Creating Connected Communities

Maarten has a post on his Grid Thinking site about starting to work on a Connected Future and by using Yahoo Groups to do this. Instead of giving my reply to him in his comments area, I’m going to place it here because I think this act itself relays what I’m trying to achieve with my Connected Communities approach. Below is my response to him.

Maarten, I would definitely love to collaborate with you on this idea but I want to be able to practice what I preach in doing so. In effect, I’m relaying ideas that talk about decentralized groups of people collaborating together on common goals. Therefore, if I want to practice what I preach and actually be an implementation of what I want to see then whoever I collaborate with needs to work this way to put their beliefs into action as well.

To give you an example of what I’m talking about, check out the 9rules Network if you’ve never been to it before. What you will see there is a collaboration of people, all on different sites, who have a similar attitude and approach with things, so much so that the 9rules Network encompasses their beliefs and approach. However, what this network doesn’t do though is keep things decentralized because you have to go to a parent site to see the latest things that people are talking about. Your approach by using Yahoo Groups does the same thing. It creates a centralized area instead of capitalizing on what is already being said on each decentralized site.

So how do you create this connectedness without a centralized site? Aggregated feeds. Feeds aren’t just useful for getting the latest news but for connecting these communities as well. If you look at the 9rules site you’ll see that their list of latest entries by community members is just an aggregated feed of the last entry item from each member. Therefore, all you need to do to start the journey towards this connected community, connected thinking, and connected future is to embed this aggregated feed inside each site somewhere. I’m thinking maybe near the bottom footer area of the site. And if you remember back to the web rings of yesterday, that idea is somewhat similar to what I would like to do but just taking it to another level (i.e. presenting information better). Even better, it allows each person to format the layout of the community conversations to match their own site style.

What this aggregation does though is link like minded people together. That way, when people visit your site, they can not only read what you are working on but also easily see what others are collectively working on as well and then jump to their site to see what they are writing about. In effect, it creates a centralized community feel with different people talking but it is done through a connected network of decentralized sites.

More importantly, this allows each individual to approach their work the way they want. For example, we may all be talking about the same thing but each of us is describing it in different ways (i.e. I call it connected communites whereas you’re calling it connected future). Instead of arguing over semantics, the decentralized approach allows each individual to take their own direction towards the common goal. And over time, as usually happens, the more people share information this way, the more that commonalities will occur. For example, I’m just using "connected communites" as my description for this idea but that still doesn’t encompass all of my ideas and beliefs. As I just wrote on my site, culture within these connected communities plays a strong part as well, yet some may disagree with including it because they may feel it doesn’t relate to the project from a technological standpoint. Instead of arguing about this and a proper name for the project within a centralized site, people just continue working on their own in their own ways. In the future, maybe we will agree on a name but that shouldn’t stop us from collaborating right now.

Actually the only problem I see with utilizing this connected approach today is finding an online feed aggregator this is reliable and will meet the needs of the community. I was going to use FeedDigest but it doesn’t seem to be working well because it’s not updating my feeds with the current posts from day to day. I mean I’d like to see this connected community aggregated feed updated at least once an hour. If the online feed aggregator can’t do that (even though FeedDigest does say it does this), then it won’t meet the needs of the community. Actually the ideal approach in my opinion is to actually have feed aggregation built into each sites web software itself, so that the connected community is not dependent upon a centralized aggregation service that if it overloads and goes down, then the whole connected community breaks apart. Until all web software (i.e. Movable Type, TypePad, Blogger, TextDrive, WordPress, Squarespace, etc) includes feed aggregation though, that kind of approach is unfortunately out of the question.