Afrika

protagonize.jpgFor quite some time, I’ve dreamed of starting an historical fiction blog. I’ve toyed with this idea as I think it would be a fantastic experiment in social media. In my eyes, the blog would be written by a World War II Army soldier, and would be dated and conveyed as such.

This morning, I discovered Protagonize, a community-driven, collaborative fiction writing service that just recently launched. I’m late to the game, however, but better late than never.

Protagonize is one of those ideas that slaps you in the face and asks, Why didn’t I think of that?

The concept is community-driven, collaboration on works of fiction. As a social media kind of guy, anything having to do with “community-driven” or “collaboration” is going to end up on my radar (again, late, but it appeared). It’s just the way I roll.

In this case, Protagonize resounds with me because now I can write my story, but I can let you add to it, provide your own missing pieces, and, well, collaborate. I’ve begun a new story, Afrika, which begins by introducing Johan “Joey” Friedrichson, a German-American U.S. Army officer in World War II who is in deep cover in Rommel’s Afrika Corps trying to collect intelligence on Rommel’s plans. We are briefly told about his wife, Michelle, who has yet to have a picture painted. Why don’t you add that part? Or help us figure out what Joey’s plans are next? The story is wide open.

Twitter Contest: Be my 1000th Friend

I’m at a special milestone in my Twitter career. Most people don’t end up with 1000 friends but the Twitter community is vibrant and I’m fully engaged so at this point, I have 999 friends.

I thought it would be cool, in the spirit of Twitter and community, to hold a contest for the 1000th friend milestone. In true Twitter fashion, this is how it will work. Below is an article about community. What I want you to do is to post a summary of the article in your own words on Twitter and leave a link to the Tweet in the comments. For the sake of community, also post the contents of the tweet in comments so people don’t have to go clicking everywhere to see what’s been said. The winner will be chosen exclusively by me (I can be subjective, right?)

There’s a twist however. In order to get participation from everyone, including the 999 people that are already my friends, the winner will choose my 1000th friend for me. You can choose yourself if you want, but if the winner is already my friend they could choose somebody that they find interesting and they want me to follow too. Could be fun, right? Right, so let’s get to it.

Engaging Community

We’re in the political season again and people are avidly watching the races for the Republican and Democratic nominations. It hearkens back to the bad old days when I first started blogging in 2004. The presidential election gave bloggers lots of fodder to talk about and, back then, everyone seemed to be a political blogger of some sort. Fortunately, the blogging world has diversified and is now rich in technology, sports, celebrity gawking, etc. It’s a much more accurate view of real life where people are very different.

One of the main problems that has plagued bloggers for as long as blogging has been around is the sense that blogging is an individual sport. Rarely do you see communities – true communities – spring up around single blog properties. There are a few notable blog centered communities – SEOMoz in the SEO world; Digital Photography School in the, well, digital photography world; all of the Gawker properties, I think. Mostly however, blogging is an individual sport and blog participation is a spectator sport.

Why do you think that is?

When we talk about social media, inevitably blogging gets lumped in with Facebook and Twitter as though blogs are somehow social. Generally, they are not.

When I first heard the term social networking I always word associated with social engineering, a scary term that denotes manipulation of lemmings by a single person or entity. When I thought of social media, which is used interchangeably with the word social networking, I thought of communist state government.

Where the word came from is irrelevant. It is the word. What it means is a grassroots community revolving around a topic or niche. In most cases the “friending” is a function of the network that allows people to connect and interconnect with each other, thus creating grassroots networking.

I come back to blogging, where in most cases, this is not occurring. Blogging is still mostly a one way communication tool where the blogger, or bloggers write. There is interaction via comments, but this is non-commital action that people can take that is contrary to the “friending” process of social networks. Anyone who blogs knows the feeling of being a “one night stand” where a commenter comes by, does a drive by comment, and leaves. Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am!

This is not community. Community requires a level of commitment, if only as menial as a friend request to “ensure” the tie that binds.

I’d love to see more communities emerge around blogs. Heck, I may start a forum here which would be a first step but it wouldn’t be enough. There would have to be the follow through from readers where community could begin to coalesce.

What are your thoughts on community?