I feel very fortunate to have established a career developing communities (both on and offline) over the last 20+ years. During this time, I’ve seen a steady series of boom and bust cycles for “community” – large waves of investment and development followed by retreat and divestment. During the transition times between the cycles, one of my favorite questions to ask friends and colleagues in the space is: “Where are we on the map?”
We Need a New Map
We are in another period of community investment and growth, fueled in part by COVID-driven restrictions that prevent us from connecting in-person. There is also reason to believe that this wave will actually break the invest/retreat cycle we’ve seen since the late 90’s, and put community (as a concept, practice and industry) on a path towards sustainable growth and development. As such, we are largely entering new territory, and there aren’t maps for where we need to go.
Over the past 2 years, through a combination of primary research and a hosted Mastermind community (the Cohere project) I’ve been thinking about this new territory and how to begin our journey through it. In the post below I attempt to summarize my thinking by giving an overview of:
1. Three focal areas community leaders need to pay attention to;
2. The exiting of the long “Social Boom” and a notional look at what the next epoch of community might look like;
3. How community strategy is evolving
3 Focal Areas
There are many things that shape the opportunity and need for community development. Some are technical, some are societal, others relate to individual human behavior. The list below intends to highlight what I consider the three most important and consequential areas.
Global Internet access – in the next 10 years, the majority of the rest of the world will come online, bringing all the opportunities and issues we’ve witnessed in the developed world, along with a whole host of new ones. We (collectively) are wholly unprepared for this change in almost every way, with issues ranging from policy, to security, access rights and more.
2. “Humanity’s Graph”- Mark Zuckerberg’s stroke of genius was realizing that not only was an individual’s digital data incredibly valuable, but their network of relationships (both actual and possible) was as well. In the coming years, the pressure of competition, policy, technology and individual behavior will crack open these currently frozen and proprietary social graphs to create a global mesh that will essentially be “Humanity’s Graph.”
3. The impact of exponential technologies – Exponential technologies are defined as technologies that double in power and/or speed, or the cost drops by at least half annually. An example is the combinatorial effect of AI, machine learning and automation that not only shapes your experience on a social network like Facebook, but can also participate in that experience as a non-human actor.
Any one of these focal areas alone is powerful. We are literally struggling to imagine the combinatorial effect of all three.
The End of the Social Boom
Web-based online communities have been around since… well, the inception of the web. News to you? OMG read a book. Starting in the late-2000s, the grass roots dynamics of the early web (which felt very much like a giant community) shifted to increasingly centralized social media and social network sites and apps, with Facebook drawing the lion’s share of global attention and engagement.
For community leaders working within large brands, this myopic focus on social media has wreaked havoc on community programs – from creating dissonance around the concept of community, a misguided predisposition to invest in social media presences and the unfortunate tendency to relegate (and isolate) community programs to functional areas within the business, usually support. This is an especially vicious cycle, as “enterprise class” platform investments can be well over 7 figures annually, essentially creating community programs with multi-million dollar investments in people and tech that, at best, are just breaking even with their resulting cost savings. This practice stifles more strategic conversations about community strategy and the possible value of community.
Fortunately, we are seeing green shoots popping up everywhere that signal a community spring of sorts. From innovative (and lower cost) platforms, to community organizations being integrated into the fabric of the business. More nuanced conversations about the value of communities, and an equitable distribution of that value between host and member are being had.
As we exit the Social Boom, what’s next for communities? An era I’m optimistically dubbing “Transformational Communities” – one that centers on the power of communities to transform individuals, groups and organizations for the better.
The Evolution of Community Strategy
To begin to explore, and eventually inhabit, this new territory, we need we need new ways of thinking, new methods of practice and new tools.
In particular, we have to break out of the pattern of relying on technology to dictate strategy. Legacy community platforms are hyper-optimized for support interactions and social media platforms are optimize user attention – laggards are stuck struggling with native functionality. We need to understand where community can add value to individual customer experiences and shift our thinking to the possibilities of creating value throughout the entire lifecycle of a customer relationship – Leading programs are investing here.
