I continually find myself fascinated by the dynamics of online social interactions. The latest episode was on a community for Australian bloggers. You would think this would be a good match for my interests - but you'd probably be wrong. It was interesting to watch as I got shunned from conversations. You see, I live in Australia, but I wasn't born here. One strike. Then I was asked what software I use to blog with. Well, it isn't WordPress, and it isn't Blogger either. Two strikes. I also voiced my objection to using trackware and monetization schemes. Three strikes.
Now watch what happens when somebody who is 'out' tries to get involved in one of the discussions. This is the fascinating part. A lively discussion going on. I post something. The. conversation. stops.
Everybody moves to a different topic to avoid the pariah. On occasion a newcomer will respond - that is until they discover that they're talking to a pariah. Then. the. conversation. stops.
Eventually, somebody will find that they really wanted to be involved in this topic. But it is stopped. What do they do? They ignore my post. Reply to a previous post that didn't involve me. Then the conversation continues again, skipping over whatever I had to say. This happened over and over again on any topic that I tried to get involved in.
As a test I started my own topic - about feed sharing, something that interests me. Anybody want to share their feed? I've got a cool tool to do this, but copyright law forces me to ask. A previous post by a member asking for everybody's feeds to put into Google Reader (but not sharing them) had 50-100 replies. Maybe one or two folks would be interested in some free publicity seeing as how they love trackware and link love.
You can go to the websites of any of the members, and find lively and active comments - maybe 30-40 comments on what the person had for dinner last night or basically anything they have to say. They chase each other around the web leaving comments on each other's websites. It boosts their Alexa rating. But you see - I don't use trackware. I go to these places and join in the discussions. Hey, it's what I do. I've been doing it since before many of them were even born. But nobody comes back here. Zip. Zero. Nada. You see, it doesn't do anything for their ratings. (To be fair there was one comment last week by a forum newcomer, who then quickly vanished and never returned.) It also doesn't help them figure out WordPress (talk about hackware, go ask Terri
). And I'm (originally) an American. Aussies like Americans for the most part - as long as they stay on their own side of the ditch.
The community zooms in popularity, everybody feeding off of each other, everybody increasing their ratings. Except for the pariah. Don't go there. Don't talk to him. He's not one of us.
Oh well, live and learn. Life goes on.
Somewhat related I also find it fascinating how they build their community site. A WordPress blog (of course) with a freeware forum bolted on the side. Yeah, I did something like that once. It's fine if your website will only ever contain a forum and a blog. But if you want to do anything more elaborate, you're stuck with these two packages that don't integrate well. Been there.
There's much better community software available that all works together and doesn't have so many holes. But alas, it wasn't my decision to make and it's a free world for the most part.