I’ve been guilty of this several times over, but its easy to fall into the Field of Dreams Syndrome (FoDS) by focusing on the construction of the place (“build a virtual community and they will come”). I’ve rambled before about this, that if you look at real communities of people, it is just more than the coors of the walls they hang out at; and I remain firmly convinced that we under-focus on the social aspects of the “community” and over-focus on the place.
So last Thursday I was in a meeting, and missed the big webcast launch of the Apple Digital Campus Exchange. Look at all the things the “place” required– registering in advance, downloading a special application (cast stream), logging in at a set time. I arrived a little over an hour late and must have missed the show:
As you can see, I actually left it open the rest of the afternoon and never got a thing. I could not even tell what this application does.
It must have gone well from the opinion of the organizers; they congratulated themselves on having over 1000 people register; yet according to s snapshot view of “who’s online” September 15, the maximum as about 40 minutes into the webcast was a whopping 30 people, and I bet at least 1/3 were ones involved with the event. Woohoo.
And the archive is where? I thought my email said it would be available in a week (?) the folks at Learningtimes (which provides live web activities that play in an ordinary browser) have audio archives available immediately after an event!
Just to show that I too can throw stones at my own glass houses, in September 2004, we scheduled a live “virtual” kickoff for our new Ocotillo groups; we had some pre-recorded video greetings, and held discussion boards open for a week. The level of response and participation was negligible, and we too had a taste of FoDS. In our subsequent asynchronous events that year, we learned how critical it was to have some very structured processes for these events, and that it took a lot of legwork to get people “in”.
So am I chewing bad Apples just beause I do not agree with their methods of requiring logins to read ADCE blogs? Maybe.
But I just did some checking to see the ripples this event had across the net. It is barely discernible. Googling “+ADCE webcast” found one other blog that referenced this event. Technorati tag on ADCE brings up a whole lot of irrelevant things in other languages, and a few announcements from participants. Over at Feedster? Nada much except D’Arcy Norman picking up on the complaint cycle of the walled gardens. There are no sites tagged adce in del.icio.us (of course no one in their right mind would tag a closed web site). There’s diddly squat in Furl. ADCE is zero for Bloglines.
The regular signposts of the internet really do not register this is even happening– it is so far down the Long Tail, it is humped by the curve and neighbors to things like the 19th Century Peruvian Belly Lint Collectors Society or the Fred Thompson Colostomy Photo Blog site.
It could/should be said I am being a hard head about Apple (“it’s brand new, and will evolve”) and yes, they are reacting somewhat to our requests to make the blogs public to read (not yet though). But they seem to be chasing the cluetrain, not driving it. No, I could not write this inside their community because it might be construed as “Anti-Apple”. Yes, I am trying to stir up the pot…
Once again- communities, online or real world, do not happen because you build a place– they happen because there is a place and compelling, social reason to be in that place. And if you do build they place, it ought to be open and free of special requirements to access it. In fact, in the ideal community, the place become transparent, faded to the background, to the activity that goes on there.