I've been reading and rereading Nancy White's profound insights since Sunday. This is the first in many postings that will validate and add to what she is seeing in her white paper/posting: Blogs and Community.Nancy is using a "strategic lens" to look at blogs as a means to an end of designing online communities. In her words:
She has discerned three kinds of blogs that Tony Karrer has found useful in his exploration of shifting online identities. Her idea that there are kinds of blogging communities got me thinking further about kinds of bloggers and their differing contributions to blogging communities. I previously wrote about different voices that come together as a community heals itself. Using a "strategic lens" myself, I propose there is a significant difference between bloggers that gets perceived three different ways.
By beginning to explore their shape and interaction patterns, we can begin to think about how to intentionally nurture blog based communities for specific purposes. Much like the lessons for forum based communities which emerged in the late 1990s, we are now discovering what works, why, and what might happen next. It is still new. The patterns are not stable. But they suggest ways to think about the role of technology, power, identity and content in designing online communities.
Like the blog communities that are "boundaried", bloggers can be focused on their expertise. Typepad features one blogger like this everyday. These bloggers drill down in their chosen topic and become a deep resource for a community that relies on their expertise. They are valued for sticking to their topic and not getting distracted by comments or getting quouted by other blogs.Other bloggers are free to shift off their focus. These bloggers tie other blogs together, comparing ideas, connecting voices and developing commonalty. They are valued for nurturing a community, breaking stalemates, softening stances and deepening mutual respect. These bloggers effectively form loose affiliations as the need arises, like the structure of film productions and conferences.
This difference between bloggers can have a polarizing effect on a community. The thinking is dichotomous, judgmental and exclusive. Members take sides and only value their own kind of contribution. The diagram illustrates these stances in black and white. Fears come into play as they do in the first stage of a new collaboration. These communities can break down into "ghost towns".The difference can also have a unifying effect on a community. The thinking is accepting, grateful and inclusive. Members value the diversity of contributions. The diagram illustrates this stance in green. The seemingly incompatible differences get resolved as it occurs in the third stage of a new collaboration. These communities thrive, evolve and become more valuable over time.
Achieving this unifying effect (the green stance) depends on the process of the participants. How are the members growing in, changing amidst, learning from and creating their community experience? Those processes are the theme of this blog.