Future growth opportunities will be unlocked through a more sophisticated approach to community development, where every stakeholder has the opportunity to participate, and the “network of relationships” is seen as both a valuable asset and a catalyst for transformation.
Exploring the Territory
If you are interested in learning more, there are several opportunities:
Listen to the Cohere podcast where Dr Lauren Vargas and I explore these topics;
Apply to join the Cohere Mastermind for community and customer experience leaders;
We’re well underway with Season 2, and I say “we”, because I’m joined this season by Dr. Lauren Vargas (also a Season 1 guest). Together, we are exploring the role networks play in our lives, and the range of disciplines studying networks, and the most important research focused on the emerging field of network science.
The reason for the focus on networks? Complex networks are springing up everywhere, driven in large part by increasingly ubiquitous internet access. Imagine what will happen when three billion more people come online in the next five years! For organizations, a planet-wide network of logged-on human beings brings both limitless opportunities and unprecedented threats.
As we increasingly use networked technologies to augment human experiences, the Cohere podcast asks, what’s the best path forward? What do we need to learn and understand? How might science and existing research guide us towards optimal norms and conditions? How should we navigate, evaluate, and administrate a complex technological landscape so we can protect, promote, and empower our human networks? How will we ensure that digital communities deliver on the promise of enhancing our lives, both individually and collectively? And what steps must we take to ensure our approach to community development is sustainable, equitable, and morally sound?
The first four episodes of The Cohere Podcast – Season 2 are out now.
Ep. 1 – Why Community Leaders Need to Understand Networks – With Bill Johnston and Dr Lauren Vargas
Ep. 2 – The Golden Age of Online Communities & the WELL with Gail Ann Williams
Ep. 3 – Building Communities with Purpose and Integrity with Carrie Melissa Jones
Ep. 4 – The “Great Connecting” Continues with Jim Cashel
SWARM is one of my favorite community conferences. Lead organizer Venessa Paech does an amazing job of curating a timely and diverse set of topics and speakers year over year.
COVID19 necessitated a shift to an online-only conference this year, which allowed Venessa and team to design a program that spanned 9 days and 30+ sessions.
One of the experiments I helped with this year was to create a visual artifact during the conference that would serve to help document the experience and capture key ideas. We used Mural, essentially a digital whiteboard, as the tool. You can find the results here. Please have a look and let me know what you think!
Leaders often use the word “transformation” to describe a small or incremental change, but the definition is “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance”. When using the phrase “Transformational Communities”, my intention is to define these communities as having a profound and thorough change effect on participating stakeholders.
One of the most interesting examples I’ve encountered is the hybrid online & real-world community development model that Family Independence Initiative uses for its UpTogether program. To date, families participating in FII’s community-powered program have experienced a 27% lift in income, have established an average of $1,000 in personal savings, and have collectively established $2.5 million in home equity.
Jorge Blandón, Executive Vice President at FII, joins me on the Cohere Podcast to talk about the mission of FII, to discuss their community model in detail, and to talk about the stories of some of the families who have collectively walked out of poverty together.
Key Quotes From the Episode:
“FII really is aiming for all people in the United States to be seen and invested in for their strengths and that they’re able to build their social and financial assets. I think until today, there are systemic barriers that prevent a lot of low-income families from leveraging their assets, their strengths, and even community. FII wants to remove those barriers and really create a new environment where families are trusted as change agents and communities are collectively addressing the challenges that prevent them from pursuing their wellbeing.”
“FII’s approach is really anchored in historic models of just how communities and families would come together to support each other from barn raisings to examples of the Chinatowns throughout the country, the Black wall street and in Tulsa, or the fact that there are over 1500 donut shops owned and run by Cambodians. These are people, that are coming together, leading the way, showing a path forward. This country has a rich history of, of people just pooling their resources, their money, their time, and collective strength and, and, and wisdom.”
