Saturday, May 20, 2006

Building the online community

Lee Hopkins is a blogger and podcaster from "The beautiful Adelaide hills" who has gained a measure of fame (at least in my world) through his weekly contributions to For Immediate Release, the PR podcast hosted by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson.

I've listened to his posts for awhile, but only recently subscribed to his blog. In a recent post, he talked about a new book he was reading, called The Politics of Everyday Life: Making Choices, Changing Lives, by Paul Ginsborg.

But that's just his jumping off point. From there he moves into a thoughtful discussion about why the concept of "social capital" raised by Ginsborg resonates for those of us involved in the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon.

For me, the late nights and the many extra hours I put into Web2.0 are worth it, every last second. Because I have made new acquaintances and friends I would have been highly unlikely ever to have made without it; I have contributed to a global conversation that has the potential to reshape how the organisations that rule our lives rule over us; I have put my money where my mouth is and put words out into the digital realm where they can be found 20 years from now and potentially humiliate me with their foolish naivety.

Lee's words echo a lot of what I've been thinking about lately, especially in the wake of the Mesh Conference in Toronto this week. I do think we're in "a time of flux" as Om Malik put it, and the dramatic nature of what is happening will only become apparent in the years to come as we look back and try to make sense of it all. But for me, right now, the on-line community I'm building is as real to me as the brick and mortar one around me -- perhaps even more so. Here's how I put it in my comment on Lee's blog:

Lee — You’ve hit on a lot of the reasons why the Web 2.0 promise is so alluring. I suspect that much of it is the pleasure of connecting with like-minded folks in far-flung locations. As someone who lives in one city, but has often worked in another and grew up in yet another, I find my on-line community is becoming more “real” to me than the folks who live nearby. That’s kind of sad, but exciting at the same time. In a couple of months, I’m moving from one side of Canada to the other. I’ll be relocating to Victoria (British Columbia - not the other one) at the end of the summer. While it will be difficult to leave a place I’ve been for nine years, I’m excited to be heading to a new home. And the great thing is that my on-line community will effortlessly accompany me. The Web makes us all neighbours, who can chat anytime. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Too bad you’re not going to be in Vancouver for the IABC conference. But we’ll raise a glass in your honour at the FIR dinner!

By the way, the FIR dinner I mention at the end is a great example of the social web in action. Shel and Neville are hosting a dinner at the IABC conference in Vancouver (which they are both attending.) They've invited any of their listeners who are going to be there to join them for a dinner. So far, there's about 7 or 8 of us that have signed up. It will be a neat chance for a bunch of people who share a unique community to meet in person. I can't wait.

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