I Deleted My Blog and Built a Store
Community is built on commerce
Back in 2001 I was so in love with the concept of online community that I thought everyone should have a blog. I have been bullish on almost every way people might interact online; video games, message boards (I credited the creator of yaBB for introducing two friends who married), social media, and mailing lists. But I was ALL-IN on blogs. Once my brother and I made a fully custom blog for someone and presented it to them as an offer. “Hey, we made this for you. Do you want to use it?”
They said no. I wasn’t wrong in my thesis, online community is important, but I was wrong about focusing on any specific tools. Trends in how we communicate change. Slack made the functionality of IRC more palatable. Twitter and Facebook make message boards seem silly. The blog is now giving way to Medium. The point of all these tools is just communication.
What is my community when I’m just participating in other platforms? Am I a part of the Medium community? Most of my Medium readers come from Twitter. Is my community on Twitter? Facebook? Where is an “online community” when the users are spread across multiple platforms, occasionally meet in person, share various Slack channels, email one another, and even text sometimes?
For me the answer is something I wrote a long time ago:
One of the strongest connections we have is where we spend our money. We bond over a shared love like the rabid Apple fanboys, or a shared hatred, like how everyone feels about Comcast. Commerce allows us to interact with real people. The aisles of the local market, the comments of Amazon, or the ratings of eBay are full of people communicating.
I sell shares in myself, so of course I love the emergent community that happens around a market.
Today I replaced the WordPress installation on K5M.today with a Shopify store. I am not a “blogger” anymore. I am a store.
I recently re-read the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto and in switching from a personal weblog to a personal store a few really stuck with me:
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
- Companies must share the concerns of their communities.
- But first, they must belong to a community.
- The community of discourse is the market.
- Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
My store is stocked with a few wonderful items that speak to the kind of people I want to hang out with. I sell a very weird conceptual vote-option. I sell a collection of MP3s of me saying financial terms. I sell a chocolate bar. The great thing about running your own store is that it’s a place to play with commerce. Or to be serious. It’s up to you, and it’s a reflection of your personality. But it’s not just about money. That’s boring. It’s about all the other stuff!
I am still wholly in love with the concept of internet community. But thankfully the idea of internet community has become redundant. My community moves freely between in-person and various platforms. That in-person connection is reinforced only by a store. I get to send you something! You pay me because you value what I’m sending you. We have a new kind of relationship. It’s more than just customer and shop because I am not trying to sell to everyone, I’m selling to specific kind of person. A person like you.
The blog is dead* so I’m building a store. Come by and buy something.
*No it’s not. That’s just hyperbole.