Looking for somewhere to belong

Reading Lilia & Stephanie‘s very clever paper on weblog communities, I start asking “Why? What’s my motivation here” (Hey give me a break darling – you can take the boy out of the theatre you know, but you can’t take the theatre out of *this* boy).

No really, why would you want to be able to see where or whether a community exists? Well I don’t care much why *you* would, but I guess what I would want to be able to discern is: “Does this blog represent some aspect of a community of which I would like to be a part..thereof…maybe?”

OK – I can see two cases for me. I feel I belong (and that this blog belongs) to the KM community that’s talked about in the paper. For me I’m clear that this is a group of people who probably would have got together sooner or later as long as they made some form of contact with each other. Initial contacts probably happened by chance or by recommendations and then their blogs and online lives made contact and relationship building easier and made them happen more quickly than you might otherwise expect. I see the most important characteristic of this community as self-selection. I’m a member if I say I am. Other people recognise me as a member and seek out my company based on the quality of what I have to say, but I could lurk and *for me* I would still feel part of the community – I’m only ever one post away from being seen, recognised (maybe even secretly worshipped) by others.

I contrast this with my membership of another community of bloggers. I share my art through nanki – the scanblog. I never write stuff there (well hardly ever) except for replying to comments. That blog is a member of the Blogs Illustrated blog-ring and for that there are more explicit rules, a tribal mark that members must carry and as a ring, the blogs are tied to each other as long as they carry the ring code. You’re either in or your out – and you only get in if Madge says so. When it comes to lurking, well I might see myself as a member without posting anything or joining up, but nobody else would. The barriers to entry are higher (though still not that high). You have to have a candidate blog that meets the criteria an you have to show it to Madge who then says yea or nay.

Now in the first example it’s not at all clear who the members of the community are at any one time – but do I care? No – as long as I cultivate a position of acceptance towards anyone who comes along and says “Howdy, glad to see y’all here”.

I’m not sure what all this means and whether it adds to what the paper says or not but it sure was fun thinking it through!