Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Even with Web 2.0, we still occasionally need to meet face-to-face

[In case my irony did not come through in the subject line, let me preface this post with a comment that I am an online community skeptic. However, with my combined background in network optimization and community development, I love how technology can help me find better answers, faster, to my questions--including connecting me with the people I most want to talk to (where I really mean talk).]

A couple weeks ago (in this post) I mentioned the remarkable degree of impersonal trust being cultivated by Web 2.0 community engineers at eBay and Amazon. Kate Ehrlich approached me shortly thereafter with a wonderfully refined perspective on the limits of these impersonal social networks. Kate is a cognitive psychologist working at IBM's Collaborative User Experience Group, and so has a keen sense of the dynamics of modern business communities.

Kate suggested that some level of trust can be established and maintained online but that trust can erode if it is not supported by some face to face time. This is especially true
  • When you and I have a relationship rather than just a transaction
  • When our relationship needs to be sustained over time and is not just a single instance
  • When there is a dependency between us.
I like this list, especially how the last point distinguishes between online communities where members merely hang out and converse, vs. teams where members are really counting on each other.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.


Peter Childs said...

It’s a mistake to overstate the importance of personal trust and dependency as factors critical for the success of online relationships & communities.

While it’s important to trust the underlying systems and rules that govern the community it’s not necessary to trust the participants, at least individually. In fact for some community issues the ability to relate anonymously is vital, because it is only that with will get the unspoken spoken.

To me the power of online communities, to break the requirement for temporal, and physical connection and but doing that to allow the loose connections and weak signals to find receptors in other parts of the organization and community.

Online communities do not replace actual communities, but participation in them makes the physical communities richer by introducing new concepts, ideas and approaches faster than would happen otherwise.

Milind said...

Interesting post here on implications for formal business processes and how much process is appropriate in the context of advances in networking.