Maybe we DO need our stinking badges

Over the weekend I watched our toddler while my wife helped organize a conference of homeschoolers in Sacramento.The group includes a large cohort of what I call “hippie homeschoolers” — parents with some sort of non-religious objection to traditional education. This gathering helped me realize something apropos of the two posts that I wrote last week before and after the formative meeting of the Social Media Club.

While people like to form groups around common interests they tend to limit their groupings to their most like-minded fellows. Personality and ideology become the size-limiting factors. In creating social media technologies one guiding principle should be:

To err is human; (therefore) to schism is fine.

The above photo shows my wife breast-feeding our daughter while carrying her in a sling designed for that very process. Many different sorts of baby-carrying technologies are available to facilitate the hands-free carrying of infants and toddlers. This particular Mayan style is just one manifestation of a larger group of baby-carrying slings that all serve a similar purpose — allowing a parent to carry and perhaps even suckle the child (optional equipment not provided) and then let the baby fall asleep in the parent’s arms — a bit of magic that I’ve seen my wife perform on our three kids.

This Mayan style sling was quite common among the nursing moms in the group. In fact when I donned the device to take advantage of its hands-free baby-carrying feature one woman who was similarly equipped remarked on how common it was and we had a brief discussion on baby-toting techniques.

The same sort of tribalistic adoption patterns are everywhere in the tech world. The iPod is a flavor of MP3 device. At the moment its popularity far exceeds that of rival devices because people want to identify with it.

So, yes, we do need badges and emblems to express ourselves and to be identified by those in our affinity groups. This suggests that social media communities will not organize around tools — as did the Linux community. There, the technology was the goal. In social media technology is morely the enabler and the goal is some state of mind or shared set of values. When the group gets too large for comfort or consensus, people must feel free to take the technology and form some subgroup of their own.

Hence social media technologies must be immune to the sort of schisms that are a fact of human nature. I’ll think more on this later …