Monday, August 18, 2008

People Who Share a Common Time for a Purpose

click to enlarge the map 91k

I have come to a definition of an online community that is the best I can think of: People who share a common time for a purpose. This is broad enough to include all communities from a collection of individuals to a formalized group.

One myth about the web is that it is instantaneous. Yes, it is from one machine to another, but messages are not recieved and processed and responded to by humans instantaneously everywhere on the globe. The limitations of personal time zone have a very great impact upon how we can percieve "global community".

The web is global but not in a spherical sense. The distance between any two longitudes (meridians) determines the frequency of message cycles. Global community only exists where the frequency of message cycles allows enough communication to form a community. The longitude that runs down through Sweden, Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Libya, Chad, Republic of South Africa, Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nambia and South Africa is global with the web. Frequency of messaging is highest where any two given longitudes are closest together. Message frequency lowers as the distance between two longitudes increases.

So if we traveled the same distance described on a latitude either from East to West or visa versa, we could not call it global community. The latitude that runs from Spain to China is not a global community in the same sense as those based within a relatively narrow time zone because those who live within two longitudes that are closer together can have a greater message cycle frequency, exchanging multitudes of messages in one day, while those who are exchanging within an equal latitude may have a frequency as low as one cycle per 24 hours.

When I speak of time zones and geography, I am using this as a visual reference. Someone working the night shift in Spain would span the divide to China. So, in this blog, my constant references to time zones and geographical location is only a hint or pointer that must be translated into personal time zones.


  1. artie: What about some sort of common purpose? What about a sense of care?

    eg. 237 crazed fans lining up to see a pop group? (No care for each other) 13 (random) people catching the last bus to Kensington?

    Stand E that may collapse at the soccor? The people who regularly meet before the 6.15am flight to buy coffee?

    All the government consultants at the staff Christmas party?

    I'm thinking of necesary and sufficient conditions here.

    (Why are you forcing me to log in to post on this blog??)

  2. Thanks Derek,

    I read through all of the blogs and there seemed to be a range from the very tight to very loose definitions of groups and community. I wanted to sum up all online communities as having common characteristic that distinguishes them from offline communities. Offline communities share a common place but online communities can exist apart from space. they hold a common time. And I will admit that any and all definitions have grey areas.

    I have a question for you. Are we sharing a common space here now, or a common time?

    And about my blog comments settings. I thought that I had them set in a standard way. If you and the other participants in this blog think differently, I would be willing to change the settings.

  3. I have changed the blog settings so the blog is more accessible. And I have added something to my description of community. This post was titled "People Who Share a Common Time". Now it is titled "People Who Share a Common Time for a Purpose".

    But now I have to draw a line because talking about purpose gets me into an area I don't like. I don't think that a community, especially Communities of Practice) should serve the purpose of one person, the "owner". So I would disqualify many online communities that have a purpose.


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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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