Today I had lunch with Erik Madsen, a Cedar Rapids man who has innovative ideas percolating in his head, likes biking and photography, and whose kids are into the fine arts. Check out one of his side projects, True Grin (think lolcats, but without hair balls).
We talked about community building, content and context, business models and scaling mountains. We talked about what an online community might be like. Erik, like many of the folks in the focus groups, would like a customizable interface that tailors information to his interests but allows him to search for more. He’d like such a place to help him locate likeminded people and create groups around the topics of interest they share (like Saturday morning biking breakfast clubs). He wants to share photos and video, if doing so can be simple.
We talked about profiles and whether he’d be comfortable filling out one for such a community. Some folks in the focus groups said they didn’t want profiles being used to target advertising at them; it creeped them out. Advertising is content, too, though. Erik suggested that folks also be allowed to customize what advertising came their way. That’s interesting.
We also talked about recruiting and connections, how to find the people who are most likely to engage in such a space.
Take show choirs, for example. Seven years as features editor taught me that school staff/administration is not always the best source of timely, street-level information. Parents often are, but once a parent’s child has graduated and the parent moves on, the community will need another contributor of that info. A school’s show choir director, however, knows who those parents are and could be a great source of ongoing introductions.
So the community may be all about street-level interaction, but a cadre of community catalysts — maybe public figures, experts or staff — can be invaluable for recruiting and maintaining the community.
I love vetting these concepts with real people who aren’t all geeky over the tools, the way I am, and it’s gratifying to hear Erik and others say, “What an interesting time in your industry.” Yes, isn’t it?