“So UpTogether is an online community-building platform. It’s a place where low-income families can take their offline conversations and bring them online to connect with other UpTogether members. They may live in their same neighborhood, in the same city, or connect with other families, experiencing similar challenges across, across the country. It’s really the place where social and financial capital is exchanged and ultimately accelerated. On UpTogether families can, can share news around accomplishments, like paying off debt, buying a home, sending their kids to college, eating healthier. They can curate groups to share ideas around parenting, children with special needs, starting a business, or even being civically engaged. It’s really a platform that recognizes that we all bring something to the table.”
Help if you can: Lastly, low-income families have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consider making a donation to #GiveTogetherNow, a campaign that FII families benefit directly from.
Do you know someone who would be an interesting guest for the Cohere Podcast? Someone who has built an extraordinary community, is nurturing an novel human network, or has an extraordinary vision for the future of human networks? If so, please send me a note – I’d love to talk to them.
Too often the deployment of digital strategies and tools begins humans conforming to technology limitations instead of technology being deployed intentionally in the service of human needs and opportunities – a human-centered approach.
Dr. Lauren Vargas joins me on the Cohere podcast to discuss bringing humans back into the center of the “digital transformation” conversation and provides the CALM framework and specific examples for leaders to draw from.
Lauren is particularly well suited to give guidance here, as she is one of the most experienced and widely practiced digital strategists I know. She’s had an impressive range of experiences in both the public and private sectors, including senior roles at Radian6, Aetna, and Fidelity. In private practice now, she’s most recently been focused on helping museums around the globe with digital transformation. We recently reconnected in London where I also got to walk through the AMAZING Clash exhibit at the Museum of London with her to see some of her work first hand.
Key Quotes from the episode:
On Infusing Technology with Humanity “it’s talking like technology with heart, right. So it’s, it’s when we talk about it being embedded in, in an organization, and we talk about being embedded in an ecosystem, in the DNA, it’s how do we have technology with a pulse? How do, how are we having conversations and using and understanding, managing and creating digital, and technology in a way that is, is human-centered.”
On Culture as Terroir “I think culture is having a common language. It’s having a shared belief and value system, implicit and explicit practices.
You know, those conditions, those contexts are different for every single organization. Every organization has its own terrior. Each, each organization has its own unique fingerprint, contextual characteristics unique to that certain place that can influence and shape its character.
So when we think about terroir, an agricultural and an ecological term, it’s the soil. It’s the topography. It’s the climate that collectively gives and produces a particular characteristic. For organizations, terroir might be attributed to the type and size of the organization and the industry it is anchored in, it’s visitor or customer demographics. It’s physical locations and all forms of media that terroir, it’s complex and it is comprised of internal and external forces that are unique to the organization. And, those forces ebb and flow. They adapt and adopt over time.”
The CALM Approach to Digital Leadership “Taking a CALM approach to digital leadership, to digital transformation, is incredibly powerful. And when I say calm, it’s an acronym.
C — Collaborative A — Anticipatory L — Letting go of Command and Control Leadership and Embracing Collective Leadership M — Mindful
How do we, how do we think about a collaborative first environment? How do we embed, an anticipatory rhythm of practice and ritual? How do we let go of command and control leadership and how do we create the space to reflect?”
It’s clear that the Corvid-19 Pandemic will drive the global economy into a recession. Periods of economic turbulence tend to have a catalytic effect on the role of online communities and related social and network-based experiences. In particular, it seems public participation increases, followed by corporate investment. We saw this play out with the investment in brand-hosted communities following the 2001 dot com crash, and with the heavy investment in brand social media following the 2008-09 recession. As it seems we are on the cusp of another wave of change, I thought it would be helpful to look back at what some of the brightest minds were thinking as we made the last transition, from what I call the “Customer Community 1.0” era, to the rise of corporate social media, which more or less started in 2010.
I helped write and edit the Online Community Report blog and newsletter while I was Chief Community Officer at Forum One. We had a great run from 2007-2010. Although the OC Report’s publication was suspended, thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, I was able to find an archived copy of the site. I’ve linked to several of the interview archives below, as well as added key quotes from the interviews. The pictures are from the original interview posts, which is why they are so small in many cases.
