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Dec 20, 2001: "Identity arises through self-reference."

Lately, I've been up to my ears in "community building," mostly (but not completely) through Info-Arch.Org. It's been quite a humbling experience. I didn't dive in with many preconceptions or expectations, so frankly I'm surprised by how pronounced my ignorance is.

I'd been hoping to encounter some deep new store of wisdom somewhere at the intersection of Community Building Boulevard and Information Architecture Alley. Maybe it'd be something that we could apply for the IA community as we plunge ahead with developing a shared library, wiki-ing, coming up with a site network, and souping up the SIGIA-L mailing list archive (among other activities). Or maybe case study fodder for the second edition of the "polar bear book".

No such luck; designing information architectures for online communities might be even trickier than it is for Fortune 50 intranets. I'd hoped to find some incredible example that would serve as a model, but I'm still looking; let me know if you have any suggestions.

I did contact Cam Barrett, the Very Smart Person behind Camworld. His response to my email was so packed with ideas that he converted it into an essay, now available from his site. Please read it. Cam isn't describing a single community architecture, ideal or otherwise, but instead takes the much more reasonable approach of describing aspects of online communities, such as collaborative filtering and reputation management. He discusses each briefly, and provides examples. When you encounter nasty overwhelming problems, decompose! That's what Cam does in this essay.

Why is the title of this Bloug entry in quotes? These sage words come from Steve Champeon, Webdesign-L list-mom, in an interview at Design for Community.com, the site that complements Derek Powazek's book by the same name. The interview mentions Steve's work on developing a mailing list archive for Webdesign-L, and it sounds highly relevant to what we on the SIGIA-L mailing list team have been trying to pull off. Perhaps we could offer to trade ideas and labor on improving archive searching and browsing in return for some of Steve's infrastructure.

In any case, it's a great quote: it describes perfectly what I'm hoping the SIGIA-L list archive and the other Info-Arch.Org activities will help us to achieve. Because although we may be a community, we still don't really know who we are.

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Comment: Myra (Jan 1, 2002)

Me, I'm a rag-tag tagalong. No, more of a voyeur. (Sometimes regarded as a stalker, and rightly so!)

So I couldn't resist commenting on the lack of comments for an entry about community.

Maybe it's perfect that a wannabe would be the first one to comment (without having any real ideas to add). Alas, as a self-respecting groupie, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to immortalize my name here. Into the archives I go!

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