Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Communities: Eye on Learning

Due to the title, as write this I can't help but hear the theme music to The Simpson's: Eye on Springfield.

Clearly, that has nothing to do with our conversation today.

So my first official foray into the world of learning 2.0 will be with the concept of web based communities in mind.

Community will continue be an important tool in the years to come. Already, a countless amount of learning occurs in web communities each day. The technically savvy demographic, clearly the first to embrace the internet, has been using it to communicate and learn for years. So the question is, why hasn't everyone embraced it?

As a former software developer myself, I noticed that much of the time when I would 'troll' the developer forums for the answer regarding an often obscure question, I would post my question but rarely would I answer questions other users had posted.

I never thought much about it at the time, but now I ask myself why is that? Why didn't I answer questions that I already knew the answer to?

After analysis, I could really only come up with 2 reasons.
  • I lacked confidence in the answer
  • I didn't benefit by answering the question
If the "people with the answers" do not provide those answers, how can we hope to connect people who want to know with those that do know?

My theory is that people will only participate if they benefit from their participation. That may seem very selfish, and the truth of the matter is, it is!

Short of changing the focus of "the people" to the greater good, I suggest we merely find a way to capitalize on selfishness.

I recently finished reading a book about the power of crowdsourcing and the wisdom of crowds, (which you can preview here at www.wearesmarter.org), and while I enjoyed the book and the concepts therein, each of the businesses that capitalized on the model addressed the concern of "what's in it for me".

So the question is how do we make this work for the learning community? Is it something that can be developed into a product? These are some of the topics I will explore soon.

Next Time: Monetize, Incentivise, Sell Selfish!


Josh said...

I think you missed a major point on why people don't answer other people's questions in forums and the like. LAZINESS, this is a huge factor for a lot of people. I actually think it becomes more and more of a driver (un-driver?) for each subsequent generation and is a major hurdle that needs to be addressed for any community based approach. Some of this comes down to ease of use for the tools being used and some of it comes down to how engaged the people feel.... I could go on but this is your blog not mine.

Matt Shandera said...

Josh, Great point! I agree that laziness as well as many other factors factor in to why people don't contribute. But really, at the end of the day, If there was something in in it for me(that I actually want), I would work past my laziness and contribute.

Thanks for the transition into my next post!

mkgerst said...

I agree with Josh that laziness is a huge factor, but it could also be that as you said people lack confidence in their answers. Just as in real life, some people doubt themselves and while the internet gives us a chance to be more confident because of the lack of face to face interaction, old habits die hard. It could also be said that the growing popularity of web groups and online communication has actually put a damper on face to face interaction. People are becoming less social in person due to a more cyberbased world.