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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« letter to my younger self | Main | friendships »
Tuesday
Jun052001

online communities






News/Updates/Links (5:36 pm EST)



Guest Blather from Bryan! See below!


Waiting For Frodo updated. LOTR updated.


(Wired) 1 out of 4 computers physically attacked by owners. :-D


(Wired) E-books still not taking off.


Fox has a new comic strip. (Warning: not appropriate for younger viewers!)








Guest Blatherer: Bryan Fullerton




So here goes my first guest Blathering - not really sure what to talk about, I suppose I should start writing more so I can just pick up at the drop of a hat and go on about things. I'm being encoraged to start a blog - we'll see.


Spent the afternoon hanging out with Debbie - lunch at Fune, then some wandering around, then hanging out and watching Elizabeth on DVD (I'd never seen it before) while she worked on some art stuff. As usual, Debbie was the consummate host, providing iced tea and lovely Rolo ice cream and bagels. I'll never starve visiting Deb!


Have to wrap up now - heading out for (more!) sushi with Christine and Sue, then home to play with my new TiBook. Ah, the consulting life is rough. :)


Bryan





I'm finding it fascinating to watch the feedback boards over on my Lord of the Rings...A Final Attempt site. I started these pages as a fun project to give me incentive to try get through the books before the movie in December. I added the feedback boards on a whim, figuring that a few people might want to post their comments as well.


I had no idea that the response would be so enthusiastic. :-) Yesterday, for example, there were *83* postings on the response page for that one chapter. After posting a chapter report, I generally only have to wait a few minutes before someone posts the first reply. Lots of avid Tolkien fans out there!


My favourite part of this whole experience, however, is that the small community that has formed on those message boards is now pretty much self-sustaining. This pleases me more than you can imagine. A few will post comments on my report, but the conversation usually goes off in multiple directions from there. Community members exchange links, info, anecdotes. Some are already over there planning the next community project! :-)


I'm a sucker for online communities, as some of you already know. I think they are one of the best things the Internet has to offer. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), big business hasn't really found a way to make online communities very profitable, which is why many of them are now abandoning the attempt. I was amazed at how many big companies assumed they could spend a lot of money on sophisticated discussion forum and chatroom software and that a zillion people would immediately rush to use them (hopefully with open wallets in hand).


They don't understand that online communities don't come out of a box, that there must be some organic growth and nurturing involved, as well as a genuine interest in that particular community that goes beyond seeing them as potential marketshare. It's that last factor that most companies don't understand. In my experience, I've found that it's actually a fairly straightforward process to draw traffic to a Web site or online community. The key factor is the people involved. Too many companies invest ridiculous amounts of money in ultra-slick community software when they would be far better off hiring (even part-time) a few people who are passionate about and members of the online community being targeted. Thus far, I've spent a total of $250 on software for The Electric Penguin communities. I know of one company who spent over US$20,000 on their community software (and that didn't even include tech support!) with disappointing results.


I'm currently involved in several online communities (Harp Resource, Dandelion Report, Blatherings/Blatherchat, and Lord of the Rings...A Final Attempt) hosted on The Electric Penguin. I have vowed to keep all as fun hobbies...my main focus is always going to be on my own writing, once I get back into workmode. I've tried to set things up so that each community can eventually be self-sustaining, with only occasional maintenance from me. I find it fascinating to see how each is developing with its own personality and interactive dynamic.


But I've promised myself that I'm not going to start up anymore online communities. Nope, no way, no more. I mean it this time! :-)


Today's Blatherpics:


- My sister-in-law Larkin and niece Brittany.


Feel free to suggest a daily poll question.


Today's Poll:

In your opinion, is it possible to be close friends with someone you have never met, but with whom you frequently exchange e-mail?

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