Category Archives: Community

A Checklist for Kids Virtual Worlds

In February I  was honored to be part of a Panel on Virtual World development at Engage 2010 at the NY Toy Fair.

In “The Tactical Perspective:  A Best Practices Checklist” we discussed the process of migrating brands online, including a typical product development roadmap and timeline.  At a high level we covered the different phases of production as well as engaging an audience, building a brand, operations,  moderation and driving ROI.

Engage Expo was great to work with and has generously shared the recordings of the session:

The Tipping Point

FireA recent discussion about what critical mass is for a social network site started me thinking about the difference between tipping points and critical mass. Technically both are defined in similar words (sometimes considered synonymous), but they do have different connotations.

A tipping point can be defined as “the culmination of a build-up of small changes that effects a big change”. It is many times tied to an event that adds a missing catalyst or critical amount of energy to achieve a self sustaining reaction. In Gladwell’s book (The Tipping Point) he refers to the mechanics of this being related to “three agents of change” which he calls “the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context”.
Continue reading The Tipping Point

What is Community?

CommunityJeremiah 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.

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas
Holidays are a time to reassess and reconnect with friends and community. Wherever you are, with friends or family, we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a fine new year.

Merry Christmas, and remember to Drink Eggnog Responsibly!


Please note that Christmas is in fact not only a celebration of Christian beliefs, but coincides with and in part may be substituted for celebrations of “winter solstice”, the Roman “Saturnalia“ and “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” and its progeny the “Twelve Days of Christmas“. Christmas is also coincides with the secular holiday of Chri$tma$$ celebrated throughout the world, but was perfected in the USA.

For the politically correct:

Please accept with no obligation, explicit or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wished.

Moore’s Law vs. Dunbars Number

Johnny MnemonicMoore’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…

Who is the Long Tail?

Long Tail BookWe have been making a lot of noise about the long tail for a while now in our little world of Web 2.0 and it struck me this morning while reading a post by Gordon Haff that we don’t really talk about where it comes from.

The long tail has many forms, some obvious ones being older and niche music as well as practically all of the blogoshpere. I disagree with the idea Alex Iskold posted that, because the individual content contributor isn’t making money, the long tail is in trouble. Making money is not necessarily first and foremost for many of the people producing content for the Long Tail.

I just finished reading Moneyball where Michael Lewis relates that Billy James was ecstatic at having sold 64 copies of his first Baseball Almanac. This was done out of passion and a need for recognition, not greed. This type of attitude is pervasive in the Long Tail.

The Long Tail is real and here to stay not because the people creating the content for the long tail are making money, but because someone else has figured out to monetize access to it as part of their service. The Long Tail was always there, and is growing because the internet makes it so easy to share content and get positive feedback.

I know that I do not have a large audience, but blogging still holds value to me. Even if the numbers are low its still a fun to look at Firestats and realize that other people are getting what you are talking about.

We are the Long Tail.

Drupal is Growing Up.

DrupalFor little while now I have been dabbling in the open source content management framework Drupal . Drupal promises ( in time) to allow practically anyone to be able to set up and mange complex social web sites with more features than a swiss army knife.

Today a friend of mine Darius asked me for my thoughts on my recent participation in the DrupalCampLA BarCamp. This gathering of self proclaimed Drupal geeks was one of the better events I have been to. The thing that makes all gatherings worthwhile are the people that you interact with.

On this level DrupalCampLA far exceeded my expectation because I came in contact with some real pioneers that are genuine and working hard to bring the platform up to a usable level for everyone including big business. Much credit to Crystal Williams who with AOL and a group of volunteers put together a great event.

The efforts of WorkHabit and Bryght to get this platform usable and maintainable go above and beyond. By using their consulting as a way to fold resources back into the development of Drupal, they not only moves the platform forward, but in the end give their clients better value in a platform that grows with them.

That said there is also a lot of money being spent by the likes Ethan Kaplan over at Warner Brothers Records who have put themselves out on the beading edge by using and pushing the platform for real commercial sites. This is a big risk in many ways since they and a few others really are blazing a trail.

Before you run off and start using Drupal be aware that although it is definitely suitable for many small to medium web sites, configuring and using it is significantly more difficult than WordPress and it does not yet scale to the level of MySpace or Facebook. Drupal is also potentially a real performance hog if you don’t pay attention to how modules interact.

My takeaway from DrupalCampLA is that Drupal is a good content management platform with a alot of features and a thriving community of developers. It has a long way to go, but it is the developers and people like Jonathan Lambert at Workhabit that will eventually evolve Drupal into a scalable and maintainable enterprise grade solution for real development. If your development curve and needs matches that of Drupal you should give it a try.

Another side observation is that for many applications Drupal is a better solution than Rails. The reason is that the development community is much more open about sharing modules that you can build on. Starting with a content management system as its core means that CMS is core to any module created. This is a big benefit for anyone that uses it and instantly increases the value.

The velocity of exposed and usable community development outstrips the difficulty of developing in PHP. At this point, while I dislike PHP, it is already scalable (with work) and I believe will through Drupal and some Rails like frameworks be the only logical choice for social web development in the next few years.

Twitter Housecleaning..

TwitterWhen 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!

Truemors and Guy’s clay feet.

TruemorsFrom time to time I have read Guy Kawasaki’s blog. It was usually engaging, informative even if I didn’t always agree. It also exposed sides of the venture beat that I wasn’t familiar with. I came to respect Guy and still do.

When Guy started his new project I was stunned. Truemors was pitched as a place to post inside scuttlebutt. In effect a place to post rumors and gossip. This was the last thing I would have thought Guy would get into.

This shock prompted me to email Guy to quench my curiosity. To my surprise Guy started to correspond and I started to get the feeling that what had transpired was only partly a change in Guy.

After some reflection I realized that a big part was the crumbling of a personal mythology that had developed around Guy’s blog. When we expose parts of ourselves on the web others develop a mental picture of who we are as people. The higher the signal to noise ratio (more quality/less crap) the more respect and expectations.

In this instance I had developed respect for Guy that was tied to the perception of Guy as a VC and analyst. A perception that he had such insight as to be able to see the forest for the trees. Truemors struck me as trivial and fluff. An idea that I would have discounted and rejected.

Of course the reality is that trivial and fluff with the right twist can be more viral and successful than something that took years to develop and millions of dollars. In many ways the paradigms have changed and it truly is the little guy in his garage that can come up with the next great thing for very little money. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.


When I added Guy on Facebook I received a message to try Truemors. Mind you I get messages from time to time from other developer friends who are developing Facebook apps to tryout their wares and don’t think anything of it. Once again I apply a double standard for Guy.

I told myself that it was because Guy wasn’t commenting on others work or talking about the next great thing he was involved with. Guy was selling Truemors to us. In my mind he had violated a trust. The critic is not allowed to be a promoter.

In my mind Guy was now trading social capital for the success of this enterprise. The earned respect and myth being traded for a chance that you might try his application. That it might be enough to help put Truemors over critical mass.

So of course I send Guy a message, what gives? In Guy’s reply he asks “I have to do what I have to do, right?”.

Guy was right; you do have to give it your all. He wasn’t being any more spam than my other friends, he was simply promoting again. I once again realized that it was my perception that was coloring all of this. I had been affronted when he dared stray from my preconceptions. Guy was simply using his assets to help his investment succeed. This was business.

In the end I have to thank Guy for an education. Once again (as has happened many times before for me) I have learned that people are people. Putting someone on a pedestal clouds our vision of the real person. I would rather know the person than the myth.

One more thing, Guy, good luck with Truemors.