Shawn Morton (TechRepublic / Cnet) I interviewed Shawn when he was still Community lead at TechRepublic / Cnet. I had the good fortune of working with Shawn to help launch and grow TechRepublic. TechRepublic was a very creative environment, and we develop and test new features on the site constantly. Shawn’s shared his point of view with me on balancing new feature development with member’s needs:
“I think I’ve seen just about all of trends at some point over the past 8 years – from collaborative desktop apps, to discussion boards, to blogs, to wikis to social news.
In fact, a couple of years ago, TechRepublic pushed out a lot of new features like social bookmarking, member blogs and wikis with the goal of driving increased usage within the community.
In the end, we found that what our members really wanted was for us to focus on improving the features they used the most discussion and technical Q&A. The big lesson from that exercise was to follow the needs of the community first, not the latest new thing that analysts, journalists or bloggers are raving about: unless your community is geared toward analysts, journalists or bloggers.
We also learned that it’s OK to phase out features if they’re not working. In my experience, you need to continuously justify every feature on the site. If something isn’t getting used, it is noise and the more noise you have, the harder it is to clearly articulate your value proposition.”
I’d also like to add that Shawn passed away in 2018. He was a bright and creative spark in the industry and is sorely missed.
Lee LeFever (CommonCraft) Lee’s interview from April 2007 featured this great response to my question asking him what trends he saw emerging:
“Two big things come to mind: 1) In terms of overall trends, community is a big focus in the business world – and it feels real this time. When I started working with customer communities in 1999 I spent a lot of time describing the concept and evangelizing. There was a lot of misunderstanding, doubt and nay saying. When the bubble burst it added fuel to the fire. In the last couple of years, the tools have improved, there are many exciting new models and success stories and your average Internet user has a renewed, more positive perception of community. While there is still misunderstanding, it’s exciting to see renewed focus and attention in the community space. Already this year there were two well-attended conferences focusing on community (CommunityNext and Community 2.0). 2) In my experience, there is a much needed focus on the role of the community manager. Companies are starting to understand that community isn’t a technology that you plug in and leave alone – it’s a way of doing business that takes time and hard work. In the best success stories, there is almost always a person or small group that understands community processes, sets expectations, and balances the needs of the community and the organization. Community management is an important skill we need to develop more in the future.”
Jake McKee (Ant’s Eye View) In his August 2007 interview, Jake offered guidance on the ramp up of interest in community and social media that his firm was seeing at the time:
“The last 12 months or so has been an interesting time to do what I do. 12 months ago, I was having lots of conversations with clients and potential clients where they were asking us to first explain what all this social media and community stuff was about. In many cases, we were helping to support our client contacts within an organization to pitch it or explain it to their colleagues and managers.
Lately, it seems like that they know they want to do something, their bosses expect them to do something, they’re just not really sure what to do or how to get started. I talk to a lot more business professionals with their own Facebook profiles, and who joke about playing with Twitter, posting Amazon reviews, and any number of other online social activities. These same types of people a year ago were brushing off social concepts because “MySpace is ugly and meant for teens”.
Joi Podgorny (Ludorum) I this interview from September 2007, Joi had a lot of thoughtful things to say about kids / tweens / teens and social media and community use:
“I like the question regarding whether kids’ needs are different than adults’ needs online. My answer is yes and no. Adults are usually more aware of their multiple identities, both on and offline. They have their work personality, their friends’ personality, their (seemingly) anonymous online personalities, etc and they are more able to see the lines of distinction between these identities. Kids also have multiple identities but they are less paranoid about separating them. Many kids, teens and young adults are comfortable with living aspects of their lives very publicly, online. I see pros and cons to both ways of identity juggling. Adults seem to have a better grasp (again, usually) on the ramifications of their actions and will/should act accordingly. Kids/Teens are freer in their identity exploration and therefore, they are able to learn so much more than if they were in a more protected stance.
