Sunday, February 11, 2007

Community Next: Lots of Good Stuff

Community Next was a great event. But, alas, I didn't take notes because I saw that the whole thing was being video taped - and there was no WiFi (stoopid Stanford lock down) so I did not live blog.

Plus, kudos to Noah Kagan, the place was packed and there were barely extra seats to sit down and hash out thoughts.

But, here are some random thoughts from conversations. The people should remain nameless, because I did not ask if it would be okay to blog the conversations (and, I have been cursed with good enough recall on conversations).

"For a conference on community, it is interesting that it is mostly males - if you think about it, communities are built by women. Well, I guess the tools are made by males."

That's when I snickered and said "yes, some of these people are tools.

"Damn, the Threadless presentation was amazing - they really understand this whole community thing."

I guess - it's just not for me, I think.

"Dogster rules."

Go Perry Go.

"Noah, you gotta introduce me to Sean Suicide - that's one of the reasons I came, to meet him and see his panel."

Okay, that was me. And, the last panel was one of the main reasons I came down to the event (I hate driving, and I hate driving in the rain). The panel included James Hong of HotorNot and Drew Curtis of Fark - among others - and was moderated by Guy Kawasaki.

Why was I so stoked to see this panel? Because Suicide Girls is a real live community with message boards, forums, personal pages - it's more than the social networks that we have seen spring up in the Bay Area. And, it does a lot more than the sites here seem to do, but have a lot more buzz in our echo chamber. I wish Guy had talked to Sean more on the panel, but with SG being in LA, I bet there's less mindshare here, even though more of the sites up here should look at SG and realize they are doing right.

Another interesting comment: That's never been a problem for you, Jeremy. What you say about someone is what you say to someone.

My response: would you rather the opposite? That reminds me of Martin Niemoller, and the Web 2.0 community's desire to put its head in the sand and make comments about ideas or people they might disagree with, but do not have the conviction of character to flat out speak out.

I think that's the problem in the Bay Area / Valley. We are so caught up in our own little universe, we forget the real world. While the presentations were great - some a lot better than others, and some just outright boring or abominable - they were very slanted to the audience: Stanford students and Valley people. There is so much more of a real world out there that does not care about online communities, but is doing real stuff in real communities.

I was talking to another person who is launching a social community, and the response was that he wanted to build up in the Web 2.0 community first. My response? Why - they aren't your audience, and do nothing for you. You need to speak to person A, B and C - or you are going to be dead in the water. And, oh, it takes time to build an online community: none of these sites were built overnight, but took a few years to get where they are.

It's about the real world community, and that's something that the Web 2.0 community does not understand. They are not here, but in those disdained fly-over states. Those are the people with purchasing power (I know, how tacky to talk about a business model for Web 2.0, but those that forget the dot-com boom lessons are doomed to relive them). Talk to real people that do not live here. Do not think that the world cares about the product because it is in the Web 2.0 arena. Think of the outside community that is going to use the product, and talk to them. That's why I found it so refreshing to talk to Joy and Izzy from Star Farm Productions - they are in Chicago, and from our conversations, they should have been on stage talking about their work.

For all this talk of social communities, it was funny to see these two posts by Tim O'Reilly and Jon Udell. When do we reach the saturation point for too many online communities? Then again, how do you hold on to your identity, and make it your own? Or, well, control it.

For more good round-ups of Community Next, check out by Tim Johnson, Scott Beale and Rohit Bhagarva (although I disagree on niche).

Another favorite of mine was by Heather Luttrell from Indieclick and 3Jane, whom I have worked with in the past. Heather gets it better than anyone else out there, and it'd be great to see her speaking more often for that token female spot. She's the real deal - and my disclaimer is that I worked with her in the past, and that's when I cemented my view that she got it, and the speech verified it.

photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

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