Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Building the #digpen community on Google+

As my #digpener buddy Sophie Dennis knows, I'm a bit of a 'new paradigm lunatic' when it comes to Google+. It was quite unexpected for me. I'm not a big fan of monopolies taking over the world, didn't jump on Buzz or Wave, and have always felt a bit of a cynic when it comes to new platforms, especially when they involve social media. But as soon as I saw the Google+ circles, it really was like love at first site.

So why this somewhat irrational willingness to fall for Google+, and is this my heart leading my head, or my head leading my heart? And why do I think it so good for our fledgling #digpen community? I have been trying to understand this myself, and find some logical reasoning to explain my passion.

At first site, there is an issue with Google+, in getting it to work well for a community: at the moment it is not possible to set up an organisation, or a shared group. It is not possible to set up that one place that says 'this is #digpen' - 'come here and talk', 'come here and see who the #digpen members are',' come here and get the latest #digpen news', etc. So we start looking for 'work arounds' and wondering why Google hasn't thought about this, and why they aren't (yet) letting people create organisation profiles (at least they are discouraging it for the moment). Is this just because it is in Beta? Surely they have thought about this?

Well I am not sure whether it is intentional or not, but I believe the creativity induced by this current constraint leads me, and maybe others, to think again about community, and how best to create a real one. Thing is, having a place for people to go and share stuff does not make a community. Like a church building will never be the house of God (am I allowed to use a religious metaphor without causing offence? - No offense intended!). It is of course all about what happens within a place, and a place is of course a limiter - trying to keep relationships and communications within a static place will stop those relationships growing, both in number and in strength - the building is always at risk of killing those relationships from really developing.

Any online forum will always be limited. There will always be just a small percentage of people in that forum who are active. The rest will be spectators, occasional commentators, at best. The majority will sit back in the assurance that things are happening, a discussion is taking place (if the forum is still alive), that can be watched, and on occasion maybe chipped in on, but only a small percentage (maybe the 20/80 rule?) will feel a part of that apparent community.

So in Google+, we are all responsible for creating, and building, our own circles, our own communities. #digpen will thrive as a movement with shared values and an emerging shared vision as lots of those circles start to overlap each other. It is that overlapping that will make us really strong. No one person and no one forum will be the making and subsequent inevitable downfall of the community.

So that is why I think I really want you all to get on there, and build your own circles of web dev types in the SW, and invite people in to your own mini communities. I am convinced as you do so, and start to really communicate and get to know people in your circles, and open yourself up to the other people in the locality, and invest in strenthening these relationships, when we all do this, that exciting thing that the world is looking for will REALLY start to happen, right here, in #digpen territory.

Does this have to all happen on Google+ - no absolutely not. In fact, it is kind of key that there's stuff going on elsewhere too. Because if Google+ starts to lose favour, our community should not be dependent on that. And it should be offline as well as online. But Google+ is a great tool for us to use, I am sure of it, because it is based on these circles that mimic a healthy essential part of real society. But it will only really be effective if we all get on there, and take our individual responsibilities, build our own circles, and invest time and effort in developing our relationships within those circles. And when we all do this, together, it will be AWESOME (even in spite of those bugs - still waiting for my +1s to appear!)

Oh yeh, almost forgot to say, if you do get on it, don't forget to add me to your circle :)


  1. Great post. (And thanks for taking the "New Paradigm Lunatic" in good humour. You know I am a Frankie Fan really!)

    I may be guilty of being too restricted in my thinking. The multiple, overlapping circles creating their own fluid community is, as you've pitched it, quite exciting. I will, though, continue to hope for integration between G+ circles and Google Groups, or some kind of shared/public circle feature. I feel people want that sense of joining or belonging to an identified community. I think people will want to opt-in/out of group circles, and have control over that themselves (rather than relying on the circle owner, as they are now).

    I can't believe Google aren't way ahead of us on that kind of thinking. If the Google+ promise is about everything you already have on Google, but "Plus", I can't believe Groups won't be part of that eventually. They are certainly already talking about exciting extra functionality for "non-user" entities: business, bands, groups, teams and so on.

    And Groups look so old-fashioned and clunky now I'm aching for the new UI style to be carried over.

  2. Where will hangouts and sparks fit - will regular hangouts help to compliment the #digpen community....

  3. Thanks Sophie :)I'm sure that kind of stuff will come, but in the meantime I think it gives us room to grow.

    Hangouts and sparks Craig, I'm just starting to look at them now, think they mighht be useful. Was interesting to see my blog come through so quickly on your #digpen spark feed - but then it is on blogger. Will be interesting to see if other people's blog posts using the tag will do so too

    Hangouts - will be very useful I think when we all get comfortable with video cam - not used it yet though - not got past installing the plugin yet. Looks like it is only video cam? Or does it include text chat too? Would be useful for us to have both. I would like to see the mobile Huddle functionality online as well as in the mobile app - I think that would be really useful - especially if the messages sent stayed in your huddle group's history.

  4. The google+ is creating a great image in the world of social media nowadays, maybe after a year facebook will totally collapse. Building #digpen is great, you will be the first to do it in the google+.