Oil & Water

I'm still in the US visiting friends and family. Having this much time on my hands puts me in a ruminative mood. A conversation I had with @lucky760 got me thinking about the differences between communities and businesses.

The difference is that they are completely in opposition and cannot exist in the same space. This sounds a bit absurd - I know there are lots of companies that work to have "communities" attached to them. Community is one of those words thrown in to the mix of any and all online endeavours, a bit like social networking. In my mind though, a community has a very clear definition: A group of people working altruistically together to create something that could not otherwise be accomplished by an individual.

Altruistic is the key word in that definition for me. Community members give their effort away and push others up in their participation. Business people work in opposition to altruism. It's self-interest all the way. The goal of any business is to make money. That doesn't make business bad. We need them - I need to be paid - but it certainly puts them in opposition to communities.

Any time an IT company talks about their "developer community" you should substitute the words "user group". Because the user group works to create monetary value for the business and value for its contituent members. Not a community.

Communities and businesses can definitely be complementary. I think about the Minecraft community. It's an amazing bunch of nerds building imaginitive, cool stuff to bolt on to MineCraft. It's a community. They do not work at the behest of Notch or his company, they do it because they love it, and they do it together - and undoubtably Notch and his company benefits.

Narrowing in on VideoSift - We're registered as a company, we do some commercial things to support our site - but I think, we are a community. The members and admins here work together, not at my or any company's orders - but because it gives us a little rush to find and push up someone else's cool video or find something that you know another Sifter will love. That's how things operate here.

We're probably never going to be a real business. And that's OK.

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