Clog with me! The future of websites.

Last fall when I revived Igniter I did the standard setup of website, tumblog and twitter account all of which have remained mostly untouched.  They didn’t feel right at the time, but it wasn’t until I read this post about the future of USV.com that it clicked. We didn’t need a website or a blog, we needed a “clog”!

clog |kläg, klôg| noun

1 a shoe with a thick wooden sole. <- all sorts of awesome!

2 an encumbrance or impediment. <- totally not this.

3 a collective log to gather online content from multiple people for discussion in common community <- kinda like flipboard meets hacker news

Increasingly, organizations are about a collection of people who gather to passionately pursue a common purpose… people who are increasingly publishing content across many places on the web. An authentic online presence should gather those voices and nurture the community and conversation they attract. This is what I wanted for Igniter.com.

A clog could begin simply as an aggregation of posts and tweets from the core contributors of the organization. Tighter curation could be based on #tagging and intelligent promotion of certain content. That content could be presented through a theme-based interface taking inspiration from any number of the news curation services and apps. Adding more functionality like ‘job listings’, ‘investor relations’, ‘customer service’, could be handled as plugins of the online services you are probably already using to support that function.  This is less about creating something new than it is about repackaging what we’re already doing and using. So far, so good.

But what about the community and the conversation? While applying Disqus to the content that’s curated might be a simple start point, is there a problem with fragmenting the conversations? Is there an opportunity in meshing them between the source and clog? Are the communities at each destination separate or similar? Is there opportunity in the overlap? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling there won’t be a simple answer.  This will be the tricky part.

This doesn’t exist yet, but I want it to. If it did I’d be getting clogs on for a handful of organizations, projects, and groups.

What about you? Would you get a clog on? What would it look like? How would you use it? What would you add?

Like those good old wooden ones, I’m betting the beauty will be in the simplicity of the foundation and the awesomeness of the customization.

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  • Interesting. Lots of angles and questions:

    – what’s the right size team for this? Does it work for a team of 10? 100? 1000?
    – what happens when you consider write privileges
    – are you fixing a problem or causing another one by forcing a single aggregator onto the team
    – if you cut the discussion from the post, how do you filter for noise across the platform
    – what’s the discovery model for both content and people?

    10,000 more questions. Beer and scheming. 

    • 1. My initial instinct is that this would work best for new teams or groups and those of smaller e.g. <20 size. I think it could scale but the magic in that will be how is content curated and surfaced in a way that strengthens the community and conversation rather than drowning it in noise.
      2. As for write privileges, I see that about about selecting people as contributors (e.g. founders/employees/members) and then authorizing some specific sources (e.g. blog and twitter). To limit/focus content perhaps it would only pull posts/tweets with #clogxyz tags.
      3. Probably both 🙂 But I'm not sure it's 'forcing' a single aggregator but rather introducing an 'aggregator' that serves to represent the company (replacing conventional website)
      4. For filtering – see 1 – for discussion, dunno.

      5. What are you thinking of here? Had been thinking yet of discovery dimension.

  • What about letting people from outside the organization contribute too?

    • I think that could be really interesting… particularly if it were community members that had established themselves in some way within the community already. Perhaps manually selected, perhaps informed by participation dynamics such as comments, likes, flags etc.
      Of course, it would also depend on the application of something like this and the culture of the ‘organization’ implementing it. Some might want just a small subset of the official team participating, where others may choose to very nearly open it to all but those who the community actively rejects. This is where selecting the initial use case will be particularly important as they complexity/possibilities can quickly complicate things.

      • let’s even extend it further – what if by default it was open to anyone – inside and outside the org, and then the community regulates itself?

        • From a community vibrancy perspective I think that is the ideal scenario – I also think it is a very tricky thing implement that needs some deep thinking and grounding in online social dynamics – which I don’t think we really do understand yet – and probably more often misinterpret.
          Where this question also leads is to ask which audience is the most important – the organization or the community. The answer to that would definitely suggest some different pathways and starting points I think.

