Community Fragmentation


Hillaries Beach

Yesterday was Australia Day, a day when we celebrate Australia and it people of many cultures, bringing together the different communities. At the end of the day I was enjoying the warm sun on my back and the moist sand of the beach underfoot, when I got to thinking about how you would bring people together in the Web Industry.

Problem is we tend to see the industry as one solid mass. In reality it’s made up on many disjointed community groups.

The Groups

Groups that are spread over business types and their functionality in the industry. They can operate at times in almost pockets of isolation. These groups often operate without know what the others are doing at all.

So we have various groups:

  • Developers coding in various languages from python to .net and beyond.
  • Consultants working in the accessibility and usability areas
  • Web designers, the front end developers
  • Web design companies from sole operators to large firms
  • Information Architects
  • Web Producers and project managers
  • Content writers
  • SEO and marketing specialists
  • Government in-house web teams
  • Corporate in-house web teams
  • Educators teaching the web

You even get groups in the same area just not talking or communicating with each other (mainly due to petty personality issues). This problem of social pocketing within young industries is not new. The IT industry still suffers from it. It’s a world wide problem. Some communities have found solutions, like the one in Sussex, England. But they are far from perfect.

The Problem

Now lets consider each of these groups usually has a community that is in communications with it’s members. Be that a mailing list, RSS feed, forum, IRC, social networking group or paper based newsletter (yes really) . Via these means the people that want to communicate with their like peers can. We can’t help those that don’t make the effort to communicate with others, so we’ll just ignore those people for now.

Communication between these community groups can be a problem. Myles Eftos touched on this a while back from the events coordination angle; his suggestion of a centralised events calender, pulling information from other sites and RSS feeds is a good idea in principle.

However the main problem with most of these groups, I have found over the years, is that they aren’t using the latest and greatest in communications technology for various reasons. So this presents a problem.

Linking the Communities

How do we unite all these separate groups. True some do intercommunicate when they have common members but what of the others. How to overcome the pockets of isolation within the web industry.

Well thinking on this one simple way to interconnect communications with these groups is via a central registry of there generic inquiry email details or a listing of forums, email mailing lists details. The principle here is keep it simple.

Okay you still have to go to the site and collect the email details etc, but at least it would be simple method of intercommunication. One place to find the information. Maybe a central email mailing list of the major contacts would help extend this, but some groups don’t have email contacts.

Now if only we can get all those lost people together, like the ones in govt agencies and the corporate sector that don’t have any common community groups. Guess that’s another problem.

What do you think, good idea or just or a waste of words?

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  1. Unfortunately when it comes to joining any sort of commuity with another, you’ll hit the same road block as everyone else has in the past – there hasnt been and will never be a single point of contact for collaboration which will be accepted by the macrocommunity as a whole.

    What we need is a person (or persons) who have fingers in the pie of most of the communities to take the initiative and champion a hub for all.

    But who has the time or patience to do this?

  2. Well here is an opportunity for AWIA to become relevant to the whole industry. The folks in the silos need to see how AWIA is relevant to *them* first. And then AWIA is in a unique position to be able to pull them all together.

    In any organisation, the individual will feel more valued and more positive about their own input, when they see how they are relevant to the organisation as a whole, rather than working in an isolated box their employer has placed them in. This translates on a broader level within the industry as a whole, too.

    And many organisations would like to see themselves, as organisations not individuals, making an impact, gaining a name for themselves, etc., too.

    One idea would be for AWIA to have representatives for all the industry areas you listed above. These reps could actively work towards bringing folks from their areas in to share ideas and information.

    The barcamp type of thing is not going to appeal to many members of these groups so those that won’t attend a barcamp (or indeed anything outside of work hours – and it’s actually normal for most folks not to attend work stuff outside of work hours) need to be catered for.

    Managers and those who are not actually IT or web workers in any way, but whose responsibilities include IT and web stuff, also need to be catered for.

    When folks feel their input is valued and important in the scheme of things, they get excited and want to contribute more.

    Just my first random thoughts about it!

    Vicki. 🙂

  3. I think the main problem is all those communities compete in one way or another. You can´t build up solid cooperations while there´s a way to find new partners for every project. Also switching among the community will make it difficult to get to know each other well enough (sometimes a long-term development of a business relationship).

    It would be great if it worked – if you could link all parts (or parties) together for a more efficient work. But as long there´s competition, noone will want that others have the same opportunities as well (and maybe work with their partners – not to mention how difficult it will be keeping business secrets).

  4. @Gregor – I agree this would not work for business level partnerships.

    But it does need considering on the level of general community communication and professional development. An area where business relationships and chasing the dollar is put aside.

  5. Not sure about all the groups you listed – but there is certainly a dire need to get educators teaching on the web connected to other communities beyond the education community. Though some would be well out of the league of the educator networks, there would be news and views and perspectives that need to filter more strongly back into the education sector to those teaching the web. So stronger ways of ‘cross-fertilisation’ would be a great thing. I for one would love it – don’t want industry secrets 🙂 just want to work more effectively in an online environment!

  6. The problem is all of these industries are ultra competitive. It’s kind of like asking the Russian space-race team to co-operate with the American space-race team back in the cold war – noone wants to give the other a competitive advantage.

    I know within our own company though we have a tight network of contractors who work with us. In order to be competitive, we need all of these people. The tricky part is since they’re not in-house, they can also work for our competitiors. In order to build a tighter community, you would have to create a focus on something that isn’t our work.

Comments are now closed, move along, nothing to see here.