Saturday, March 18, 2006

Does your library have a commitment to building community (online or otherwise)? Read this.

Thanks to Creating Passionate Users (a fantastic blog that should be on all Webbie librarians' lists), I was tipped off to danah boyd's presentation "G/localization: When Global Information and Local Interaction Collide" from this month's O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

The whole thing is fantastic as she looks at successful online community-building entities like Flickr, MySpace, and Craigslist. And there is much for libraries to learn from here. Here's a snippet talking about what successful online community sites have in common:

"These three sites have many attributes in common. They all grew organically. They each have public personalities that early adopters feel connected to. The early adopters really felt as though they were participating in and creating an intimate community, even as the community grew to millions. Users are passionate. Designers are passionate. They feel a responsibility to it and are deeply invested in making users happy. Character was not boiled out of the site; the text on the system is natural and goofy, reflecting the personality quirks of the developers rather than the formal speech of a corporation. Each site has a unique culture that was born early on and evolved through years of use and growth. The culture evolves with the designers and users working in tandem.

Customer service is not a segregated group who simply answers questions of a finalized product. They are completely integrated into the design system and the senior people are the most deeply embedded in user culture. There is a strong commitment to the needs and desires of the users.

While the creators have visions of what they think would be cool, they do not construct unmovable roadmaps well into the future. They are constantly reacting to what's going on, adding new features as needed. The code on these sites changes constantly, not just once a quarter. The designers try out features and watch how they get used. If no one is interested, that's fine - they'll just make something new. They are all deeply in touch with what people are actually doing, why and how it manifests itself on the site.....

The designers of these systems are engaged in embedded observation. They are living in the culture that they are helping to frame. They are aware of the others living in that culture and constantly engaging with them to really understand the emergent behaviors. They recognize their power as designers and try to use it to benefit the collective rather than their own personal goals. Their design process is stemming from this embedded observation, producing a state of "flow" to use Cziksentmihalyi's term. The designers love what they are doing and infuse their passion into the systems. This is a very powerful way of doing design. " took all the discipline I have (and those who know me know that's not much) not just paste the whole text of the presentation here...check it out. And then find a way to ensure everyone in your Web & IT departments is infused with it as well.

Because, as boyd explains, to be successful, we "must live the culture that (we) are creating."


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