I was driving through the New Forest yesterday: as the sun was out i went right through, passing through towns and villages as well as wide open spaces and tracts of woodland. The Forest is an old landscape, shaped by hunting, farming, forestry, trade. The patterns of habitation reflect this: farmsteads out in the open landscape, hamlets of half a dozen houses, villages with a few shops, a church and a pub and then a couple of market towns, the places where everyone would gather each week to trade, and each year for major festivals.
Our online communities reflect this patter: in the wilderness of the internet, we gather in different spaces for different purposes. We maintain our own farmsteads, our individuals websites and blogs, as well as gathering in communal spaces, from Forums to LinkedIn or organisational intranets.
We carry out different activities in each space and require different input and moderation in each. Our social motivations are different and organisations need to engage in the right way in each location. It may feel like the Wild West at times, but there is a social structure and dynamics in place. We should look to understand it before we engage in it.
The Forest is an ancient landscape, whilst the Social Age is young, still forming and shaping. As the towns emerge, as the ways we communicate evolve, we need to remain agile, willing to travel to learn, to join together, to build communities.