Communing and community

Guy Kawasaki, who was Apple’s software evangelist, is passionate about the idea that products and services reach critical mass ‘because mere mortals spread the word for you.’  He also has noted that the people who developed the original Macintosh didn’t really have any idea of what people would do with the machine–and thus how its users would influence its development.

We’re wired to create patterns, but that doesn’t mean the first patterns are necessarily useful.  At one time I saw blogs as someone’s Big Idea of the Day.  But the first blog I created didn’t have feature my ideas–it collected stories by others, and posted them as they were originally told.

When is a community not a community?Last year I noted what I call book blogs.  I don’t think of them as “real” blogs, because typically the author doesn’t engage with readers via comments.  The Book Blog is mainly a marketing vehicle: here’s what my book is about.  Buy it.

To me this seems to violate the informal idea of community, of exchange.  If you’re going to have a Book Blog, why not invite and encourage a sharing of ideas, reactions, even critiques?  Maybe you’re more interested in controlling the conversation than in conversing.

Last week I received a comment on a post.  The heart of the comment was “nice post; by the way, you might want to see my book at”  As you might have figured, it was a Book Blog.

I couldn’t see the connection — the actual “nice post” language was generic — so I emailed the commenter.  No, he replied, you didn’t miss a connection; it was shameless marketing.

Well, he’s free to deliver what looks like hand-spam; I’m free not to publish the comment.  No need to beat him up by name.

Something on your mind?This did get me thinking about tacit assumptions, and about the ways in which technology gets applied (bent?) to uses other than the ones we would predict or prefer.  Rather than fulminating about it, I’m just noticing it in passing.

It’s pointless to say “you shouldn’t do simple-minded marketing.”  For one thing, the simple-minded usually outnumber the others.  For another, they’re not going to listen; intermittentent positive feedback is far more reinforcing.

So I’m just reminded that people will use these tools in ways I can’t anticipate.  Some of those ways will encourage connections that I like; I’ll go with those, and let the rest drift elsewhere.

Spam photo by heath_bar.
Closed community photo by richjensen.