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June 22, 2006

May I work near my online community?

Interesting. Via a newsletter called Non-Profit Bulletin, which I received unsolicited, I discovered this RSS feed aggregator that you can have custom branded for your organization.

"Fully Brand our RSS Reader as Your Own:
We will brand and preload our reader with your feed content, media files, logo and masthead to allow you to distribute it to your visitors for free to drive increased traffic to your website."
I'm not sure how this would fly for associations. If an association I belonged to wanted me to download and install a piece of software, I don't know if I would do it. At least, I wouldn't do it right away. I'd be curious to know if any associations offer free software to their members to help them communicate with each other.

I've been thinking that the best way to make virtual communities easy for members to participate in is to make the user interface a program that runs right on the users' computers. I think about how many hoops you have to jump through to use iCohere, the web platform ASAE & The Center uses for their online communities. I'm not a Southwest flier, but as a model associations might consider, I'm thinking of something along the lines of their Ding application.

What if, instead of pulling up your browser, going to the URL, logging in, etc. etc. etc. every time you wanted to participate in your association's online community, you had a program running locally, visible in your system tray, that you could just click on to see what's new? You could set up alerts if there's something you want to be notified about. The program would also be a user interface that would allow you to provide input into the community, too, like chat, bulletin boards, wikis, etc. Sure, getting your members to download and install the program would be difficult, but once you did it, your communities would get a lot more attention from members. I'd say the bigger problem might actually be getting people to continue participating in virtual communities, not getting them to go through the initial community joining process.

I guess now I'm thinking of a model something like Skype with one-click access to participation areas. To bring this post full-circle, maybe Skype should be offering custom branded chat and VoIP platforms with dynamic content driven by online community features.

Something to think about.


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