A while ago, I suggested checking out Jeff Howe‘s book excerpts, and tried to summarize some of the best parts.  As “the best parts” grew quite long, I had to cut the post, leaving later bits unpublished.

With the book out now, I’m digging those back up.  Here’s the excerpt on Chapter 5, where things start getting interest, and some of my thoughts.

Chapter 5: The Rise and Fall of the Firm: Turning Community Into Commerce

Chapter 5 touches upon an oft understated quality of crowds: their natural connection to community.  Crowds are rarely groups of disparate human being.  Rather, they form around common connections in varying degree of community.

Howe explains to us that communities are changing: not for the worse, but toward the more efficient.  A grievance we often hear about modern society is the erosion of neighbourhood communities.  However, geographically-defined communities, in their pre-World War II hey-day, were popular because they were the most accessible common-interest groups (the common-interest being the location).  As new tools became available, humans have found ways of being community members with broader groups, and bound by interests beyond geography.  Thus, the slide of our culture’s individuals into new depths of isolation is not the case.  Rather, our communities are simply moving into less visible ground.  In a great observation that I had not considered, Howe notes that now, with the ease of social connection provided by digital tools, “new types of communities have materialized that are both local and wired at the same time”.

Chapter 5 also looks at the successful online efforts of the Cincinatti Enquirer, particularly through the CincyMoms community blogs.  It is a good look at do-or-die changes in publishing.  There’s also a gem of information I wanted to highlight lest you miss it.  In regards to a reader-submission feature on the Enquirer’s website:

The words “GetPublished” feature prominently on every Enquirer Web page. The results land in Parker’s queue, and they almost never resemble anything commonly considered journalism. “It used to read, “Be a Citizen Journalist,” Parker says. “And no one ever clicked on it. Then we said, ‘Tell Us Your Story,’ and still nothing. For some reason, ‘GetPublished’ were the magic words.” The Enquirer considers the feature to be an unequivocal success.

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