One aspect that I think hasn’t been looked at as thoroughly as it could have been, is how to deal with late tween/early teen audiences specifically. We have reached a point in our industry where there are handful of people with experience in managing youth communities. We know about moderation, COPPA compliance, filters and the like. Communities/Virtual Worlds like Club Penguin and Webkinz cater to younger children and their parents and have very strict parameters regarding how communication happens between users. But the population that I think needs more attention is that of kids between 11-15 (and the outliers). These young adults are huge communicators online, but are sometimes held back from their true potential due to the strict and rather archaic ideologies as to how they are allowed to interact online. Don’t get me wrong, I am a youth online privacy advocate from the old school, but I think we need to look at the legislation and rules we put in place years ago, and see if any updates need to be made to accommodate where our communities have evolved. If we don’t, I think we could miss out on some great opportunities for everyone online, not just kids and teens.”
Ross MayField (Socialtext) I was fortunate enough to interview Ross in the run up to the 2008 recession. Ross offered his observations on the effect of the dot com bust (2001) on online communities and gave forward-looking advice on what the post-recession environment might look like for social software:
“We started Socialtext in the last recession, back in 2002. Its interesting that Social Software took hold then, perhaps people took to blogging when they were unemployed. But seriously, there are some key trends that will continue regardless of the hype cycle and macroeconomic conditions: * NetGens, the first generation to grow up with the internet throughout their lives, are in their second year of employment after college. This is the largest demographic shift, at the same time when the Baby Boom generation is retiring, and will have a profound impact on adoption of social software, organizational culture and work preferences and styles. * The Consumerization of IT, where innovation happens first in consumer markets, is adapted for the enterprise or driven by individuals serving themselves with SaaS and Open Source alternatives without IT – Individuals trust peers more than institutions to inform their decisions. This not only impacts consumer marketing, but politics and management. * Its become common for people to express a facet of their identity publicly on the net, and values of transparency over privacy are changing * The cost of personal publishing and forming groups that can take action is falling to zero * Enterprise Social Software is being treated as a serious category of enterprise software by executives and IT, especially as more case studies demonstrate business value.
As we enter into a recession, enterprise budgets will tighten, but it remains to be seen if the relative low cost of Social Software solutions are impacted. We have seen a change in Financial Services, but so far its fairly contained. However, the US isn’t the only market where companies have difficulties collaborating.”
Allen Blue (LinkedIn) Allen was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing communities from the perspective of product development. In particular, I found his perspective on balancing product vision with customer feedback very compelling:
“When I think about Vision, I think about a statement of what we’re going to be when we grow up and take our place in the market. And it’s a promise to our customers — an implicit contract describing what we’re going to provide them, what the ground rules are for our relationship with them. We may not share the entire vision with our customers, but the spirit of that vision is part of all the products we produce. This is one of the reasons that Visions have ethical overtones.
It’s important not to confuse a Vision with a product design, or even a strategy. I think people frequently say “Vision” when they mean “the product I’m building.” The product you’re building should always be open to substantial modification and change: you either got it right, or you didn’t, but what matters is how you react and make it successful.
If a Vision is formulated correctly, then it is lofty, generally applicable to many situations, and axiomatic. Take “Access to all of the world’s information” as an example. There are many ways to get to that kind of vision — many products and strategies that will get you there. If a Vision is tied to a specific product and strategy, it’s unlikely to succeed.
And even Visions are really hypotheses at first — they are insightful observations of the market. But they should be shaped by realities in the market in the early days, and made higher, less detailed, more like magnetic north and less like a plan to get there.”
Scott Wilder (Intuit) Scott is one of the true pioneers in developing customer communities. I was fortunate enough to participate in early best practice sessions at Intuit with Scott while I was at Autodesk. In particular, Scott’s perspective on community’s role in creating brand equity, and community’s effect on customer experience have always stuck with me.
“At Intuit, we look at our online community team as a Center of Excellence because it impacts all areas of the business.
