Communities, echo chambers, fan clubs

Communities, echo chambers, fan clubs, Big Red Car? What?

Big Red Car here, holding down the fort while The Cripple (The Boss and his little ruptured Achilles tendon, suck it up, buttercup) is in New York with the elites. [I think he’s been rioting in front of the Trump Tower, but he swears he hasn’t. Who really knows?]

So, the Big Red Car has been thinking about the creation of communities on the Internet, blog communities, to be precise.

Communities

A community may develop around a blog when the readers form a group of folks united by the glue of the blogger (message, writing ability, style, entertainment, personality, wisdom, wit), the blog (content), the community itself, which may bind similar or disparate members into an association more intimate than a polite discussion amongst strangers.

Polite discussions — per my mother who championed such causes — avoid religion, sex, and politics. Communities are like a bar where such subjects are met with good cheer and are able to be explored, because one is safe amongst friends, even friends who do not rubber stamp your thoughts. This only happens if the blogger reflects such good cheer.

Commentary — the response of the community to the blog and the blog post — may create a second form of adhesive to create a bond amongst the readership. A blog becomes like a bar at which regulars drop by for a drink and a bit of discussion with friends. That discussion — if it is authentic and genuine — reflects the tensions of our society whether it is sports or politics.

In many communities, the blog post may trigger an intense discussion in which the energy of the discussion overpowers the blog post itself, with the commentary occupying the center ring of the discussion.

Taken to the extreme, the wrestling match amongst ideas may spit out winners; ideas which are the strongest of the intellectual combatants, which is, of course, the reason why confident people are willing to test theirs amongst other intellectual seekers and learners. You want to go where you can get a good convo, not where you listen to the same boring crap.

It is like throwing red meat into the cage and watching the lions fight over it. It is an explosion of energy and the blogger who can trigger such an explosion is skillful indeed.

This energy builds the community, binds the members, and, ultimately, creates a brand and a culture. Like a business, a blog can become a culture and inclusion in that culture can be a pleasant experience for the members who follow the blog.

One of the critical elements in the creation of such a bond is the participation of the blogger in the commentary and culture itself.

Like everything else in life, folks spend their time where they feel valued, welcome, and comfortable. If a blog is going to be “successful” then this is a consideration a blogger will want to consider. Under the covers lies the challenge to be able to allow your own ideas to survive the engagement.

Echo chamber

An echo chamber is created when a blog is lacking in alternative opinions or viewpoints which reduce the commentary to an echo of the blogger and only the blogger. This also happens when the blogger is thin skinned or unwilling to engage in a real exchange of ideas. It is not a terribly bad thing but it does limit the engagement.

These type of blogs may have very loyal followings but they are unlikely to create much energy within the commentariat, as everyone agrees with the blogger, but there is no friction to create heat to warm the discussion. It is flat and lifeless. Boring.

Fan club

A fan club is an echo chamber taken to an extreme in which the readership is reduced to being “fan boys.” Not satisfied with echoing a single voice, they sit in adoration of the blogger and simply tell them how great they are.

It is the Michael Jackson phenomenon in which the blogger can do no wrong.

The blog exists to feed the ego of the blogger and no other useful purpose.

The Commentariat

The biggest compliment a reader can give to a blog or a blogger is the investment of time and energy to comment on the blog. We invest our energy in things that interest or inspire us and don’t invest our energy when things are unremarkable or pedestrian.

We engage with people who are engaging and whose personal conduct allows us to exchange ideas while risking either being correct or wrong. Being able to learn requires one to be able to be wrong for it often in the unmasking of error or the filling of an ignorant void that we grow.

When we invest energy, it means we care and are invested ourselves.

This investment is — amongst other things — what differentiates a vital community from an echo chamber or a fan club.

Evolution of community

Communities evolve over time and a community which was once vibrant may become an echo chamber or devolve into a fan club. The nature of a community is not a steady state and requires that constant energy to attract new members and to inspire the existing ones.

It is also possible to destroy a sense of community by a hasty or ill-advised act.

The recent election has provided an opportunity for all of us to visit our worst angels and to feed them. Some of the Big Red Car’s bad angels are looking a little overfed and in need of a diet of steady celery and kale.

