The effects of blogging on communities

In my experience, blogging is "delightfully disruptive". The bloggers I read regularly disturb what I was already thinking, raise new questions in my mind and send me off pondering in unforeseen directions. There are days where this abundance of great thinkers is like "drinking from a fire hose". Since last February, I've been emailing myself posts to contemplate at a later date. That strategy works great to manage the flow and "drink from a garden hose" instead.

My own writing for my blogs is equally disruptive. I'm saying things I never said before, discovering new outlooks in the process of formulating what to write and how to express it. Yesterday Tony Karrer got me thinking about the effects of blogging on communities. Of course I considered this in terms of a taxonomy of four kinds of communities. I also made sense of the different effects I see in terms of my own experience of blogging being delightfully disruptive.

Communities of collusion: In "The Different Drum - Community Making and Peace", M. Scott Peck described a phase of community building he called "pseudocommunity". This is the most common kind of community I see inside corporations, institutions and academia. These "communities of collusion" practice "thought control" and " enforced collusion". They function like brainwashed cults that think alike and stifle dissent. They maintain a policy enforcement context I described previously. These communities admire the "Emperor's non-existent new clothes" and shoot the messenger who says otherwise. The higher ups would likely shut down blogs among pseudocommunity members. Blogs would appear to be a "waste of time" or a "deviation from teamwork". The "powers that be" don't know what they're missing -- literally!

Communities of practice: Gatherings of practitioners bring out the "unconscious competence" and "tacit knowledge" of its members. The discovery of their own viable shortcuts, useful heuristics and valuable "tricks of the trade" need to be captured for others to use. Blogging could bring out the expertise of its members like listservs and F2F meetings have done for years. Blogs could also serve as archives of the emergent best practices, but a wiki does this better. Blogs are not this focused by their very nature. Forcing blogs to benefit CoP's makes only partial sense.

Communities of ideas: Blogging is ideally suited for communities of ideas. The exuberant diversity of bloggers fuels the emergence of better possibilities, questions, strategies and collaborations. Visionaries come together with others "in the trenches", synthesizing pragmatic upgrades to current practices. Rethinking, reframing, and renewing are the stock in trade of these robust combinations of RSS feed subscriptions, comments and trackbacks utilized.

Communities of process: There are countless group processes that elicit the contributions of each member: open space, future search, world cafe, etc. The personal realizations that occur by convening biases together need to be "harvested" as Chris Corrigan calls it. Blogging seems ideal to me for capturing the thoughts and changed outlooks of each participant. The expectation that each blogger be unique, share her/his perspective and contribute to the whole -- fits the nature of blogging. The ability to combine the feeds and digitally reconvene the group allows for maintaining contact, delayed realizations and continuing dialogues after the members have returned home.

In short, the type of community has a significant impact on the range of beneficial effects from blogging that can be realized.

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