Stable communities and the Suck Principle

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“For anyplace to stay cool it has to suck.” Dmytri Kleiner wrote up some interesting thoughts on making communities more continuous and stable. When a place becomes too cool, it becomes too crowded, and the regulars are replaced by a more transient crowd that has no deep bonds to the community of regulars. Referring to a quote by Yogi Berra, “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded“.Dmytri draws on his experience with 28C3, the latest Chaos Computer Congress, held yearly at the end of December, in Berlin, and proposes The Suck Principle:

Only places that suck can really have a continuous community, because if nothing about the place sucks, it will attract more and more people until it sucks because of crowding. So if you want a continuous, closely knit community, something about the venue or event must suck, your only choice is what should suck or how it should suck.

I think it’s a variation on what I regularly tell organisations who want to build an online platform around their mission: community is about exclusion, not about inclusion. It’s about constructing boundaries, whether enforced or self-selective.

Offline, physical location or dimensions are usually one of the barriers. Dmytri dismisses the option of relocation CCC, but my experience with for instance Web of Change at Hollyhock, on Cortes Island. off the West coast of British Columbia, is that “traversing the barrier to entry together” is a bonding experience in itself, creating community bonds that extend well beyond the few days that participants spend together.

Online, there usually is plenty of stuff that sucks. But little of it forms barriers to entry that double as “social objects”, around which participants can come together and bond, both with each other as well as with the social norms of the community you then enter.

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