What’s the difference between a community and a network? Is a community of practice a network or a community?
Clark Quinn looks at social media, and asks, “… how often we call them online communities, but the question is: are they really?” I’m not going to go into network theory or definitions in this post but I think that the difference, perceived or otherwise, between networks and communities is of importance to anyone engaging with web social media, especially for professional purposes. Understanding what you define as a community or a network can help develop your personal rules for connecting, linking, friending, following and of course unfollowing.
Dave Cormier discusses social networking with Twitter and makes a clear distinction between his network and his community on this medium:
The final issue i wanted to discuss was the management of your network. There are many theories about this, and I wont claim any supremacy for mine other than to say that it is how i stay effective with the degree of networkedness that I have created for myself. I am a constant gardener of my network, following people, unfollowing people, paying more attention to some people for a while and then moving on to others. This is the critical difference between a network and a community… My community members i stay with, my network is something more practical.
Many of us are connected to people in our networks who over time have become members of a closer community, whether it be through shared experiences or shared interests. We probably didn’t notice when connections became colleagues or friends. It just happened.
I’m sure that most people don’t think too much about the distinction between networks and communities but they know when someone has crossed the line of acceptable behaviour. Making network habits explicit can help when your networks get very large or when someone challenges you on a behaviour – e.g. Gee, I never thought about that! The larger someone’s network, usually the more explicit their policy on connecting. If you don’t set some rules you will probably be overwhelmed by noise from the network.
If social media are going to be an integral part of our professional and personal lives, all of us will need to become more explicit about our online etiquette. I’m not sure we need an Emily Post type of online etiquette guide but I’m certain many people will make money telling others what to do in the Networked Age.
Photo by alana jonez