Sitting here in the Charlotte Airport, a conversation from the Duke CE Roundtable returned to me, as I plan for this week’s presentations about the Read/Write Web. Again, most of the attendees of that event were corporate educators with a handful of higher ed folks and me. Several of the corporate folks were struggling with ways of using technology to provide professional development, and someone said, “These people will not join one more portal!”
At this statement, it suddenly occured to me an important difference between between the traditional web (can’t help but smile at that)
and web2.0. Online communities, as powerful as they are for facilitating collaboration and knowledge building, suffer one important limitation. They have borders. Portals are often designed as closed environments with walls that prevent outsiders from coming in. Even the original collaborative tool, the mailing list (listserv), is a closed environment in that there is a gatekeeper who has to let you in, even if it is a software-based subscription.
The Blogsphere does not have this limitation. As we write and read blogs, subscribe via RSS to the blogs we want to pay attention to, read and respond to their postings, and have our postings and comments responded to, what forms is a social cell of idea exchange and building and personality sharing. Factor in the social bookmarks, and news feeds, and we find ourselves in side of a rich social community of people who have similar interests, or interests and perspectives that we find valuable to our goals.
Significantly different from portals and mailing lists is the fact that that cell forms almost organically. Back in December 2005, I subscribed (my first use of RSS) to three webloggers — people who I knew could help me to understand this new information environment. They talked about the ideas of other bloggers, with links to their sites, and I added new people to my aggregator. After a while some of them dropped of, and others were added as they got mentioned in my readings. My aggregator does not merely grow, it undulates ;-). It gets larger then it shrinks. It intersects with other peoples cells for a while as their ideas help me do my job, and then we disconnect, and my cell heads out into other directions.
Right now, it is fairly small, because I have so little time to read. But when I get a couple of these programming jobs out of the way, I have two or three topics that I will go to Technorati with, find people who are talking about them, and then grow my network — and learn.
Bottom line is that my online network is now organic. It evolves as my needs change, and how I process the ideas inside of my cell, affects other people and how their cells evolve.
Does this make any sense?