Bloggers who have injected politics into their blogs and then have taken sides have taken a big hit, particularly if they were ardent advocates of either candidate. Let me be frank — the elitists who supported HRC and could not even remotely consider the actual outcome are both disconnected from reality and insufferable. Worse, they are boring.

In the end, we are all supposed to be gentlemen and gentle-ladies — people who strive to make others comfortable in their presence.

The Big Red Car took this to heart by reducing its total number of blog posts — political, in particular — over the last six months. That is not to say that the Big Red Car didn’t have a viewpoint or, even, a firmly held one, but rather that the BRC went out of its way to avoid the controversy. Go back and count the total number of posts since June and see if you agree.

To throw a rock or two, the thin-skinned liberal elite were and are the worst of this group; unable to conceive of a Trump victory, they have withdrawn into a “the-world-is-ending” meme because their candidate failed to win. Sack cloth and ashes are in short supply and they are wearying their friends with their funereal tone and conduct. Get over yourselves. Some of us felt the same way in 2008 and 2012. The world did not end (though the Middle East was set aflame).

It was their own insular elitism which precluded their seeing what was about to happen . But, that, dear readers, is a topic for another day.

What can be said with fairness is that such blogs, such bloggers, such fan clubs are boring, predictable, and uninspiring. There is nothing worse than being predictable and boring.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself and turn an idea loose to wrestle with somebody else’s. This is now Donald Trump’s America and who knows? Maybe he can MAGA?Ā cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png

 

 

 

 

  • The prescience of this post is even more apparent a couple of months later.

    Thanks for putting this into words.

  • Great post. I unfollowed an LA (not Lower Alabama) VC this weekend, when he declared on twitter that anyone smart that had voted for Trump had been hoodwinked! Brilliant. If I don’t think like him, I am either stupid or gullible . . I choose neither. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

    • JLM

      .
      Don’t get me started. Go read Gotham Gal to see how crazy this is going to get. I am, genuinely, wondering about some folks connection to reality.

      I am reviewing CPR just in case. Living in Austin is a real petri dish.

      I am feeling pretty good about Trump’s Cabinet. They are all doers, thus far.

      I was in NYC last week and walked over to the Trump Tower which was far more peaceful than the media would lead one to believe. I feel so sorry for the cops who are really on edge about anything happening. A lot of NYC — not in our house — pride.

      BRC
      http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

      • sigmaalgebra

        I took the bait of the Gotham Gal Web site, at

        https://gothamgal.com/

        and read some.

        There was a coconut cake recipe that looked good!

        But soon there was a claim that during the campaign Trump “shot from the hip”.

        Well, IIRC, the main case the mainstream media (MSM) had in mind was Trump’s remark that the US should temporarily stop all Muslim immigration until we knew what was going on, or how to vet such people, or some such.

        Later he modified the “shot” to propose “extreme vetting” of all immigrants, especially those from countries with a lot of terrorist activity.

        Well, as the US and the world have since learned the hardest way, in San Bernardino, Orland, Paris, among many others, and most recently in Berlin, Trump’s shot “from the hip” hit the center of the bull’s eye of the target. His recent statement that he was 100% correct was 100% correct.

        Then I saw the Gal’s call for electric powered semi-trucks. Hmm.

        So, I looked up semi-truck fuel saddle tanks and saw that they commonly have capacities of 50-150 gallons each. From seeing semi-trucks, typically one truck has 2-4 such tanks. Let’s say each semi-truck has saddle tank capacity for 200 gallons of Diesel fuel.

        Then I looked up Diesel fuel — right, it weighs just under 7 pounds per gallon, that is, much the same as heating oil and jet fuel.

        Then I looked up the weight of the battery in a Tesla — sit down for this one, it weighs 1200 pounds.

        Let’s say that, ballpark, that battery has effective range of 10 gallons of Diesel.

        So, for that range, the battery weighs 1200 pounds and the Diesel, 70 pounds. Hmm.

        So, per unit of effective energy, the Tesla battery weights

        1200 / 70 = 17

        times as much as Diesel.

        Then the 200 gallons of Diesel on a semi-truck would weigh 1400 pounds, and a battery with the equivalent energy would weigh

        1400 * 17 = 23,800

        pounds, an extra

        23,800 – 1400 = 22,400

        pounds.

