Rob Paterson recently discussed Reed’s Law and the Support Economy. Here are some selections from Reed’s Law, but you might want to read all of it.
In networks like the Internet, Group Forming Networks (GFNs) are an important additional kind of network capability. A GFN has functionality that directly enables and supports affiliations (such as interest groups, clubs, meetings, communities) among subsets of its customers. Group tools and technologies (also called community tools) such as user-defined mailing lists, chat rooms, discussion groups, buddy lists, team rooms, trading rooms, user groups, market makers, and auction hosts, all have a common theme?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½they allow small or large groups of network users to coalesce and to organize their communications around a common interest, issue, or goal. Sadly, the traditional telephone and broadcast/cable network frameworks provide no support for groups.
What’s important in a network changes as the network scale shifts. In a network dominated by linear connectivity value growth, "content is king." That is, in such networks, there is a small number of sources (publishers or makers) of content that every user selects from. The sources compete for users based on the value of their content (published
stories, published images, standardized consumer goods). Where Metcalfe’s Law dominates, transactions become central. The stuff that is traded in transactions (be it email or voice mail, money, securities, contracted services, or whatnot) are king. And where the GFN law dominates, the central role is filled by jointly constructed value (such as specialized newsgroups, joint responses to RFPs, gossip, etc.).
I’d like to close with a speculative thought. As Francis Fukuyama argues in his book Trust
, there is a strong correlation between the prosperity of national economies and social capital, which he defines culturally as the ease with which people in a particular culture can form new associations. There is a clear synergy between the sociability that Fukuyama discusses and the technology and tools that support GFNs-both are structural supports for association. As the scale of interaction grows more global via the Internet, isn’t it possible that a combination of social capital and GFN capital will drive prosperity to those who recognize the value of network structures that support free and responsible association for common purposes?
Rob’s take on this is that, "What he is saying is that the big value to come will not be in selling a thing, not in having a broadcast network or even a association network but will come from facilitating the development of communities."
Rob specifically names eBay as successful and Dell as unsuccessful in creating communities.
So how would you include this insight into your business strategy? Let’s say that you are an elearning company:
- Should you focus on developing content? Apparently not.
- Should you provide a learning portal or sell learning objects? Probably not a good investment.
- Should you find ways to connect people and address their learning and performance needs? Yes.
So content is not king. Context may be important, but community is the new king (queen, ace, or whatever you prefer). The next ultimate learning solution may be the ability to link trusted experts with novices and help communities of practice to develop. Blogs may be a precursor, and the next technology to exploit this could be an eBay model that allows for apprenticeship in a virtual, caring environment.
Matthew Lin, an MBA candidate at University of New Brunswick at Saint John,Canada, is currently conducting research on how weblogs are being used as business tools, and their particular implication for small and medium enterprises. Matthew has designed a questionnaire in order to survey individuals who publish weblogs or can describe the reasoning behind their company weblog. The survey is at The Blog as a Meaningful Business Tool.
If you or your company publishes a blog for business, then please support Matthew’s research.
In The Community of Practice Ecosystem, Miguel Cornejo Castro discusses blogs and their role in CoP’s. He sees blogs as:
- towers of dissent and independent thought;
- an outlet for fringe member initiatives;
- private premises of the independently inclined; and
- a sandbox for the yet unproven.
The described ecosystem consists of a common core (board, mailing list, groupware), blogs that may come and go, and other catalysts such as repositories and lists that co-exist within the conversational space of the community. The ecosystem lives in a state of creative destruction as knowledge resources compete for attention. This model of a community of practice shows how a decentralized approach in the architecture of the tools & resources may make the community more dynamic, as well as stable, in the long run.
Anyone interested in a Flash Meeting here in the Maritimes?
LearnNB had its first AGM today. This group is the overall organisation that includes the CSTD New Brunswick chapter. We have decided to put everything under one roof. The blog that I have started for the R&D community of practice will be linked to the main site, as well as the password-protected collaborative workspace. We are starting to align our technology and tools to enable collaboration throughout the province, and there seems to be a real willingness to work together. We will be hosting a CSTD Symposium this Spring (probably May) so stay tuned to the LearnNB site for more information.
Business seems to be picking up in the sector, especially for our private online universities, Lansbridge and Yorkville. New Brunswick’s legislation makes it easier for online universities to establish here and faster to get accredited.
