Sometimes you have moments of epiphany - moments that really make you think 'why didn't I think that before?'
This week, I have been attending a conference on 'new media' and 'web 2.0' specifically targetted at the student market. It was a very good experience, with excellent speakers, good delegates, loads of new ideas and no small amount of new lucrative business for my workplace. However, one of the best things that I received was the chance to sit for 48 hours and simply concentrate on 'building web communities'.
Web communities have been a significant part of my life for some years now. They have allowed me to communicate with hundreds of people from around the world, build online friendships that have blossomed into real life friendships and they have been the underpinning feature of my gaming life. One feature of these communities I have seen, however, is a distinct unwillingness to embrace change, especially when it comes to tried and tested methods of communication. I think thats a shame because there are some tools out there that really can enhance community interactions.
Just a few examples - the first being, well, blogging. The more I explore the features available on various blogging platforms the more I become convinced that they can easily replace the old concept of the personal or small group webpage. I have recently been working on a very simple website for my wifes Embroiderers' Guild. This is the first site I have designed for some years and I was bemused by the inappropriate nature of the design brief. The website is a static resource for a very limited amount of information, a short calendar and a photo depository. Oh and some links. Thats cool but ... well, why limit yourself. You can do all of the above with a blog and a flickr.com or slides.com account. Of course what you also get is the ability to have comments and thus create a little interactivity and also many authors. This is all done with minimal IT knowledge, which is crucial for these endeavours or they simply become the purview of the Alpha Geek of the group.
Or alternatively, they could well just all join Facebook and set up their own Facebook group. They have the ability to create events (and generate attendence lists), share photos, create albums, have polls, have their own members pages and dozens of other things with relatively little effort. The same slideshow software can be used here to show the images that they hold so dear and they have a forum and discussion board as well. It's very useful and yet totally outside of that design brief.
And in both of these instances they can easily access RSS feeds - Really Simple Syndication - bring information from other websites onto theirs and creating a dynamic content that will give more reasons for their members to interact with their community pages and therefore generate more content. Content has always been the key to websites but contextualised content is now more important than ever. A website where the boss can pass information down is OK, a site where all of the supposedly equal members can talk and debate and share creates the community that they seek.
In the back of my head, I am applying this theory to the various facets of my gaming community and wondering whether there is a simple way that we can amalgamate our current forum, old pub forum, four blogs and at least three websites that we look at often (via RSS). That would seem to be a way that we could work smarter but is it wholly necessary - well, I guess thats something for the Comments?
Would it be better to have a 'one-stop' gaming group(s) solution whilst maintaining our own blogs etc?