Organic Sustainable Communities …

Had to specifically blog two articles I read lately and the upcoming Barcamp bangalore (more than 1000+ registrants!). Smart Mobs had some news about Omidyar.net closing up, but the write up highlights very keenly the same philosophy or thought I had written about in a post called the 4Cs (I wrote that Commerce is not a very important spoke), quoting from there:

One of the things we’ve learned over the last three years is that self-managed communities can work. Given the tools and the space in which to use them, the community can and will manage itself and keep things running with little to no oversight. We’ve also learned that communities are all about the people, not the platform, and that’s informed our decision for moving forward.

And then Brian highlights the importance of environment / ecosystem in his post “Its not the features … its the environment!” at Social Degree

Do features, design and UI help create the environment? Absolutely. But the community’s environment make features valuable, the features don’t make the community valuable.

This is evident in many of the online communities that I use as regular examples in my posts. For example, Sermo is nothing more than a forum. But they have created a high quality environment for doctors to interact. Such a high quality that they are able to charge hedge funds and big pharma companies $150,000 for access to the content that is being created by the community.

There is no formula to building a great environment, and therefore a community. Much of it is like entrepreneurship. It takes persistence, dedication, creativity, and a healthy dose of luck.

Luck is a key part, because you never know what member or action might be the tipping point. But as Bo Peabody (founder of Tripod) explains in his book “Lucky or Smart”, while you can’t force luck, there are a number of things that you can do to increase your chances of being lucky.

So what does this mean in the world of the Facebook Platform and Ning? It means that nothing, especially those two items, are the be all, end all of online communities. Facebook has a pre-existing, established environment and Ning is for the most part an environment out of the box.

And David (Genuine VC), says

What really matters is Brand.

In the end, each media property means something different to a
different set of people. It’s the brand that’s important, not the
functionality.

Take an analog analog here… a magazine. Readers of a magazine like
Time could care less about the printing press used to make the
publication, whether it was inked with the latest technology or an
antiquated one.

When I explore a potential VC investment in a consumer-facing online
media startup opportunity, one of the questions I ask is: “what is the
long-term potential to build a long-term brand?” With any
media property, it either needs to have wide mass appeal with an
adequate monetization rate or a niche appeal with a very high
monetization rate
. Whether or not it has a social element to
it depends on the audience. But in reality, from here on out, I suspect
almost all of new online media will be some type social media.

From my personal experience, same holds true for Flickr and the Indian MBA entrant community Pagalguy. Both the brands have garnered a very high following and its very cult like.

Flickr leveraged it in terms of a buyout and thankfully Yahoo phasing out it Y! Photos product (talk about power of the community! BTW its just forums and comments …). Else there might have been a big backlash and they couldn’t sustain having two development teams essentially trying to serve the same need.

Thankfully, Pagalguy also realizes this is working towards monetising and spinning out products utilizing its brand value.

Leaving behind with some questions in my mind. If you think a bit:

The Brand is what customer thinks of You. The customer / consumer own the BRAND! yes, you can influence them and try to manage their reactions but its beyond your control! So, the question is: How can you grow the Brand? How can sustain it? How can you monetize it?

Note: Brand can either be a huge company, community or can be just YOU.

Guess, to me more experience and reading will let me answer it :-) awaiting your comments

Going clean on the go!

I wanted to write this close to a month back but here it goes out finally: My Friend Dhana along with her colleague launched MizPee and the response has been zimply phenomenal. She was just super duper excited last when I had a skype chat with her before leaving for my himalayan trip. Its the first product at YojoMobile (you can expect more cool ones from them soon!)

