I've described tightly knit online communities as "clusters" and manifestations of social media such as blogs (or widgets) as "connectors". In recent weeks I've read a couple of perspectives that emphasize preferences for one over the other. Some of us like forums:
"I love forums because they are conversational and with a little nurturing, they can blossom into a full-blown on-line community. This is true whether the common interests are cars, collectibles or a geographic community.
Another reason I love forums is that, unlike a blog, I could have
stopped writing at the end of the last paragraph. On an active forum
that assertion would have been enough to effectively start a
conversation that possibly would be just as informative as this column.
Certainly it would include the perspectives of two, three, five or ten
knowledgeable people, each with an opinion on the subject."
~Why I love Forums--and not blogs
Others think we need to look outside of forums:
"The Information Architect/Interaction Design field is awash in web sites and discussion lists, though the former are (unfortunately) significantly more worthwhile than the latter. The lists are constantly filled with requests for ‘best practices’ around the simplest of interface issues (e.g., “Should I put my text above or to the left of a form field?”), seemingly endless debates on ‘what is IA?’"
~Less talking, more doing
But it's worth noting that forums, blogs, widgets and whatever alone are not where the action is at. Community clusters and connections are building blocks of our individual and group social systems. This is what I mean when I talk about infinite touch points. We now have so many ways to connect with and influence each other that it's difficult to keep track. But what happens when these touch points become orchestrated? When they compliment each other and act as functional parts of a larger organism?
Despite the increasing amount of digital fragmentation that we are witnessing in the space—there are powerful signs that integration is possible. Yes, we're witnessing a new kind of marketing experience. Ask Obama's staffers—they understand what's going on, they've seen it at work first hand. Actually, we all have.
It's all about the clusters and connections. And getting them to work together to create the kind of momentum that's difficult to slow down.