Here in the Phoenix area, the housing industry is booming with the roll out of these new “master planned communities”. Physically, these communities are surrounded by high walls and require passing through a security gate to enter, and individual back yards are each walled off.
So it looks like Apple Digital Campus Exchange is extending this walled-in community concept to the web– this place of “exchange” is a “community” of weblogs where you have to get a login and password to enter, even just to read content. (RSS sneaks out of the walls! Thanks to some quick work by D’Arcy Norman, you can read an aggregated version of all the ADCE blogs in a site he quickly cobbled together, it is the equivalent of hanging out in the alley behind the walls).
This is, well, stupid. To me. This is no stinkin’ community if you have to go past a security gate. Sure it looks spiffy and pretty from the outside, but what is the message if you are outside looking in? And yes, I know it is “free” and anyone can get the security access to enter, but symbolically, blogging behind a password is not blogging in its true, open, socially networked sense.
And its a good thing to keep in mind when people fluff on and on about “online communities” because for the most part, they bear no resemblance to real world communities that are NOT master planned. Real communities happen in the places people naturally hang out for social or common activity reasons (think parks, bars, coffee shops, rec centers, book stores), not because someone “designed” a clean new building specifically to be a community. Real communities do not have gates and guards.
As you go about your day, look carefully at places where people congregate and ask yourself- is this really the same as those stilted online places that are built with FODS (Field of Dreams Syndrome-“if you build it, they will come”). Commnuties do not happen under large neon signs that say “Community Here”.
C’mon, Apple, get your act together, and drop the security gate to the ADCE area. It’s hard enough inside to even find anything, but putting a barrier at the front whittles your audience from the outset (unless the metaphor is really a country club).
P.S. I am supposed to be blogging inside ADCE myself on the Future Tense blog. Maybe I’ll howl about it there as well.