It is said that those who do not study and learn from history are inevitably doomed to repeat it. While Mr. Everything is a very intelligent (and certainly a very cunning) man, he is very clearly new to the online world, at least in relative terms as reckoned by someone who has been online for more than twenty years now. I tried to teach Mr. E a bit of online history and share with him a few of the lessons I’ve learned over all these years.
I challenged Mr. E to a bet. Would he try out every social network I could dig up? His eyes lit up and he said sure! I could see the wheels turning behind his eyes, an aura of excitement passing over the man as he imagined discovering and conquering hot new sites before any of his friends heard about them. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind. I sent him this list of sites to join in what was to have been the first week of our little bet:
The CompuServe Forums
I myself have accounts on some of these and have had accounts on others. I do not however actively participate on any of thse sites at this time. And there’s actually a good reason for that. By and large, having tried and tested these sites I either found no use for them, or after using them for a time found that between the changes I had grown through and the changes the sites had grown through, they no longer served by needs. Back in the late 80’s or early 90’s Compu$erve was the only game in town if you had a computer and wanted to “go online” and did not want to mess with finding a local bulletin board service that was a free call from your home telephone.
The fact that today the “CompuServe Forums” are actually a pretty lonely and poorly traveled corner of the Internet does not diminish what a huge game changing big deal they were in their hayday. And I am hardly going out on a limb to predict that some day, sites like Twitter and Facebook that really are essential for social networking to so many people today will too come to be passe, a shadow of their former selves or even taken offline entirely. An Internet community on a web site is actually a very fragile thing. You will see them start up at times or stumble upon them into their evolution. You will participate and help them grow at times. And at times, you will see them die. Sometimes death is gradual, as more and more users simply gravitate away to other diversions. Other times death follows a damaging flame war or series of flame wars that literally burn all of the life out of the group.
In my considered opinion it takes a great deal of time, energy and talent to create and maintain a good online group, which in some ways is really only as good as whomever chooses to continue participating there Today. I think you need to be selective about where and how you spend your time. I do think it is important to continually try new things and look for better ways. But I’m also dead set against trying to participate “Everywhere” and think that being able to find and examine available resources and figure out which ones to use and how best to use them, is pretty much a core competency of #socialnetworking or just about anything else you might try do for a living these days.
Next Week: Mr. E’s reaction to my e-mail