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Of Accidental and Intentional Communities

On the way to my office this morning, I was listening to NPR, and there was an article about the problems with Facebook and the alternatives that some people are considering, and it got me to wondering.

Facebook is one of those odd communities; like a continuous party, where people are always bopping in and out and you’re constantly meeting friends of friends of friends of friends (at least, that’s been my experience). There are some old college friends in one corner, a bunch of bomb-throwing activists in another, and the closet crowd in a back bedroom. But some of them are always going out and getting drinks and coming back in. And it’s huge, and noisy, and so the chances for any kind of extended dialog tend to be small.

Then there are places like this, which seems more like a neighborhood bar. I feel like I sort of know the people here, and some of them are happy to see me and some aren’t, and we all sit and drink and whine about things. But it’s different from Facebook—much more personal. More intentional. Facebook feels like a place where you meet people by chance; Groupthink much less so.


And of course, there are “professional” networks & c.

I found the notion that was being espoused on NPR of “smaller, more specialized, moderated” online communities interesting because I’ve been there. That’s the world of the Bulletin Board System (BBS) c. late ‘80s/early ‘90s. Communities were walled gardens, whether simple and technically-oriented like CBBS-1, or complex and socially-oriented (like FIDONET).

In light of the calls for people to abandon Facebook, I have to say that I’m not very likely to leave. What about you guys? Unalloyed good, total evil, or somewhere in-between.

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