One of the best conversations on the web at the moment about community development is taking place over at MetaTalk at the moment. It’s about how to handle the burgeoning size of Metafilter and it’s particularly interesting to me, because I had a conversation with Matt Haughey about this a while back (and about our two radically different communities – each of which are facing a similar problem). And it looks like we’ve been moving in parallel with some of the ways in which we might attempt to resolve these problems as well…
Inspired by this post over in a thread at Metafilter about the signal to noise ration of community sites (which reminds me of this thread over at barbelith.com) I am beginning to think through the implications of information transmission and its relationship to community. Imagine two nodes on the net – designed essentially just to send information from one to another. Additional information is also transmitted however – information on the relationship between nodes, information on whether a packet has been received or not etc. This relationship is very similar to that of community sites – a site which merely transmits information is not, and cannot be a community site. Nor indeed can an individual who merely transmits information be considered part of a community. To an extent the ‘noise’ is more a staple of the community than the information – it may appear like meme fluff – unnecessary – but it’s the stuff that transmits information about disposition, affiliation, loyalty, relationships both in terms of expressing oneself, and developing one’s relationship with others. So the question becomes: what is the appropriate ratio of signal to noise?
“The common language would be English. This would mean only people who write good English would be inclined to post. And then it would be elitist. Which would start a cat fight. Just one of the delightful scenarios possible. What we need is a Universal Translator.”
Then, I had an incredibly interesting conversation with Nikolai. He started off suggesting that a European Metafilter might get over the language problems by having a place in the preferences for each user where they could specify what languages they would want to see and which ones they would want to post in.
The main problem for this from my point of view is that it still causes problems about reading about other countries. Would an Italian writing in English really be something that people in Helsinki would be interested in reading, let alone people in the UK? So then it came to us in a blinding flash. Maybe what we need is not more regional metafilters, but a more evolved filtering mechanism on thet metafilter we’ve already got! With options in the preferences for reading posts filtered according to language and country, then there is no real need for separate metafilters at all.
You could be an Frenchman, living in the US, interested in reading posts about France and America but only if they are in French. Or an Englishman living in Holland, interested in reading posts about both countries in both English or Dutch. It’s just a question of showing or hiding posts. Whether or not it’s technically possible of course, is another matter entirely…
[This has been reposted to Metatalk for further discussion.]
Katy and I have just had a great idea for a new money-making venture targetting a completely underexploited section of the e-marketplace – professional hitmen and the criminally violent. The idea is just like that in Strangers on a Train, where two people arrange to kill each other’s worst enemy. Since there is no connection between them and the person they kill, there can be no apparent motive (and the person who might have a motive can have a solid alibi). Hence, they are much less likely to get caught.
This site would act as a medium of exchange much like ebay, where people could fill in who they wanted dead, and where they were based. This would be stashed on a database until the next stage was complete. They would then be sent a random e-mail from another member, with the details of who they should be poisoning or stabbing or shooting or throttling.
Once confirmation of this kill was made (through some kind of link to the national death records), then the details that had previously been stashed on the database would be sent to another random member who had just signed up, who would be expected to follow through the process themselves. If there was no kill registered within a certain amount of time, then the name and address of the substitute murderer could be sent to the person whose kill it was originally. And since that person must have already killed someone to have got to that stage, this would be enough instigation for the substitute killer to do their job.
The business model is quite simple – targetted advertising from the gun lobby, rope merchants, concrete suppliers and the like would constitute the bulk of the revenue, although clearly paramilitary groups and mercenaries might like to recruit through the site (for a small fee of course). Therapists might also find this a lucrative market to target. And after an initial free period (possibly), high quality service (from someone who has killed a great number of people) could be costed, with the site acting as a broker and taking a commission.
Legally, of course (at least in the initial stages), the site would be completely safe from prosecution. I mean – it’s like Napster isn’t it!? We could put a warning up that read, “no one at our site condones the killing of people” or even “killing people is bad – if you are thinking of killing someone, please contact our psychotherapist at our special discretionary rate”. It’s not like we’d be killing people ourselves (and if we did, I think we could argue that that was separate from the activities of the company).
The only problem is the domain name: killyourcolleagues.com is quite nice, but then so is killthemall.com or ihadtodoitfortheirowngood.com… Opinions would be appreciated, as would venture capital…