The Impending Death of open online communities.
I’m a big believer of what I like to call The Pendulum Dynamic. Simply put, many things around us can be explained by the simple movement of a pendulum that swings back and forth. Being an optimist, I believe the pendulum swings back a little harder in the progressive direction every time it recovers from the last swing. Regardless, I believe it keeps swinging back and forth, whether we like it or not.
Today, I want to look at how the pendulum swings back and forth between large open online communities (Facebook and Twitter) and small, private online communities (which can even exist within these large platforms). But first, I want to point out that I’m not an expert in this field. This article is more of a personal observation based on conversations I had with friends and recent reading that encouraged me to think about it.
The Grand Social Experiment that is the internet has changed rapidly over the years. In its early years there was nothing even remotely similar to the massive open social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that would eventually take over. While the Internet has always been about open access to information and knowledge, at the time it mainly consisted of gated and anonymous communities in its very beginning.
I still remember the time of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and the vast amount of bulletin boards (online forums). What the majority of these online communities had in common was that they were mostly anonymous and invite only. Most IRC channels you wanted to be a part of were only accessible if you knew someone in it and received an invite. The same applied to the majority of bulletin boards which had an open registration but still manually approved your membership, meaning you just couldn’t jump in everywhere and join the conversation. It was hard to get into these gated online communities and I certainly wasn’t a fan of it at the time.
The anonymity had its pros and cons. The positive part was that discrimination based on pre-existing biases just wasn’t there, at…