29 May 2002 anselm   » (Journeyer)

Every month or so I wander back to Advogato to see how things are going here. I'm intrigued by community forums and how effective they are at keeping the interest of their members, engaging in a kind of praxis - not getting bogged down in text and still remaining action centric. Advogato looks like a moderately lively forum but still seems to lack a bit of that real sense of community that I saw at work on forums such as ryze.com or on Rich Persaud's addapt forum. Is it really just that there are images associated with persons on those other forums? And should advogato really care about winning those kinds of popularity contents? After all Advogato is mostly interested in filtering away noise. But at the same time I think that for many the issue is more community, and less quality; after a certain age almost everything everybody says can be recast in words or arguments one has heard before, the new ceases to amaze - one looks for simpler more human values. It isn't so much intellectual challenge that seems to be missing, but simply a sense of a long term shared persistent space; a space where the visibility of others actions is present, a human shadow cast on the net. Digital communities are already at a disadvantage because they favor talk over action; it is too easy to protect the physical flesh - and without putting the flesh on the line there is no real risk - without risk there is no connection to pre technological human values. All of the forums I see today are essentially failures; small encampments of hardened like minds but not generally straddling any broad diversity of community and not truly persistent, not able to organize large volumes of knowledge, not able to teach, really in a sense kind of stagnant. I think this is because they tend to be fiefdoms, and the community knowledge isn't owned by the members of the community itself. When a community is held hostage to somebody pulling the plug, then it ultimately doesn't put its most precious thoughts into that space. The whole net itself is completely vibrant - one doesn't make a home page in somebody elses space, one simply makes a home page and retains ownership over it. What does it take for a more controlled forum, with advanced noise filters etcetera, to support that kind of distributed model?

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