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    • We must be seeking something that we're not finding.

      Why else do you and I keep running into each other each time a new social media platform or publishing platform hits the market?

      The same faces... the same desire to find that elusive sense of community built on a shared something. Which is odd because, by nature, people on social media seem to fall into three groups:

      Those looking for large audiences

      Those looking to share with their existing network

      Those looking to simply find interesting content and interesting people

      I guess I'm in the third group, and chances are, you are too. But it's funny how we keep running into each other, as if the last "clubhouse" wasn't quite right, or perhaps too many people crammed into it, or perhaps the community did what it's wont to do, dispersed after the novelty had worn off.

      There was a community I had initiated once on a different platform, one that was based on an idea of "disruption" initially as a response to what I was seeing elsewhere. A juvenile response, perhaps, but one where I felt I needed to find other like-minded people who were also frustrated with the tactic du jour. One where we used that frustration as our initial bonding energy, which then branched out to conversations, debates, and even camaraderie. Perhaps not "forged in fire", but there was a bond there.

      It's interesting how this keeps happening. It's like we've found this incredible bar, that a few people seem to have found first, and suddenly the gang is back together again. But we need more people to know about the bar, otherwise it seems to get stale quickly, so we tell people to come... but then slowly and surely it stops being "our bar". Suddenly there's karoake night, the bridge and tunnel crowd, a line out the door, and it's so noisy we can't have those incredible conversations over a perfect Last Word because our bartender is busy catering to some noisy group at the end of the bar ordering PBR tallboys.

      Until next we happen to meet?

    • Good questions, David. I've wondered about this for a long time while watching my own personal case study.

      17 years ago I launched Adventure Rider, a forum for people who like to ride the Land Rovers of motorcycles. It was obvious from the beginning, at least to me, that it was temporary until a shiny new thing came along. Fine by me, it would be fun while it lasted. It was on forum software that looked dated during an invasion of tech companies with huge teams and millions: Friendster, Friendfeed, Orkut, Buzz, Wave, Yahoo Groups, MySpace, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Google+...

      My intuition was reinforced after a few years when some of our earliest members drifted away, saying it had become too big and impersonal. Most of them are still gone and we miss them.

      But the strangest of things happened: it kept growing to 350,000 members and 2 million unique visitors a month and I feel the general sense of loyalty and happiness is higher now than it was.

      Here's my theory: when sites like Reddit get huge, people retire to their corners, but those corners get more interesting because if the network draws millions, the chances of a few people being interested in special interests you have is higher. And you can get a bigger audience for your particular interests. No?

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the Disrupters group, not just for the private conversation, but for the acknowledgement of being a gadfly, going against the grain of the typical marketing take over of social.

      I don't want to do marketing. I just want to be social.

    • Agreed. That community had a spark, however, that being the us-against-them camaraderie that was created by the opposition.

      For any community to really thrive there needs to be a shared bond, whether that's a mutual interest, opposition, shared struggle, etc.