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Subject: Re: UKNM: Communities: Fact or Fiction!
From: Charles Linn
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 16:37:58 +0100

Clay Shirky wrote:

> > This was a bit of a surprise to me. I had always assumed that aiming to
> > create online communities was a sensible aim for building traffic, and
> > that therefore it would be a sensible part of any business model.
> Unlikely - community is usually measued in the thousands, with the
> number of truly active participants numbering in the hundreds. Traffic
> needs are usually measured in the millions, with repeat traffic
> measured in the 10s or hundreds of thousands.
> Community can be a fine addition for those that want it, but the only
> 'community' sites that have that kind of scale are value-neutral
> homesteading places like geocities.
> Look at hte failure of places like Echo and the Well to become viable
> large-scale businesses.

OK, how about this. The UK (and I'm sure the rest of the world that I
don't know about) is made up of thousands of off-line communities. For
the sake of argument, lets take Friends of the Earth's local campaigning
groups of which there are about 250. Say each group numbers about 1000
people (some are much smaller and some much bigger). Make a website for
one and you have a small community website which may have great repeat
viewing but is useless as a commercial model. So far I agree with Clay.

How about if you give each local group a Content Management System
driven web area, with common key areas such as 'members list',
'discussion area', 'Campaigning reports', 'Events', 'useful links',
etc... You make one group member, probably the secretary, responsible
for entering and keeping up the content, and you get all of the groups
to fill in their details in the listed areas, and then you aggregate all
the content into a supersite, summarizing all the local campaigning
going on in the UK and all the info relevant to it. Now what do you

You have a community orientated website, catering for perhaps 50,000 -
100,000 people, providing a huge networking and information sharing area
where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. This is
something very useful for anyone who is a member of a local group and
would encourage a real feeling of belonging. It would probably also be
interesting to people not members of local groups as well, as it would
give an overview of all of the environmental campaigning going on around
the country and could being database driven the info could easily be
searched and archived. So the repeat audience my be 200,000 say, but
still essentially a community lead site.

Of course this is not a commercial example as FOE local groups are not
in general known for their huge consumerism, and may object to being
shown banners, but the model itself of bottm-up-site-building using
existing communities and aggregating them; as opposed to building a site
all about Stock Car Racing and then trying to market it to anyone who is
interested, essentially in a push fashion - This is what I would call
top down and IMO is what most websites are about. The bottom-up model
if it can be managed is likely to be a more long term approach but
ultimately a stronger model again IMO.



Chas Linn
Web Producer
Friends of the Earth
www.foe.co.uk (Yell Awards - Runner Up 1999)
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  Re: UKNM: Communities: Fact or Fiction!, Nabil Shabka
  Re: UKNM: Communities: Fact or Fiction!, Chris Heathcote

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