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Role of Face-to-Face Interaction in Building and Complementing Online Community
Primary Author: Kaliya Hamlin
Maybe some more is needed here
If you have an online community why bother getting together face to face?
Lots of reasons particularly that we are biological animals with millions of years of evolution geared to help us succeed in social face to face group interaction. Supporting face to face gatherings amongst online community members improves the quality of interaction online and can speed innovative and collaborative efforts.
If you did get together what would you do? Two formats that I see again and again BOF’s and Traditional conferences are well understood but fail to take advantage the opportunity that face to face meetings provide. I will touch on both but go into detail about alternatives that offer more for community development. I will highlight some design patterns that work well for these gatherings.
Why get together?
Another page about face to face and its power
For these reasons face to face meetings change the quality of the conversation that you community can have online. This does not mean that everyone has to find a way to be in one place at one time. It does mean that facilitating opportunities where appropriate to meet up and connect helps create a deeper understanding. These meetings can be small around other events or they can be people from a world wide community getting together for several days. Text is an format that seems simple - it just says what it says right? but can emotions can become amplified in that form. The reason for this is that it lacks tonal and visual context - hence emotional expressions can be over interpreted. This problem is added to by the fact that as we respond to text with matching emotional intensity - hence the cycle of escalating emotions in written form that can lead to flame wars. (reference Chris Allen, Life with Alacrity Flames:Emotional Amplification of Text Feb 13, 2006).
It is very hard to read in the emotions that people are expressing. The ability to read emotions and subtle meaning and tone is increases after you have met people face to face. It was startling to me how different I came to read the text of people in community mailings lists (my main technical community is working on user-centric identity) how differently I read the words people wrote on the Identity Gang list before and after. IT was like when I read the text after I met them I could ‘hear them’ say the text I was reading - get a sense from having met them what they meant and intended. The disagreeable guy who was always contradicting folks on the mailing list. After you met him and talked with him and understand him better - both is personal style and maybe event some ‘issue’ going on in the back ground of their life that helps explain their tone or attitude things can go more smoothly.