        Maybe Gotham Gal will be able to talk truckers into an extra 22,400 pounds, but I’d expect to get responses like

        “No way.”

        “Not a chance.”

        “That dog won’t hunt.”

        “Where’d you get the really strong funny stuff you’ve been smoking to propose that?”

        Well, even if went for the extra 22,400 pounds, eventually have to pull into a truck stop and add energy.

        Well, let’s look at charging the battery in the semi-truck. Ballpark, we want to add the energy of 200 gallons of Diesel. Well, I just looked up, one gallon of Diesel has

        146,520,000

        Joules of energy. Well, a Watt is one Joule per second. So, let’s assume a charging time of 10 minutes, 600 seconds. Then we’re talking power level of

        146,520,000 / 600 = 244,200

        Watts. At 240 Volts, that would be a current of

        244,200 / 240 = 1,017

        Amperes.

        Uh, please, before you plug in that thing-y, let me step back. Uh, no, please don’t ask me to help you lift the charging cable. Just in case, I’ll have the fire department on the line. And right away I’ll notify the local electric company.

        Then there will also be an issue of heat in the battery. That is, will be pumping 1,017 Amperes through the battery, and it stands to have some internal resistance so will generate some heat. Maybe we should have some water flowing over the battery to cool it?

      • SFG

        I re-read this post today as a review of this crazy last almost 2 months. My goodness, I also took the bait to spend 10 minutes eyeing the agenda of said “gotham gal” — I’ve always thought that moniker deplorable, but don’t tell her that. And I’m sitting here envisioning what a day or two would be like in her household.

        And then I want to drink. A lot! Cheapest beer in town — perfect.

        At least I’d be well fed as evidenced by her food porn.

        You know by now that I’m a fan of your wisdom, BRC. But I get it that echo chambers and fan clubs are boring. I promise that the next time you say something really stupid, I’ll call you on it. In the mean time, don’t change.

        Happy 2017!

  • Parkite

    BRC -Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Very generous and much appreciated.

  • There are two types of comments -:
    1. Type 1: Is the BRC really red or does it have a hint of magenta mixed with Cyan. In this type, no fossil fuel is burnt, climate is not impacted and people are all jolly. Alternate viewpoints, bubbles blah blah..all is right with the world
    2. Type 2: If the BRC is driven rashly, not as per the driver but for the pedestrian, and rashly enough for the pedestrian to think that lives were endangered, then the game changes. There was no accident, so the BRC was not at fault, but it was a close shave, so the BRC was at fault. The driver needs to be careful, the pedestrian needs to be careful and some 3rd party traffic signals need to be neutral and have some sort of management

    It is not driving but how we drive that will determine how long the BRC lasts…..

    • JLM

      .
      The BRC, being a Big Red Car of some considerable life experience, is not one to be concerned about pedestrians from the pedestrian’s point of view. Pedestrians should stay on the sidewalk and between the crossing lines.

      While one always seeks to be a gentleman (or a gentle car), one is not encouraged to hold their tongue but only to be civil in exercising it. Bit of profanity is even welcome when it makes clearer a point of view.

      The BRC hopes that what does collide — violently indeed — is ideas because when ideas wrestle, better ideas are the result. We all benefit from better ideas.

      Nobody should be afraid of ideas or seek to censor or compartmentalize them because they either cannot hit pitching that fast or, worse, don’t agree with them.

      The BRC needs a new paint job and it needs to be Candy Apple Red with three clear coats on top.

      BRC
      http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

      • sigmaalgebra

        Candy Apple Red is, or can be, just drop dead gorgeous. Long ago, a friend did that. It was gorgeous. Then, too soon, it looked like there was some heavy cream in the candy. The guess was that sunlight ruined the effect. The result looked awful.

        Maybe now it is known how to have Candy Apple Red stand up to sun.