  • very intriguing. I think it is a three step process – a)discovery b)engagement and c)community building. The first two steps of the process are already being managed by Engagio (at least for me) – actually it was through Engagio that I discovered this interesting post and got engaged in the conversation. The third point is regarding community building around these conversations and making them discoverable. This is where no such product exist yet but I think Engagio is moving along the right track. Both  @awaldstein:disqus and @William Mougayar:disqus should be interested in this post

    • Thnx for alerting me to this post.

      I agree with the steps but the dynamics are more complex, less distinct.

      The connecting thread is Disqus actually, the discovery mechanism Engagio at least in your scenario.

      But Engagement is less the subject of each of them, it is the human factor. You can create the environment but it always beyond the mechanics of the tools.

      As far as community building as a platform. No cookie cutter exists but Disqus, more than any other has the potential for this if that is the direction they choose to go in.

      • Yes, I do think @disqus is closest to handling the fragmentation problem, will be interesting to see if/when it shows up on the roadmap. Do you think it will?

        And yes, well said about engagement. It’s more about the people.

        • I’m sure it is in the mindset of Disqus. I know the team and have been pushing this for awhile.

          On the roadmap…I’m not privy to that.

          But…parsing social data to create a semantically implicit web is really hard. Disqus has the dataset, it is just a question of whether they have a model.

          My sense is not…D12 is a huge undertaking and includes monetization. If you are going to undertake what we are discussing, that itself needs to be the focus.

          Fun discussion. I think and blog and consult on community. Obsessed actually a bit with it.

          • fun and useful discussion indeed. I think the process will involve a bit of work from the user side to get build their communities and conversations. There is not easy way around this and perhaps there shouldn’t be 🙂 There are great tools to help such as disqus and engagio but but relationships through meaningful conversations which lead to communities should involve a bit of work.

    • Thanks @abdallahalhakim:disqus . I was thinking first about aggregation and display which are not – as far as i can tell – handled by Engagio.  They do however address the point of fragmentation from the perspective of the content author and commenters.  Might be interesting if that could be embedded in the clog like disqus is, allowing comment streams from all instances of that content to be displayed if appropriated.

  • Another solution to the fragmentation problem -> http://www.livefyre.com (ht @phillipadsmith:twitter  )

    • Timothy Meade

      Remarkable, your site leads to one email funnel (the dark kind you can’t see down) which is very effective at starting a conversation but not with sharing it (sometimes) with the world. This idea, this proposal makes a lot of sense, you’re site doesn’t scream “about me” “contact me” it just is.
      I think where Fred is going makes a lot of sense, I wonder about this question, should content be curated, should it be organic, should it be discovered by algorithm, should it welcome dissent.
      An organization wants to control the conversation to own it, but that is really not possible, that’s why those blogs, and twitter streams, and tumblogs stay fallow and silent, the organic life is missing. Just shouting out “I AM HERE. I SELL SOMETHING” doesn’t work either, marketing (to consumers) takes tact and ingenuity, marketing by default though might be something different, it might speak of openness and willingness to accept the voices of others, now it needs to be interesting, a brand (and people) that they will want to engage.
      Having community isn’t enough, it wasn’t enough to have a “community site” if nobody cared enough about your product to visit, or a “portal” if you didn’t have the reach of Yahoo, and now the blog is a rote instrument, tumblr is a prettier blog, twitter is a bullhorn of inconvenient commercial messages (pithy sayings and useful and meaningful chats but none overtly commercial).
      But what is a clog? Gnome has a website (gnome.org) but there is little there, the wiki (live.gnome.org) has more, but the real community gathers at (planet.gnome.org) and discusses Gnome amongst themselves, on their blogs, aggregated for the person interested in that project, pieces of personal lives (not cutout actors, to extend a metaphore) and sometimes technical posts about the future of a project that matters a great deal to all of them.
      Can brands do this? Do I care enough about soap, or a web content company, or a design firm to chat about them on my own blog?
      I’m just waiting for the big brand that says “twitter isn’t cool anymore” and rips out the embedded widgets from their site, drops the bird image, maybe leaves an @ in the footer for people that are curious what ticker they have, but doesn’t shout “we do what everybody else does, notice us.” I don’t want to unlock your content, or do your contest, I could care less.
      Anyway, cool site still trying to figure it out, thanks for the mystery.