Cafe Witness

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Do You Expect from Your Community?

A few months ago, I joined the Yahoo Videobloggers group. I was interested in taking the pulse of that subset of the web video world. (I know it's not 100% representative of the web video world at large, but it paints a broad enough picture to be relevant.)

Lately, the topics among the group have veered more sharply from technology to ethics. Most digest updates I receive contain upwards of 20 messages about people's opinions about certain individuals or companies, or the behavior thereof.

Yesterday, a newbie popped out of the shadows to say that he'd expected more technological discussions from the group, and was surprised at the level of personal opinion and hand-wringing taking place. The response from another group member was a reminder that ALL types of conversation about web video are welcome in this space, and that the pendulum would surely swing back to technology soon enough -- once the personal fires had been put out.

That got me thinking: should the Yahoo Videobloggers group subdivide into Tech and Content sub-groups?

And, in a larger frame, what do YOU expect from YOUR community? Are there topics that are off-limits, or that seem counterproductive to the larger conversation?

Too Much Information?

If Chris Brogan blogs about a travel hiccup, rather than community development and social networking, is your day disrupted?

If Seth Godin were to pause the marketing machine and blog for a day about sushi, would his opinion about sushi be in any way relevant to you?

Personally, I know I enjoy Peter King's and Dr. Z's comments about coffee and wine in their respective columns, mainly because it reminds me that well-rounded humans are writing these articles, not football-driven automatons.

It's the same reason I actually ENJOY seeing the Yahoo Videobloggers group bounce between technology and ethics.

What about you?

Do you believe a group / information outlet should stick to its initial premise for the sake of streamlined clarity and maximum impact? Or do these humane touches ADD value to the overall experience?

And -- what happens if a group (or creator) finds the focus of their work / existence... is shifting?

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  • We just went through this on the Yahoo GayPodcasters group. The FoF guys announced that they were nominated for some podcasting award and were flamed for it. In fact, some people got so ticked off that they left the group. The whole thing was pretty stupid. In this case, I think the post was warranted because it would be an honor for a podcast with a niche market to win an award. It shows how we can overcome the stereotypes.

    Alas, to answer your question, it's nice to stick on topic. In fact, a few of us are thinking about creating another group for Gay Podcast Marketing techniques and help versus the general help list. Split it.

    By Anonymous Jason Cable, at 12:19 PM  

  • ... although... I often go off topic on my podcast, but try to stick to things that my listeners would be interested in. For a Yahoo! group, you don't get a chance to know many of the people on the list, so it may be best to just stay on topic and let the moderator steer the group back on course.

    By Anonymous Jason Cable, at 12:28 PM  

  • You can't separate technology from ethics because sometimes, ethics determines the direction of technology.

    Without ethics, there's no Creative Commons. Why should anyone care about someone aggregating your feed or using your work commercially without asking your permission or making a monetary deal with you ahead of time without ethics?

    The best one can hope for is that the social sites that they frequent allow each individual to set their own personal filters so that they can see a topic one time, decide they don't want to see it any more and mark it "trash".

    Apple just made it so people can post directly to YouTube from iMovie. How ethical is *that* for OTHER SITES that host content for people?

    By Blogger Bill Cammack, at 12:50 PM  

  • I see both sides of the equation.

    On one hand, people really want to be able to drill deeply into a subject without getting sidetracked.

    On the other, people SHOULD be exposed to the well-rounded conversation. Lord knows we need more well-informed people in this world, rather than overfocusing on one issue...

    Bill's got a good point: what about the sites / groups allowing users to enable / disable specific tags, so less "off topic" information ends up in one's inbox / eyeline?

    Don't want to read"personal" posts? Where's the option to "block all posts marked 'personal.'"?

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 12:59 PM  

  • Boy, Bill Cammack hit the cover off that ball. What am I going to do? Ground out? When I get my hat handed to me on that list, I just smile politely, because I'm getting a free education into the minds behind the buttons.

    SPECIFIC to that list, I want them in that mode. I think they do their best work shitting all over people when they slip off base.

    I do, however, see the need for some tech education as well. Schisms don't work well. So, maybe we just wait for the pendulum.

    By Blogger Chris Brogan, at 2:08 PM  

  • What about the age old saying, "Everything in moderation." Personally if I am following a blog or community getting to know the people helps me appreciate what I'm viewing because I understand where it is coming from.

    With that said maybe people take things too personally online. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they aren't out to stir up trouble.

    By Blogger Norm, at 9:09 AM  

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