Jeremiah Owyang posted a question about how we define “Online Communities”. In referencing Jake Mckee’s post on the subject he wonders is Twitter a community?
Before we answer that question we have to define what a “Community” is? As has been pointed out by Robin Hamman, “Community” “has dozens if not hundreds of distinct definitions”. In practice we shouold go by the most common definition that covers the specific context. If we go to the dictionary we find a definition of “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (e.g. “The Business Community”)”.
The key’s points here are:
1. Common Interests.
2. Perception of being distinct and separate.
When we examine Twitter and find that the common interest is Twitter and the activities on it, and that the perceived distinction is of those who use/get twitter and those that do not. So yes, by definition, Twitter IS a community.
That said, groups of followers within Twitter may NOT be a sub-community since they do not identify themselves as being separate from Twitter itself. We are not the “following Scoble” community.
Of course all this “definition” talk begs the question, how should we forge this new online vocabulary? Like any lexicon it will develop on its own via adoption patterns. When creating definitions I lean towards either adhering to already established meanings, or inventing new words entirely. This makes words less confusing when we use new meanings in conversation.
Moore’s Law wins.
In a recent twitter conversation Jeremiah Owyang asked the question, ” Did we break Dunbar’s Number of 150 members per social network? Or are tools more efficient?”
The reality is that we have been pushing Dunbar’s number since we first invented the little black book. By offloading much of the social context data into long term storage we can maintain much more meaningful social interactions with a larger number of people. We can also pick up stale relationships and rekindle them much easier.
So what does Moore’s Law have to do with any of this? Our mobile phone and Social Network contact lists are this generations black book. We may not quite be up to the level of Johnny Mnemonic, but the reality is that we are already augmenting ourselves. For now the interface is our eyes and keyboard/pad.
Some of us are already living in the future…
When we “follow” people in Twitter we either want them to be part of our virtual co-presence and conversation or are subscribing to broadcasts we find interesting.
If you use Twitter and you are noticing a high noise level then its time to ask yourself if the people you are following enrich the conversation. If not, it is time to clean out your following and refocus on what Twitter does well. It may not be Twitter that is the problem, but who you are Twittering with.
I just dumped a bunch of follows off my list and will drop more in the next week. I feel better already!