I received an email the other day from a guy, a former neighbor, who has created a website for communities of practice aimed at a regional/municipal audience. This guy supposedly has an MBA in electronic business yet I was dumbstruck by his approach and his total and complete lack of understanding of the spirit of Web 2.0 technologies.
The first thing that made me shake my head was his claim that he is "reinventing the internet" with this site.
With online communities? He really thinks he is reinventing the Web? All hail the revolution!
Oh, but he had other brilliant insights in store for me. According to him, the reason the quality of exchanges are so poor on the internet is because everyone is anonymous on the web. So, his solution to this fundamental flaw of the internet is that no one can be anonymous on his site. Funny, I'm pretty sure most of the 118 000 000 bloggers out there sign their texts. And very few people on Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, and LinkedIn are anonymous as far as I can see.
I'm not sure why at this point but I actually visited his site. He said he has been working on it for 3 years now yet it still had "Beta Version" written at the top (whatever that means) and he only had two people signed up, one of them being himself. This might have to do with the 2$ sign up fee he is asking for up front.
Last but by far the most unsettling, his email included a "Confidentiality Clause" after his signature block that stated, amongst other things, that "It is strictly forbidden to copy, publish or distribute this email, in any shape or form." This is just an extract as the whole thing is six lines long. Not only did I find it personnaly offensive that, in a sollicitation email, he would presume to tell me what I can and can't do with his email, but it highlighted for me the fact that he understands NOTHING about Social Media. He has picked-up the technology, but he understands nothing about the philisophy.
I came across a great quote today while reading The Seven Lost Secrets of Success by Joe Vitale that really exemplified for me the spirit of Social Media.
"Exchange ideas frequently. If you and I exchange dollars we are no better off - each of us still has a dollar. If we exchange ideas we each have two ideas where we had one before. What you gave you have. What I got you did not lose. Share your ideas - you will not become poorer - both of you will be the richer for the mutual exchange." J.C. Penney, 1934!
Those who think that the web today is about hoarding your ideas so you can make a buck down the line understand nothing about the Web of today and the Web of tomorrow. In 1934, J.C. Penney vas a lone visionnary for thinking this way but for those trying to be part of the global community, this is a way of life.
The ones leading the pack understood this way before the rest of us did. Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Bryan Eisenberg, Shel Holtz, Jeremiah Owyang, Andy Sernovitz, Kate Trgovac - they all have become highly successfull because they were willing to release control of their ideas and share their knowledge with the world. Sharing, instead of hording. Asking questions instead of just offering their own solutions. Engaging, instead of controlling. And THAT is the true spirit of Social Media.