Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How do YOU define community?

I found this post from Jake the Community Guy, where he gives his views on what a community is. Here's the main idea:
A community is a group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons.

My first thought was, 'Passion has to be in there somewhere'. In fact, at least for online communities, it seems that passion is literally the backbone of the community.

Then there's the issue of community forming by people that interact regularly around shared experiences. I'll be in Tuscaloosa this Saturday with 100,000 people I have never met in my life, but all will be members of the community of Alabama Crimson Tide fans. All will be newfound friends.

So I started to think this through and come up with 'my version' of what a community is. Then I realized that perhaps it's best as we define ourselves together. We can all add our thoughts and opinions and as a group, define ourselves.

So what do YOU think is community? Does the above definition work for you? If not, what would you change or add? My contribution is that I think communities form around a shared passion, what's your's?

Pic via Flickr users TooMuchPete


Tim Jackson said...

Community is lots of things, but I do believe that passion is a part of it.

A strong community will be built around that shared experience or interest and passion will be at the heart of it- for a healthy community to survive anyway. An exchange of ideas and experiences adds to the health of a community. I think that the sharing aspect of it is what helps a community grow and stay vibrant. If it is just a group of people stating their view and not exchanging and sharing, it will shrink and die... in my humble idiot opinion.

Anonymous said...

But see, here's the kicker... your 100,000 people aren't really a "community", at least not in my mind. Sure they come together around a shared experience, but they're not forming an actual, ongoing connection.

There's some type of interaction that can grow into something larger, longer, deeper... we tend to call that community. But sometimes the interaction is just an interaction - like a football game or a comment thread.

My worry has always been that when we call everything a community, nothing is really "community".

As far as passion goes, I agree in concept that passion can often be baked into the community, and is often a true driver for certain types of communities. But would you call it "passion" when cancer patients connect to discuss their cancer? Probably not. That's why my definition included the "for varying individual reasons" part. I specifically didn't include "passion" because I think it paints a picture that only "positive" communities are truly community.

Anyway, good discussion! Thanks for the shout out!


Anonymous said...

Tim Jackson = profiled in the NY Times as a visionary...possesses a "humble idiot opinion"? So not.

I mostly agree with Tim -- passion is the cornerstone of community. But to Jake's point...maybe "passion" isn't the most apt descriptive in all cases. So maybe ownership works? A sense of being vested? Will continue to think on it -- but interesting discussion nonetheless.

Tim Jackson said...

Ann- You are too funny. I'm flattered... really.

I can see where the semantics of "passion" can be an issue. However, I would argue, using the cancer patient example, that those folks are united by a passion still- a passion to live, a passion to share their hope, a passion to find hope, etc. Still, it is just a semantical argument.

Ann mentions "ownership" which is a good word. I frequently talk about my blog being a tool to connect to my readers so that they have the chance to develop a personal relationship with me and then the brand by extension, this creates a "pride of ownership" scenario where they have a reason to want the brand to succeed. They feel a direct connection to it's success.

I guess community takes on many different meanings and arrives from many different avenues. I'm not sure one theory or definition can be found. Sort of like religions (though we all know that Southern Methodist is the very best one).

ann michael said...

I'm not sure how this fits in, but communities are groups of people that actively support each other.

The level of interaction varies. I interact occasionally with my neighbors, but we're a community. I interact a great deal with some people that I've never met on the web and we're a community. For me the test is that the community convenes to help meet each other's needs when they arise.

In which case, the cancer group certainly qualifies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tim that 100,000 are too big for a community; perhaps we need a better definition (I called 'em fan armies when I chatted the Buffy phenom).

But Ann M. hit on something I've really been "feeling" the last month with the marketing blogger community. Not only do I feel a strong part of this community, I'm genuinely elated over such things as:

Mack getting more work due to being out there and doing so much for the community.

Karl getting the job he deserves and being on the coast he craves.

Paul (HeeHaw) landing a top spot at the BMA blog.

I'm sure I'm forgetting people; my point is that I care for and support this valuable community. So caring for the health of and supporting one another needs to be in there somehow.

Lookin' forward to your spankin' new definition Mack.

Mack Collier said...

I think that most people equate 'passion' as 'excitement'. The 2 are often intertwined, but not always. There is great passion in a community of cancer patients. Passion to share common experiences and to reach out to each other for support. Years ago when my grandmother was receiving chemo for her lung cancer, when I would take her to the clinic for treatment, she would almost instantly bond with the other patients there. To Jake's point, this might have been a shared experience, but it was in much the same way that my being with 100,000 Alabama fans was this weekend. I think when people that share a passion come in contact, there is a natural tendency to want to bond, and in doing so, create a community centered around their common passion.

BTW great discussion guys. This is exactly why I didn't just post my thoughts, because I wanted to see where you guys could go with it. Being the smart bloggers you all are ;)

Anonymous said...

good stuff - and don't forget TRUST and a sense of commitment. To me it is not a community without the feeling (perceived? real) that other members have my back.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the new URL for the post referenced is:


Anonymous said...

Hi Jake,

I disagree with the idea that there is a threshold of interaction that must be met for a group to be considered a "community"


Unknown said...

The discussion seems to be winding down, but what about exclusivity - the feeling or knowledge that other people "unlike us" don't get to share this experience or culture. That we're inside something that everyone else is outside of.

Anonymous said...

Community is as large and small, as brief and long-enduring, and all other ranges we might consider. It is the sense of connection that occurs from the brief ritual "Hi." to the intimacy of sharing special things over time with people who are trusted and respected. Passion is the energy created by the connection and may well be linked to biological levels of oxytocin.

Community defines itself and even a loose nit community of interest that meets infrequently has an identity, members think of themselves as connected. These boundaries themselves may be rigid with new members selected and put through tests before offered entry or they may be easily passed.

Razibul Hassan said...

Common Interest and Shared Experience binds people to live in a group. That's true for the online community as well. Doesn't matter what, If someone fails to find interest on a online community, he has a range of options to join and leave the current one.

Md. Razibul Hassan said...

For the Community ( by it I exclude Online Community) Tolerance, Reciprocity & Trust are 3 de facto.
For online community, people show a mixed up trends. Initially They find for common interest and when they stick together at certain community or communities(in terms of online Community people can have more than one at a time)they search for amiable collaborator, earnest friends and attentive viewers.