3 blog community paradigmsDecember 24, 2006
Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?
By Nancy White
blog based community shows up in three main patterns with a wide variety of hybrid forms emerging between the three. The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community, the Central Connecting Topic Community and the Boundaried Community.
The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community
…readers begin returning to early bloggers’ sites, commenting and getting to know not only the blogger, but the community of commentors. The one blog is owned by one owner or organisation. There may be more than one blogger writing in a blog, but this is not an aggregation of blogs.
There is little opportunity for members to change, add to or adapt the environment.
The central identities of these communities are the blog owners. Their identities are the best known in the community. The commentors’ identities might emerge over time, but more likely, as commentors get to know each other, they share their personal details via private email, instant messaging and other forms of ‘backchannel’.
David Wilcox of Designing for Civil Society notes that ‘…blogs are personally defined spaces’, (D.Wilcox, 2006, pers. comm., 26 August)
This is quite different to a traditional online community where purpose brings people together and relationship and identity unfold over time, within the context of that purpose and not through a focus on an individual.
The power in this community is firmly in the central blogger’s control. The blog owner can set the rules and norms of engagement. There is no expectation of democracy, although when bloggers close or remove comments, cries of ‘censorship’ still ring out. But there is no obligation on the blogger to either provide the option for comments, nor to allow all comments. That said, when comments are restricted or not allowed, there can be no visible manifestation of community on the site.
From a subject matter perspective, single blog centric communities are almost broadcast-like, with the central blogger setting the conversational topic. Commentors can respond, or go away, but unless they develop an influential relationship with the central blogger, they can’t control the topic.
Key commentors attracting their own set of readers in comments may be moved to create their own blogs. Or they may attract members to their existing blogs. Other commentors may add these other blogs to their daily reading, or shift entirely to the new blog. Links between the spin off blogs may show up in blogrolls, keeping a loose tie to the original blog, and forming a Central Connecting Topic Community
Central Connecting Topic Centric blog community is a network formation
They may be far less interested in positioning themselves, as they are in the topic they blog about. As these grow, they are more network like than community like. Communities form within the network as people find more specific niches and interests.
Beyond the visible membership of linked blogs is the wider and mostly invisible network of readers.
In topic centric communities both power and identity is distributed across the community. The existence of the community does not rise or fall on one blog.
Identity is manifest through the relevance, quality or amount of enjoyment a post provides to others.
Topic centric communities have no single technological platform, with each blogger selecting their own tool. What links them is hyperlinks, in the form of blogrolls, links to other blogs within blog posts, tagging, aggregated feeds (using RSS), trackbacks and comments.
Having a shared tag, a key word that bloggers can attach to their individual posts, can mark a post as relevant to a community.
Tools that aggregate posts from blogs or even tagged posts can blur the boundaries of each individual blog, creating what appears to be a unified collection of posts, assembled on the fly as individual bloggers add posts.
Boundaried communities are collections of blogs and blog readers hosted on a single site or platform.
Typically members register and ‘join’ the community and are offered the chance to create a blog. This boundary makes them the closest form to traditional forum based communities.
Often these communities have other tools such as discussion boards, social networking features, wikis and instant messaging built in. The blogs are part of the overall ecosystem. There is less emphasis on RSS and cross linking because those features are built into the technology in other ways. Because they are within a defined boundary, bloggers can see and easily access other blogs. They can, if they wish, link but mostly within this closed system and they seem to link less often outside of the community.
The blogger has more control of the message than in a discussion board. They control the pacing by their own frequency of posting. The blogs are their more personal part of the site with pictures and reflections, whereas the discussions are the centre of information exchange and daily ‘chit chat’.
Power in boundaried communities is held in part by the ‘owner’ of the platform who can impose rules on the community, but power is exercised by bloggers in three typical ways.
The first is frequency of posting.
The second is popularity or interest as measured by how many comments a blogger gets.
The third is when there are social networking tools associated with the blog that help visualise relationship. These are often tools which allow you to add people as ‘friends’ or have them in your ‘neighbourhood’. This then makes their blog posts more visible on your blog and convey a sense of ‘who likes or is associated with whom’.
Bloggers who are concerned with popularity and the number of hits they get will blog to attract readers. They will write in styles and with content that captures attention which may or may not nurture relationship. Bloggers who are concerned about community may create posts that have more ‘insider language’ which may be less attractive to casual readers from the outside.
If you click on the del.icio.us tag ‘blog_communities‘ it quickly becomes clear that this is a topic that many are thinking about and working on.
Some more about acting in blogs as a community:
A blog network that directly exposes its members to the general public without creating a sense of camaraderie between them cannot make it work.
A blog network is basically like a team, they work together for a common set of goals.
So, how does one build bridges between its members?
Get to Know Your Teammates
Support your Teammates
help them out with their theme customizations, plug-ins, etc.
Another simple thing you can do is to visit his/her blog.
RSS feeds viewer may be convenient but it doesn’t show that “much” support for the author.
If you feel the need to say something, be sure to leave a message at the comments section. This gives a feeling to the author that someone is actually reading his/her entries.
It will encourage him/her to write more stuff that will attract the visitors.
If need be, Spread your Teammates’ Words
Evangelize. Link to your teammate and to the blog network as well.
Do not plagiarize; give proper credit where it is due.
You became a member of a network because you have the ability to write, not echoing
From David Wilcox “Move beyond blogging – start buzzing”
More strategies in communities
Get them passionate (and close) to your cause … Share their passion.
Your role is to create a buzz around your cause…