A good online community will hurt you

Warning: This is a wandering piece / draft of something I might develop later.

BuzzFeed’s feature story about Google Reader’s “lost social network” offers an interesting look at the small communities that take root in odd spaces.

Google Reader 1.0 was never meant to be a social network. Hell, it was barely a social tool. But a community formed amidst the simple comment and sharing mechanisms that Reader provided.

The story reminded me that “social” isn’t about tools or technology. It’s about people gathering where they want to gather (this is also why publishers need to go where people gather … but that’s a rant for another time).

Unfortunately, that small Reader community wasn’t big enough or vocal enough to warrant continued support from Google — not with Facebook gaining more power by the minute. So, when the Google+ makeover ripped through Reader, the old community evaporated. And a lot of people in that community were sad because finding a place where you want to be is hard.

I went through a community disruption of my own a long time ago. I ran an X-Files forum on T@ponline / OnTap back in the late ’90s (don’t laugh, the “X-Files” was awesome). It attracted a small-but-committed group of people, most of whom came for the “X-Files” but stayed for the conversation. I loved it.

For a few years everything was great, but the parent company was bought and the new owner decided to change things. My forum — as engaging as it was — wasn’t deemed a priority. Which was completely fair because it wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t a profit center. It wasn’t integral to the future of the business. It was simply a fun and largely trivial outpost with great discussions.

I say that now. Back then I thought changing anything about the forum or the site was the height of idiocy. How dare they disrupt this beautiful thing! Clearly, they know nothing about the web! (I used to think that a lot.) Continue reading “A good online community will hurt you”

Notable things: Note taking and TV show recapping, a simple fix for Google’s antitrust problem, keep shooting

From 2004-2010 I spent an ungodly amount of my free time recapping and analyzing “Lost.” I watched each new episode intently and took lots of notes, while all the while thanking my ninth-grade typing instrutor for giving me the gift of touch-typing.

The weird thing is that I rarely referenced those pages-upon-pages of notes when it came time to write the recaps. The process of taking notes while watching organized my thoughts to the point where I didn’t require back-up. Yet, there’s no way I could have cranked out the same material at the same speed had I not engaged in this note-writing exercise.

I was reminded of this when I read through Andy Greenwald’s TV Mailbag on Grantland:

When I’m recapping, I tend to pause the show every five to 10 seconds to jot down a line or an observation. Obviously, this is hugely annoying to anyone else in the room, so I tend to watch “work” shows on my laptop with a Word document open … For an hour-long show, I tend to accumulate about 10 pages of notes, most of which I never look at again. But the act of writing it down tends to lodge the stuff more firmly in my brain. [Emphasis added.]

I guess that note-taking quirk isn’t quite as odd as I thought.

(Incidentally, I miss watching “Lost” and I miss the fantastic community that revolved around it, but I don’t miss the 3-5 hours it required to recap each episode. I still don’t understand how/why my wife put up with that “hobby.”)


Randal C. Picker proposes an elegant solution to Google’s antitrust problem: let people set their own defaults for maps, local reviews, etc.:

Google hard-wires its search results in favor of its own maps, so a restaurant search on Google will return results with maps from Google. Perhaps I prefer MapQuest to Google Maps. Regulators would be understandably concerned that the rise of Google Maps has been driven by how tightly linked it is to Google’s underlying search engine and not because it is a superior product on its own. If consumers could designate a default maps provider, antitrust regulators would have much greater confidence that Google Maps is winning on its own merits.

Like rebates and coupons and rain checks and anything else that requires a modicum of effort, we know few people will ever reset those defaults. And that’s not taking into account Google’s superiority in many of these services. I use MapQuest about as much as I use Lycos.

Nonetheless, providing the option to switch services could go a long way toward easing regulators’ concerns.


The title of this image: “I’m not going to lie. I took 174 photos to get this ONE.”

I had a photography teacher in college who implored us to “keep shooting.” And this was before digital was the default.

He was right. You’ve got to take a lot of shots to get a good one.