The product development group, for example, learns a great deal by reading what customers are saying in the community and even more importantly by interacting with those customers online. Our product managers aim to ‘close the loop’ with our users by sharing how they actually incorporate their customer learnings into our product offerings. For example, you can see how customer input has a direct impact on our products if you go to the We Hear You section of the community website. Then there’s customer service. Many of our users questions are answered by other users, by members of an ecosystem that likes to share learnings, knowledge and experiences. This is especially important with our products because people in various industries use our products differently. For example, we might both be using QuickBooks, but you sell widgets and I provide consulting services, which are two very different types of business. There’s also marketing. The community provides a great way to reinforce our brand attributes, which are being knowledgeable and approachable. And lastly, to meet our company’s big goal of helping empower Small Businesses in any way we can.“
Aaron Strout (Powered) In addition to being the lead organizer of the Community 2.0 conference, Aaron Strout saw the value for brands of augmenting hosted communities with social media outposts early on, as we fully transitioned into an era of heavy corporate investments in social media (2009-2010). Aaron’s take on the thinking about the right mix of community and social media from our January 2009 interview:
“I like how you worded your question. It implies that social media SHOULD be in a company’s marketing mix vs. being a standalone solution. At the end of the day, companies will enjoy the greatest success when they are coordinating all of their efforts and driving their customers to their online communities and/or social outposts on places like LinkedIn and Facebook. In those places, customers and prospects alike can interact with a company’s employees, talk to one another, interact with content that company has created to provide a learning experience and ultimately, feel more a part of the company’s brand.”
I hope you’ve found this trip into the archives valuable and interesting. I found it helpful to look back on the last major period of transition in the community space – both to be reminded that we go through regular cycles of opportunity and investment with communities, but also to be reminded that it seems value, participation and the importance of communities (and all related experiences) increases with each cycle.
During the COVID19 crisis, digital networks have played a critical part in keep humanity connected and informed. The adoption of networked experiences has scaled exponentially, seemingly overnight. In most cases, these designed experiences were crafted for very different contexts than what they are being used for. In our new, digitally connected yet physically isolated future, we will need new design mindsets and methods to account for hyper-connectivity, data-enriched experiences, and participation by non-human actors in the network.
Patrick on Design Education “I think in design, a lot of times the education focuses more on what I call kind of the formal aspects of design. So it is more of the components and the aesthetics and the way in which design can communicate and evoke a kind of emotion and response. One of the things that I read early on in my research into what design was about was the history of the Bauhaus. (I) was really struck by two things: number one, the general sense of removing the artifice and the subjectivity of design as a goal of the movement; the other was thinking about people like Jan Tschichold and the approach to book design which was really predicated on both economic efficiency as well as aesthetic value
Patrick onDesign Perspectives “As I practice today, I look at design from three different different perspectives: 1. Pragmatic Design: What are the requirements of kind of the product or the service definition? What are the, what are the goals that the designer is being asked to solve for? What are the kinds of formal aspects of design that you play with? What is the strategy around how to do this efficiently? 2. System / Reference Design: Design for the business has to address a lot of things that may not be product or services. Any single product or service is probably part of an overall ecosystem of value that is being delivered to the customer. So you take a different view on the stages of relationships, the touchpoints that are used, how they cohere together, where those flexibility needed in thinking about how you’re really trying to help design. 3. Strategic Design: Which is really looking at what is changing for a business. Why will tomorrow be different? How do, trends in emerging technology and trends in economics or social-cultural context. Change the kinds of products and services or even business models that the business will need to have in the future.”
Patrick onthe Future of Design “I think we should realize that everything that we’re doing right now and everything that we’re thinking about right now is really very early-stage and naive in terms of thinking about what is possible with designing technology. There’s been so much change in the past two decades that it’s really difficult to kind of keep in mind that there’s not enough history yet for us to understand what really are best practices and what makes the most sense in terms of design in business, and that as we look at the arc of technology things are going to continue to change and whatever we think now next decade, we’re going to look back and say, “Oh, that was a little naive. We didn’t anticipate this coming.” What excites me about things in general though is I think the ability for us to actually begin to think more in terms of data and information, because I think data and information are key to the design process. If we begin to think “where can we create value or, better resiliency, better ability to have things be regenerative in terms of value creation, specifically around things like climate change or, or health care?” To date, we’ve largely looked at a lot of these solutions or approach these problems from an economic perspective as opposed to a systems perspective.”
The primary purpose of the Cohere Project (and podcast) is to explore the future of human networks, especially tools that increase human and group agency in a network. I believe Nilofer Merchant’s concept of “Onlyness’ is one such tool. We discuss Onlyness, and much more, in one of the most fun, informative and unfiltered conversations we’ve had on the Cohere podcast.
