected developments, such a DailyKos had 10 days ago with the uproar about the appropriateness of a frankly sexist advert that he ran. The Kos Pie Fight will go down as a huge event in that community. The owner of the blog was taken to task, torn to shreds, vilified, slapped around and generally dissed, defended and recycled many times over about 4 days in ways that no proprietor of any publication would ever tolerate.

And the end result was to the good for the community.

It’s a great piece by Earl, and it’s worth reading the whole thing.

UPDATE And after you’ve done that, I urge you to read Earl’s next post: If You Do Nothing Else Today, in which he examines this question

Significant profits are generated by a market inefficiency; it costs me more in time, money and convenience to do the research that will provide me with the best deal; and the saving probably wont be enough difference to justify the effort, so I buy from you and you obtain a rent from the inefficiency. With a perfectly informed customer,how would you make a living, let alone a profit?

Part of the answer to this is this, says Earl:

Reeds law states that the group forming value of the network doubles with each new connection, it greatly exceeds Metcalfe’s Law; the implication being that groups will form more easily than transactions will grow. Businesses that rely on the transaction growth will find themselves out-competed in the knowledge economy.

(Which will interest those who enjoyed Hugh‘s comment at Reboot about the fabulous profits of gatekeeping.)

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