So, you have a website where you have people posting articles or blog posts about mobile technology…. Cool. And you have forums where members can post questions or respond to questions and there is all kinds of activity going on there…. Right on. But you would be erroneous to characterize this site as a technology blog…. ever think of that?
Here are three reasons I believe sites like UTB and others are actually social media sites rather than technology sites, that is, sites that exist for the purpose of SOCIALIZING with others rather than for the purpose of TRANSFERRING TECHNICAL INFORMATION. I’ll get into why this seems significant later.
#1 IF, the site was primarily for providing technological information, the number of visits per person, would be highly correlated with the amount of technical (or otherwise) information they wanted to obtain. Obtaining technical (or otherwise) information in the form of posting a question in a forum or reading an article, meets the criterion of a site existing to transfer technical information, but visiting for any other reason does not meet that criterion. Even if you visit to GIVE technical (or otherwise) information via answering questions in a forum or making a blog/article post, your motives are still SOCIAL. You do it because you enjoy the social interaction, the feeling of helping others.
Further, anyone who is even remotely honest with themselves, who has posted an article in a blog, must admit the best part is getting comments on your post! Even if you enjoy the process of writing articles, you still write them with the intent to publish them to an audience, so throughout the entire process, you’re anticipating feedback from readers. Anytime you visit a site for some purpose other than to ask a question or find out something in an article, you’re visiting for a social reason. I’ll bet the average member of these sites visits on a ratio of 10 to 1 in terms of why they visit; 10 visits for other (social) reasons for every 1 visit to obtain some technical information. This ratio might even be much higher; 20 – 1?
#2 IF the site existed primarily for the purveyance of technical information, there would be little to no social hierarchy and people would not be invested in this hierarchy OR invested in the site. I know from experience that there are many members of these sites who post prolifically in order to achieve a higher status amongst the other members. They get badges or titles associated with their name and they also enjoy a certain reputation amongst the membership.
Further, these people are reluctant to leave these sites and migrate to what might be considered a better site, because they invested so much time and don’t want to lose their status and be forced to start over. This is all very natural, so I’m not criticizing, but if these sites were not social in nature, none of this structure would exist.
#3 I have witnessed myself interacting with these sites and been surprised at my motives and how I find myself getting involved. I got involved in a site once initially because I had a question about my BlackBerry Z10, but afterwards, I must admit that what became almost a daily habit, was due to the social aspect of the site, not because I had a new technical question each day. I was visiting to comment on threads and participate in games almost exclusively because I enjoyed the social interaction; of course, I offered the occasional comment or help here and there.
There is a verse in the Tao te Ching, “Know the whole world without leaving your room.” This means, you don’t have to travel the world to know the world; why? Because if you contemplate deeply your own heart-mind, you will know everyone else and therefore, know the world, because people are the same everywhere; human nature is the same. In any event, I trust that the basic impulses I’ve felt regarding technology blog sites are shared by most people.
Let’s face it; we are the most social species on the planet. It’s possible to point to some species of whales, or great apes, or groundhogs, wolves, etc. that have intricate social structures and complex languages and need each other for their survival like we do, but human beings have an incredibly complex society requiring the longest weaning period of any species; 18 – 24 years nowadays! It takes that long for a person to get on their own, because generally, they need education to survive. Technically, it’s not a weaning period, but a “coming of age” period, which is the time it takes to become an “adult” from birth. In any event, for many mammals, this often takes less than a year, but for homo-sapiens, it’s literally 18 to 24 years! This is indicative of a highly social and complex society.
OK, so why does any of this matter anyway…? Because if you have a site that’s primary function is, or that substantively serves to, connect people together in a community, and facilitate the forming of friendships, casual rapport, or dare I say, romantic relationships, why would you EVER ALLOW rampant trolling and conflict and arguing to become part of the culture of your site? It makes no sense unless you honestly think people enjoy that, OR unless you have another agenda.
Money is an obvious possibility. I know this is off-color language, but it’s possible, albeit a little ugly, to consider a site that encourages or consistently allows, a tone of bickering and negativity, as one that is “pimping” it’s members to create clicks and increase advertising revenue. If you’re inclined, see the post How Many Clicks Should a Fan Site Have? for some general comments about some of the financial aspects of technology blog sites relative to human behavior.
So I guess the question is, if you’re a BB fan/user, what kind of site would you rather support with your time and energy? One that gives back to you in the form of positive vibes and enjoyment, or one that takes more than it gives and frustrates and angers you?
They say consumers vote with their dollars, well it’s time to vote with your mouse clicks BlackBerry fans!