Well the main idea about the mobile solution is it does just one thing really really well – finding the closest, cleanest toilet!! {local ads are matched} Read more about it on the MizPee website and reviews here and there. A quick google search give 145k hits! I am like wow … talk about using the mobile for really personal stuff ;P

perspectives on social networking

Came across the article by Marlene (a PhD student in Denmark) at Social Computing titled 35 perspective on Online Social networking. On reading it I felt the enumeration was a tad to big but I felt the grouping in the end was neat. Do check out her blog – I liked her open style of writing and her background seems impressive. I especially liked couple of her post on ethnography. She finally groups the 35 perspectives on Social Networking in the following way :

Based on my – currently 35 – different perspectives I propose the following six overarching categories:

Research perspectives – e.g. the identity perspective, the youth perspective, the language perspective, the genre perspective, the materialistic perspective, the learning perspective, the creative perspective, the Community of Practice perspective and so on. All of those perspectives could (and should) be a way of researching online social networking and youth. (I am on it :))

User perspectives – e.g. the social perspective, the friendship perspective, the democratic perspective, the love perspective, the reassurance perspective, the sincerity perspective, the public perspective etc. Those perspectives could also be viewed as different motives that the users have for using social networking sites.

Professional or learning perspectives – To this category belongs the perspectives that consider the learning possibilities of social networking or see how it can be used in a (future) professional life. We have here the network perspective, the group work perspective, the source critique perspective, the technological perspective, the creative perspective, the Community of Practice perspective and more.

Adult or parents perspectives – In this category we have the voices from the worried parents or other adults who have a hard time understanding why the youngsters spend so much time in front of the screen. This is for example the time-consuming perspective, the anti-social perspective, the generation gap perspective, the language perspective, the consumer perspective, the public perspective etc.

Moral panic or news media perspectives – Some perspectives emerge out of a public concern or a news media discourse where creating selling headlines comes into play. Thus, we have in this category the paedophile and predator perspective, the bullying perspective, the sex perspective, the network perspective, the youth perspective, the public perspective and so on.

Marketing perspectives – In this category we find the marketing or business perspectives such as the consumer perspective, the materialistic perspective, the branding perspective, the surveillance perspective and the hardcore business perspective.

The various perspectives when grouped make sense. Reading the article couple of time might give you an insight. If you are from India – think about all the news Orkut has made and reflect on the various categories – it will make a lot of sense!!

BCB 4 – Collectives …

My phone buzzed this morning with the Kal Ho Na Ho … tune and I heard: Am I talking to Vinukumar? I replied: Yes. He said he was Arun – had met him during Barcamp Chennai and I said ok. He reminded me we had interacted decently then and as that he was the brother of guy behind taazza. I think i kind of remember him now. asked him – what happened to Taazza and he said its up and running. checked it out and I think its cool. Check out Taazza. With that and Justsamachar – I think you can forget rest of the news sites easily!!

Anyway, the main point – Barcamp Bangalore (BCB) is round the corner. Head over to http://barcampbangalore.org – they have a wiki up and also you confirm participation in the wiki or on facebook events.

Barcamp Bangalore

Arun assured me, as part of the organizers group, everthing is being taken care of. The message seemed to be – ‘get the JUNTA’ ;-). So, if the Q is when and where:

July 28 and 29, 2007 at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB).

This Barcamp is centered around concept of Collectives. A slightly more detailed list of topics for people to hangout around. Check out the Collectives page on the BCB 4 wiki page. I think its a neat idea. The Collectives that have emerged: ( <= my interests )

I have been asked to put some force into the Bloggers Collective and I am keen towards it. Sanjukta and I are meeting at CCD, MG Road this Saturday around 5pm – other do join us. Basically spread the word and join us for the pre-meets if you can?

May 2nd half links

Some new websites to poke around:

And then some interesting posts:

On MSFT’s realignment =>Jeff Raikes is now operating an organization that stacks up against IBM (and Red Hat, Sun and Apache). Robbie Bach’s group was already squared off against Apple and Sony.Now, Kevin Johnson’s group is tailored for the fight with Google — over search, advertising, consumer online services and control of the personal computing experience. It also has room for Yahoo!