Online communities, like those in the face-to-face world, are fascinating to watch. They coalesce, wrap in on themselves, fray around the edges, unwrap a little, shift, possibly acquire new members or even glom onto a new core group of members, coalesce, wrap in on themselves, fray around the edges… and on and on.
Take my own history as an example. I started this blog and started reading other people’s blogs, and in the space of a few months found myself squarely in the middle of a vibrant community of librarian bloggers. A year or so later, Twitter and the LSW Meebo room started up. Conversations started in any of those places and bled over into our blogs, but there were also new people in the group — people who didn’t have blogs at all, or didn’t blog about libraries. And slowly the LSW Meebo room group became my center. A year or so later, the librarian Twitterati started shifting to FriendFeed, so I followed them (kicking and screaming, I might add — I had a bunch of problems with FriendFeed, some of which still bother me even though that’s become my social network of choice now). FriendFeed is slightly different in that conversations can happen within or across several “rooms,” and I’ve seen communities coalesce, wrap in on themselves, and then fray about the edges in several of these spaces within FriendFeed. Meanwhile, the blogging community had frayed about the edges (Meredith also just wrote about this).
Each time I’ve found myself in the midst of a new coalescing community I’ve met new people who inspire me, question me, encourage me, and generally be good friends to me. But each time it’s meant that people who used to represent the core of my network have shifted to peripheral status. Not unimportant, just less present.
And now I find myself on the fraying edges again. Almost certainly, this means that I’m about to find a new home, or re-find an old home, but at the moment things feel a little foundationless for me. Luckily, I have a couple of really interesting projects I’m working on (which I’ll probably write about soon-ish), so that should sustain me until my new center coalesces for me.