Of course this had to start in California. The Gate-3 Workclub sounds like the perfect place to spend your workday. With a day pass or a monthly fee you can have access to common areas, phone services, private workspace, coyping services and much else. I think that we’ll be seeing more of these workplaces in the near future with the increase in micro-enterprises and project-based collaborative work. The operators state that it is more than a workplace, Gate-3 also provides:
Community with a work group that shares the day to day challenges and joys of an independent work-style.
Guidance and examples from work colleagues to help you with everything from balancing your work/life to using a PDA.
Support staff that will be there for you month after month and year after year.
Access to the latest in productivity tools, techniques and technologies without having to chase the latest fads.
The reassurance of knowing theres always someone on hand to help.
And there is a blog. Via Business Opportunities Weblog.
Seb Paquet, who works at the National Research Council’s e-learning group, with Stephen Downes and others, has been asked to quantify his impact on the research community. Personally, I see the connections that Seb and Stephen make on a daily basis. They are two critical nodes in the research dialogue of the e-learning community of practice.
Seb has helped me get started as a blogger and connected me to the work of some brilliant researchers, such as Lilia Efimova. Seb’s contacts helped to connect the open source bloggers at the last Moncton Cybersocial. Without Seb, Steve Mallet would not have showed up. As a result of the connections made at this event, a number of us are already discussing new business relationships. Seb’s published research informs my own research and practice, as many of my clients are interested in this "blogging thing". Seb’s perspective of the global community is a real inspiration for those of us in underpopulated, somewhat rural, New Brunswick. More recently Seb created the Atlantic Canada Bloggers wiki, a great map of who is blogging – the link is shown on my External Links [no longer available].
Stephen’s OLDaily is a great source of information, and I’m not sure how he finds the time to do it. His website is a treasure trove of information, insight, and sometimes contention (a good thing). Stephen’s Edu_RSS and Ed Radio are two small innovations that he developed in response to requests from the community. Stephen is someone who seems to be constantly giving back to the community.
I definitely feel that I am getting great value for my tax dollar from Seb, Stephen, Rod and the rest of the staff at the NRC.
In the book Systems Thinking: Managing chaos and complexity by J. Gharajedaghi (ISBN 0750671637), there are many concepts and examples of systems thinking. This is a book to read many times. One of the examples that Gharajedaghi provides is of the Oneida Nation. Their process used to solve problems is one that could be used for online communities, with three distinct roles to be performed in achieving consensus.
Using different attributes and characteristics for each of the three symbols of turtle, wolf and bear, the culture, to its credit, had identified and separated the three distinct roles of pathfinder, problem formulator, and problem solver. The role played by the wolves is that of pathfinder / synthesizer. Wolves display purposeful behavior by setting the direction, dealing with the "why" questions, identifing relevant issues, and defining the agenda and context before they are presented to the turtles, the problem formulators, to define them. The defined problems are, in turn, passed on by the turtles to the bears, the problem solvers. Bears generate alternatives and recommend solutions. Solutions are returned to the turtles to check on their relevance and potency before referring them back to the wolves to check on their relevance. Wolves are finally responsible for integrating the solutions, keeping the records, and ratifying and communicating the final agreements. Wolves keep the fire alive by motivating and monitoring others.
Like the Six Nations Confederacy from which this model comes, different individuals or groups can play different roles in order to find the best solution for an entire community of society.
The atmosphere last night at the Moncton Cybersocial seemed to be a lot more charged than previous gatherings of the IT community in Moncton. My topic of open source brought out some people who usually don’t attend these events. Believe me, it was the topic, not the speaker, who brought them out, because there was a lot of expertise in the room last night. It was great to meet Nathalie, Steve and the folks from the Moncton Linux User Group. I was also impressed by the contingent from PEI, including Will, Jevon, Jacob and Iain. Sorry if I’ve missed some names.
The consensus last night seemed to be that we should get an open source conference organised for the region. I suggested an open source track for the LearnTec conference in Miramichi this Fall, and I will follow-up. There are a lot of competent people working with open source, from hardware to operating systems to applications, and I am sure that this region will become a recognised centre of open source innovation. It was good to have the President of NBIF in attendance, witnessing the focus and drive of this community.
After a few false starts and some technical glitches, we have the new (and improved?) blog for elearning R&D in the region, available at www.learnnb.ca/blog/. This is a continuation of the posts started on the R&D Community Blog on this site, which will now be retired. The community now has its own web space, as part of the LearnNB site, which is hosted by the NRC.
I have also established a collaborative work space for interested community members. We are using the ACollab platform, which includes document sharing, file uploading and a discussion forum. Initial feedback is to use the blog for general discussions, and the collaborative work space for specific project-related issues. Please contact me if you would like access.
Feedback is always appreciated.