The Unity in CommUNITY – or – Birds Of A Feather

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My friend Annie tagged me with this very thoughtful subject for a blog post – the unity in community.

I recently attended the Gartner Symposium and IT Expo, which is held each year at the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht Club and Boardwalk hotels in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. It was a glorious week. My idea of heaven is running around learning all day, sprinting from session to session in a constant state of information junkie euphoria, and then eating new and exciting cuisine and drinking new and exciting wines all night in Disney World. Attending this symposium is one of the most mind-expanding experiences I’ve had. This year, I chose a track that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do for a living. I chose to search the session database for every offering that contained the keywords “social” and “web 2.0”. And I learned something about what Gartner refers to as “the wisdom of the crowd”.

I came home and googled that phrase (“googled” has taken its place in the lexicon as a verb now, so it doesn’t get an upper case leading letter from me any more). I was surprised to find that there’s a book called The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. Yeah, long-ass title, but very descriptive! Published in May of 2004, Amazon’s review tells us that this is indeed an intriguing subject, and it is still fresh enough to apply to our internet experiences today.

Psychology and sociology have some fancy theories that really just boil down to “birds of a feather flock together”. Since the very dawn of the bare-bones internet, collections of similarly-feathered folks have flocked to virtual meeting places to share what they know about… whatever. I think it starts out as, “looky what *I* know”, or in some cases, “um, does anyone know?” and then somehow along the way, it all becomes meticulously collected and organized, and before you know it, you’ve got rec.arts.disney.parks, or The DIS or the Sanibel forums on TripAdvisor.

The Gang at Casa YbelThese days, you can even create a community that does not know it is a community – at least, not initially. You can put a bunch of blogs that you read into your Google Reader or into Feedly or Spokeo, and voila! It’s YOUR community, where you go to share stuff that you know, and learn stuff that you don’t know with friends that you’ve never met. And they may or may not know each other in the beginning, but somehow, the unconnected become connected over time, and you find yourself toasting the birthday of a blogger from Alaska in a bar on a sub-tropical island with friends from Indiana and Connecticut and California and Ohio that you met on the internet.

It has always amazed me whenever I’ve taken the plunge and met folks from online, just how very SAME we are in real life, in ways that we didn’t know about until we met. Maybe a disproportionate amount of us are smokers, or the majority of us had strict parents, or maybe we’re all secretly listening to the Partridge Family in the sheltered privacy of our own iPods.

A psychologist once told me about an experiment that was conducted – a hundred strangers were put into a room together and given no real instructions. Two of them had children going through chemotherapy treatments. Within a ridiculously small amount of time, the two parents of the sick children found each other. They FLOCKED.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve actually known about the wisdom of the crowd for a long time – at least as long as I’ve been on the internet (1994? I think?). For me, the internet has been a flocking ground, where I have found or formed communities that first established their unity in sharing knowledge, but solidified that unity in friendship.

HERE COME THE TAGS – would love to hear what the following folks have to say about “the unity in community” –

Snowbird at Sand Between My Toes

Tootie at Sanibel Toot’s Lazy Days

Chris at ChrisCandJonJ – Our Vanilla Life

3 thoughts on “The Unity in CommUNITY – or – Birds Of A Feather”

  1. I loved your post–right up until the end when I saw my name being tagged!! LOL. I will get to it but I’ve got to put some thought into it. Have fun in Tampa.

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