The buzz of an emergent community

I was chatting with a friend who was evangelic in their description of the emergent community on the AltSpace VR (virtual reality) social network They had met great friends, the kind of meaningful interactions that seldom occurs on your Facebook wall now.

But was this about the power of VR? My take was that it is a minor factor at best. VR acted as a filter, it brought similar likeminded early adopters together. In many respects this mirrored other technology filters: the early days of dial up bulletin board services (particularly in the US with free local calls on the Bell network carriers),  AOL and CompuServe chat rooms or the Usenet.

Filipino community gathering under the HSBC building

The power of connecting likeminded people can be a transformative experience in the minds of participants.

If I think back before my time on the internet, my friend’s experience in the emergent community of AltSpace sounded like the people I met at the Hacienda. It sounded like the experience of many of the regulars at acid house club Shoom – which was hosted by Danny Rampling out of a small gym in South London.

These experiences are once lived, often never recaptured experiences rather like being on a school or college sports team. They only exist for a fleeting moment in time.

It was like being an early member on Flickr, or my friend Ian’s experience on CompuServe chat rooms (where he met his future wife).

So what makes these communities special?

  • Likeminded people who are likely to share a certain amount of norms and have common grounds to be there
  • A relatively small number of people. This number becomes inexact. In a good nightclub it would be a certain amount of exclusivity because not everyone knew it was there, rather than a strict door policy. The strict door policy is usually a remedial item done once the norms try and break down
  • Agreement to a set of common behaviours, for many years a common etiquette held sway on networks like Flickr. Facebook doesn’t have this except in tightly managed private groups

So what happens to these communities?

  • A number soldier on, particularly around passion points such as Harry Potter books / films / games
  • A small minority (cough, cough) Facebook for example transcend their community and turn into a utility with pockets of interest hidden in secret
  • Things move on. Think about restaurants or nightclubs that are now sites of investment properties in London or Manchester

About the photo: I took this on an early trip to Hong Kong. Every Sunday the Filipino and Indonesian communities would gather in different parts of the city to see friends, eat, sing, dance and trade items. This picture is of Filipinos,  taken in the private public space under the HSBC building in the Central district. Some years later this was a site for the Occupy Central protesters.

Emotional intensity in storytelling and journey planning

I went to a preview of Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. I belatedly found one of the photos that I took there of a game story line. I was particularly interested by the emotional intensity field which could be borrowed for comms planning, customer journeys and storytelling planning.

Interesting games development story telling

It provides yet another way of integrating culture into the planning process.

In praise of (D)SLR camera

If you still use a camera nowadays given the usefulness of smartphones, the phrase mirrorless has become de rigueur. Photography like most other things in life have become progressively more digital. Technology is increasingly mediating every aspect of our experiences.

Viewfinder

I still like ‘mirrored’ or single lens reflex cameras. Digital single lens reflex cameras free the photographer from the tyranny of film; but still allows the photographer to frame up a shot in advance before using the battery life of the camera.

Looking through the view finder of an SLR gives you a temporary isolation from peripheral visuals allowing you to focus mentally as well as physically on the subject in question.  It allows you to slow down and take your time in the moment.

Of course, as with most technology experiences, the human experience is viewed in a very one dimension manner. An object to be overcome in the least minimum viable way possible.

Good strategy

Riffing of a couple of tweets on good strategy by Matt Holt. Strategy and planning are considered to be disrupted by changes in the advertising industry. It often boils down to ‘ who needs good strategy when you have big data / machine learning’.

Big data tells you retrospectively where you should have zigged rather than zagged. It doesn’t plot an overall direction.  It is usually pretty reductive only focusing on sales now. It doesn’t think about future sales through building a brand and its good standing.

In marketing automation, it is focused on ‘harvesting’ from the end of the marketing funnel.

Travelling

  • Good strategy is sacrifice. It’s about making choices and saying no
  • Good strategy is specific. There is a specific well-defined problem to be solved. 
  • Good strategy is simple to explain (even if the subject matter is complex). If you’re setting a direction, the roadmap has to be clear for all stakeholders.
  • Good strategy has elegance. Which is a good measure of its simplicity.
  • Good strategy steers tactics. It provides a directional lens to the data and helps in deciding KPIs (key performance indicators) and HVAs (high value actions).
  • Good strategy is stubborn in the face of the shiny and new. Strategy is not a fad is a long term roadmap. The shiny and new can be a facilitator at best. At worst its a distraction. 
  • Good strategy is saying no to excess. Keep the strategy focused on the objectives that it addresses
  • Good strategy has its own intrinsic quality.
  • Good strategy seems self evident in retrospect. It’s not just a way to solve the problem, but has been sweated out to optimise it to the point that it seems self evident in retrospect.
  • Good strategy is emergent, not realtime. A strategy needs to be able to flex as conditions change. Its the direction, not an exhaustive road map.
  • Good strategy is not ‘big data’. It can be a source of insights that will help develop a strategy, but it’s not a strategy in of itself. 

Ramblings on loose networks and social connections

I went to a family funeral and got to think about loose networks and social connections.

In Ireland the tradition for a funeral is:

  • As soon as possible after death, the body goes to the funeral home. A coroner will have had to sign off on it
  • The body is put on exhibition in the coffin at the funeral home and family greet visitors who come and pay tribute to the deceased. The coffin is then closed and taken to the church in a procession, which slows as it passes the deceased’s home
  • The following day a funeral mass is held, followed by a procession to the cemetery and then the burial

This all happens really fast; usually three days from time of death to grave. Those of the family that can make it home try to, but there isn’t much time. So those who are a long haul flight away generally are excused from coming back home.

In the rural west of Ireland word goes out through a number of channels

  • Local radio – Galway Bay FM lists deaths and funeral information at regular times throughout the day
  • Local newspapers – the deaths feature on their web sites and in their print editiions (depending on publications and the timings of the death)
  • RIP.ie – a web service that people can consult to see what funerals are going on in their vicinity
  • Word of mouth then does the rest. Whether its gossip between neighbours, across the counter at a local shop or announced from the pulpit at mass

Local media and traditions have carved out a distinctive niche that doesn’t involve Facebook or other social media platform

The people that come along include:

  • Family
  • Relatives (second and third cousins, families who are connected via marriage)
  • Close friends
  • People who you knew but may have lost touch with like school friends
  • People you’ve done business with. In my relatives case it was agricultural  contractors and the local hardware store – which has a much wider range of stock than your average ToolStation or Home Depot to deal with the requirements of farms
  • Business relatives and friends of the bereaved

For the bereaved, the process does as good a job as you can helping the family deal with grief. In the case of my relative who had a sudden heart attack and died it provided closure. The person was eulogised and then sent on the next part of their journey onward.

For a rural community, made up of small towns and farms it presents an opportunity to reinforce loose networks and business connections. In our family’s case the farm as a business is passed down from generation-to-generation.

It becomes important for for business people to attend these events to cement business relationships. In our family’s case some of the visitors were business connections of one of my Uncle’s (who is still living) rather than the deceased.

Attending these events requires commitment. You had attendees travelling over an hour to pay their respects.

I was a bit surprised by how robust these loose connections were with relatively little reinforcement. It seems the habit of the funeral process plays its part.