As I read a part of Brafman and Beckstrom's The Starfish and the Spider
, it struck me how similar some of its ideas are to Douglas Atkin's The Culting of Brands
(see my list of Books on Communities
). I'm going to have to cross reference some of this again later but both describe at least one common element necessary for building successful peer networks (starfish), or brands (culting of brands): ideology.
Brafman & Beckstrom's book talks about having a shared ideology amongst the members of the peer network. This could mean several things from having a core sense of values to a shared sense of purpose to a shared direction (each different things). However, they do not point out the specifics like Atkin's does:
- How do you motivate people towards this ideology?
- Showing the love, as they say
- A statement of value
- Shared iconography and symbolism
It's not hard to see why they don't because in a pure-play peer network there is no centralization that develops these ideas. They are amongst one of those nebulous things like asking someone why they like Harley's, swordfighting, anime, open source software, Apple Inc., etc., aside from technical details. Loyalty is an implicit and hard to define element, whether it is an organized program, or a decentralized community.
On occassion, when you get enough mass, some of them will try to write down what these are--the Apache foundation went through this, but so sometimes so do the many community folks who start to write a FAQ--but each group goes through a rediscovery process of these ideas.
My view is that communities grow by their own efforts, not on a very focused path, but evolve over time and stabilize at a certain point. Some of the really successful ones actually start off because they are not something else (as in not the mainstream), which often predicates that they do not look into how other communities form. By trying to break into a new direction, they tend to leave all other ideas behind.
The other part is that a truly decentralized community tends to follow leadership (another hard to define quality), and not only does this change over time, but not all our leaders know how to organize a loose network of people such as a community. Without this kind of understanding, it becomes a harder process of successes and failures, and rediscovery of the same ideas.