At LeWeb in Paris (December 2009) Chris Pirillo articulated some underlying principles for creating true (virtual) community. Matt Buckland recorded Chris’ points in text form. I’m going to make some comments on them now.
Chris started by saying “I don’t have an agenda; I don’t have an announcement…” referring, of course, to the number of companies that had been making announcements on the stage. Probably not unusual, since you want to make product announcements where they will be heard, but it was certainly being noticed this time around.
The full video of Chris’ talk appears at the bottom of this article. I’m going to pick and choose from the points that Matt jotted down.
So, what is the essence of community? Community…
[Chris says] Community… lives inside us. Where I go, community goes. We create it based on our preferences, likes, dislikes and the people we link up with;
Sky sez: Community is a construct composed of our connections and interactions — to that extent, wherever we go we bring those connections with us. Because we are becoming highly-linked through electronic media (and social media), our communities may in fact be available to us almost everywhere we go! Communities of interest and Communities of practice are examples of these kinds of virtual communities (unlike our neighborhood, which is a physical community). We all participate in many communities, sometimes interacting in a number of them at the same time.
… is becoming increasingly distributed, as we distribute our ideas and thoughts across social networks;
I have already made a comment on this (prior to hearing Chris), in remarking that bloggers are beginning to spread out beyond blogging and take their communities with them into Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. But, of course you’ve noticed that too. You probably started tweeting a long time ago, added a Facebook or Linked-in profile, and put more of your photos on Facebook now than on your old photo-sharing site. So if it’s true that 25% of Web traffic is to Facebook, then this certainly means that some of the social behavior that motivated blogging has moved, with many of us, to Facebook.
… is a commodity, but people [themselves] aren’t. It’s easy to set up a website or blog, but the people and voices behind it are what makes it unique, special;
I’ve been promoting this idea for years—and I still have to remind clients that they can set up an online community web site, but they still need people to staff it, and they still need customers’ voices to make it really happen. And when you inject people into the equation, it forces things to scale more linearly and it costs more for upkeep and maintenance of the human community members.
… cannot be controlled, but can be “guided”;
That’s the essence, isn’t it? You have to listen to what your friends, community, customers, are saying. I’m reading Peter Block now, and he’s one of the masters of using transformational change to solve community issues. [Photo is from peterblock.com.]
… is no longer defined by physical boundaries. You probably have more in common with a geek living on another continent than your next door neighbour;
About a year ago someone asked me whether The Dalai Lama Foundation wasn’t just “a big web site with a small organization…” At first the question offended me, but that didn’t last long as I realized and even pointed out that the organization in fact did do much of its work online. So it is indeed a large web site with a (smaller human) organization behind it. The organization was and is distributed geographically. It uses network communications to get people going and then local groups of people may begin working on their own. There is little planned organization of this process, and it grows entirely organically.
… grows its own leaders. the best leaders come organically out of a community, and is not an appointed one. It’s crucial that communities grow it’s own leaders for credibility and respect reasons;
Leaders arise organically from within communities. Leaders arise when a cause needs someone to carry it forward. At the Foundation we have had six years of growing in response to leaders who arise organically and naturally from our communities. This is reflected in the many projects that the Foundation has incubated or supported. This leaves the central organization small, but promotes the growth of new organizations that respond to the immediate needs of the constituent communities.]
… is the antithesis of ego. Community is myself and everyone else, not just me or my Twitter stream;
Yes, community is looking outward to see and to listen to what those in the community want. And that’s why leaders develop and grow organically within healthy communities.
… is everywhere, inside you. It’s what you share, your passions — and it’s this that will spell success.
Focus on these points: 1) look for people who share your needs, desires and motivations; 2) connect with them; 3) expand that connection by listening to the needs of those in the communities you form or join; 4) help foster organic growth of leaders within your communities; 5) continue looking outward at all times!
[swfobj src=”http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/2752312″ width=”480″ height=”386″ flashvars=”autoplay=false” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”true”]
 Matt is one of the Traveling Geeks, having been involved most recently in the Paris LeWeb trip, and before that having been part of the South Africa trip (which I was not).
 Could 25% of page-views on the Web really be attributed to Facebook? Drake Direct says so. Their source for the stats is compete.com, which uses a sampling methodology (they have a sample set of people who “represent” the Internet user population) and projects their results to a large population (all Web users). They are not directly measuring real traffic to any web site—they are estimating. I have done statistical work of this sort, and for certain kinds of probability distributions it is problematic…particularly long-tail distributions. So don’t believe the 25% statistic, but do believe that traffic to Facebook really is quite high!
 Remember not to confuse the Web with the Internet. It is only a subset of overall traffic on the net. Email probably still accounts for far more traffic than web pages, and video is coming into its own rapidly.