On-line Vs Real world communities

Yesterday, I went to the Silicon Valley Indian Professional’s association (SIPA) annual conference in Santa Clara.

SIPA ANNUAL EVENT 2006

It was a great event…well organized…great speakers, especially Mr. Azim Premji (CEO of Wipro) had a very refreshingly thoughtful presentation…large number of quality attendents (they were sold out)…Overall making for a very enjoyable event. My kudos to the SIPA team…I am going to keep my annual membership with them.

At the event, I was stuck by the number of motivated volunteers hustling about and making sure that everything was working as planned. Also most of the participants seemed to be engaged and interacting with other participants. This was in the stark contrast of the on-line communities where the participation levels are rather dismal. Some of reasons for this participation inequality has to do with the higher threshold for participation for real world event. In case of SIPA event, you had to pay about ~$50 for registering then wake up early (I got up at 7:00 AM which is kinda early for a Saturday), dress up and drive over to the event. These thresholds ensured that only the highly motivated participants were at the event.

Another factor driving higher level of participation was that most people were looking to meet interesting new people and exchange cards. I personally handed out close to 25 business cards and collected about the same number. In on-line virtual communities, there is no way to tell who is an interesting person as there typically don’t have a name tag with their professional credentials…Despite that, if you still manage to find somebody interesting, there is no way to exchange business cards with them as both parties are not sure each other’s credentials.

I believe this significantly limits the level of participation in on-line communities.

What do you think?

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One thought on “On-line Vs Real world communities

  1. Linkend-in and other business networking websites is probably akin to a face to face paid networking event. It works on a similar model – if you are a paid member of the online network you can send introductions to members after you read their profile.

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