Nilofer Merchant is a pioneer in the use of social technologies and has written extensively about how businesses can leverage social networks and communities to shape strategy, improve performance and become more purposeful. In her new book “The Power of Onlyness”, Nilofer brings forward the idea of Onlyness as a means of claiming your distinct place in the world and using networks as a catalyst for actualizing your purpose.
Quotes From This Episode
Nilofer On Innovation “Innovation is like air. It’s in circulation, right? That everything happens. So it’s more about watching the flow of interconnections, not about containing it in one spot.”
Nilofer on Cocreation “All ideas are manifest in a social construct. I’m watching this and thinking ‘ we’re totally missing the point’, but social can actually allow us to shape every part of the value chain. I didn’t feel like anyone else was saying that. And so in fact, I wrote a piece that I got death threats over. The simple notion was, we’ve been conditioned to think about work as being the thing that happens internal to the company, that it’s our ideas. Then here’s this little dotted line of how these ideas link up. Then there’s the world out there. We create, you buy. I was like, well, actually you could have customers give you demand signals. You could have the whole interactivity of every part of the value cycle could happen from creation to demand to customer service, cocreation of work.”
NiloferOn “Onlyness“ “Each of us stands in a spot in the world. From that singular distinct spot is how you add value to the world. So it’s your source of ideas. It’s the way in which you cocreate. It’s the insight you have based on what you see as wrong or needed. It’s centering correctly on the source of ideas. Based on that history and experience, visions and hopes that only one has.
There’s a beautiful source of ideas that all of us have, but we largely ignore. Because we’re not saying that 7 billion people can contribute. We’re saying usually in any room, 30% can contribute. “
In this episode of the Cohere Podcast, Nilofer and I touch on the topics above and discuss:
The evolution of social media
Managing corporate innovation and the role of communities
The concept of Onlyness, as it relates to “you, us and together”
How your network shapes your self-image, role, and personal agency
The natural reaction of hierarchies to resist networks
In this short (~15 min) bonus episode, we speak with facilitator and community builder extraordinaire Nancy White of Full Circle Associates about creating and maintaining connections online during a crisis.
Specifically, we talk through:
Advice for taking offline events online (and if you should)
Planning for a near-term future of limited face to face gatherings
Drawing from pre-social media community building techniques to create connections
How facilitators and community builders can practice self-care and help others during this challenging time
And, Nancy’s parting advice:
“Stay happy. Do something positive. Wash your damn hands.”
It’s human nature to seek connection, meaning, and knowledge through community. Thanks to the smartphones in our pockets (and the near-global access to broadband – see our previous episode), “community” now is very much a digital construct, and the way we find and participate in such gathering places is radically changing.
As online communities and human networks have evolved, algorithms have played an increasingly prominent role in the experience, from offering rudimentary personalization to shaping and segmenting entire communities. In the future, AI and related technologies will become central to our shared digital and real-world experiences.
In this episode of the Cohere Podcast, Venessa Paech and I discuss the future role of AI in online communities – both the tremendous opportunities and potential threats AI & related technologies pose.
In this episode, Venessa and I discuss:
AI in the context of the digital community experience – 21:15
The specific ways AI can enhance community experience – 33:54
Potential risks of emerging technologies – 39:37
Machine culture – 43:30
Advice for organizations as they began to prepare for the changes that out AI will bring to community experiences – 46:59
Venessa is a co-founder of the Australian Community Managers Network, a PhD candidate studying the intersection of AI and community, and a global authority on communities and community management. She has led Community for realestate.com.au, Lonely Planet, Envato and Australia Post among others.
She founded the Australian Community Manager Roundtables (ACM) in 2009, and created Swarm in 2011 with Alison Michalk.
She also runs the annual Australian Community Manager Career Survey and with ACM, authored the first code of ethics for the region.
The Cohere Podcast is part of the Cohere Project. If you know someone that you think would be a great guest, or if you are interested in learning more about the Cohere Project, please send me a message.