  • Scott Garl

    It’s always nice to share a drink at the bar with you! Greetings from northern CA, where the cry rooms are still extremely busy, and students continue throwing their quest for higher education out the window (they know that they can live at home until early 40’s so it’s all good). Mom and dad are spending extra time with their like-minded therapists — and you can just feel the outpouring of support, tears and bonding with fellow brothers and sisters. Oh, TWTR, FB and GOOG have their engineers working overtime to make sure that no more “fake” or “hate” news gets out. Only the genuine McCoy will be tolerated here! Trust me, it’s not censorship or a quest for power — they just want to provide good service!

    Speaking of fan clubs and echo chambers, I live in a part of my state where the populace is 85% blue and the elite is probably 98%. It’s all open borders, globalization, and obamacare is one hell of a piece of legislation. The polls that showed a 91% chance of a HRC win made perfect sense. Every AM talk show, local news station, and newspaper also knew the election was in the bag. It made PERFECT sense HRC was a shoe in. It was GUARANTEED. If we all feel this way, doesn’t everyone else? Hand slap and a hug please!

    Now that the unbelievable has transpired, the result of living in an echo chamber has predictably unfolded into a colossal, judgement-filled, cry-fest and temper tantrum. And the next 4 years will be spent finding fault in everything DJT does, or does not do. All the while no one will flex one intellectual muscle or engage with opposing views. No. It’s just going to be coddle-fest and rocks will be thrown at outsiders.

    I am confident that I will be welcome here as long as my comments are respectful — regardless of political opinion. I am confident that I will not be labelled an “offender” should I wake up one day and come in hard-blue into the debate. Hell, even if I called JLM a Christian, red-neck, right-wing, nut-job, he’d probably admit it, with a lot of grace thrown in. And the drinks would taste all the sweeter.

    I consider myself an intellectual seeker, continually learning from some very smart souls who have come before me out in the blog communities. I’m very, very grateful for these opportunities as I’ve learned a lot as a result.

    I’m very disappointed in, and have lost much respect for, bloggers who choose not to man-up and welcome engagement (or is that man-down and shun others). When given the gift of a loyal community of followers, who grow as a result of sharing ideas with each other, the community is bigger than the blog author’s own personal needs and wants to be coddled.

    But what the hell do I know?

  • Seph

    Great post. I had been wondering about the reduced cadence of posts. Mystery solved. I thank you for the quality and clarity of your written word, both here and at those bars around the corner or across the way. A tip of the hat to you, sir.

  • sigmaalgebra

    Nicely thought through and written.

    Since my wife’s Ph.D. was in sociology, with profs J. Coleman and P. Rossi, both past Presidents of the American Sociology Association, and both interested in making sociology a quantitative science based on mathematical models heavily from statistics, I can say that the post today is a lot like what Coleman and Rossi would have called sociological theory, that is, some qualitative descriptions with definitions, examples, etc. but not yet mathematical definitions, numerical data, models, statistics, or results but, still, maybe, ready for moving to some quantitative science.

    E.g., take a blog and all the posts to it. For each post, take the pair of the person that did the post and the person they replied to.

    So, now we can define a graph, that is, a finite set of points we call nodes and a finite set of arcs where each arc is a line from one node to another one. In a directed graph, each arc has an arrow indicating a one-way connection, street, direction of flow, or some such.

    So, for a given blog and each instance of that blog, for each post, have a node. Then for each post where a user A replies to a user B, have a directed arc from the post by A to the post by B.

    Then look in discussions of graph theory about definitions of cliques based on what nodes connect to what other nodes.

    Then convert this directed graph data on posts to one on the users and determine cliques of users.

    Other examples? Sure, consider the similar directed graph of who speaks to whom in high school society, 1890s NYC society, Palm Beach country club society, likely along Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, etc.

    Then for some measure of how many cliques a blog has, rank a lot of blogs.

    Continue in this way for some quantitative analysis, and maybe some tested science, about blogs. Apply that to blog design, construction, search, discovery, recommendation, etc.

    A good business opportunity? Doing more in blog search, discovery, etc. might be an opportunity, and the attempt at science outlined here might be a significant advantage. But I have what I believe are better business ideas.

    There might be an opportunity here for some social science. A grad student at a high end, mathematical sociology department might want to pursue this.

  • We all know what inspired this post. šŸ™‚

    One thing that could back it up is a bit of data about how you’ve grown this community. In particular, where else you join conversations on the web (besides those 3 letters) and if you attribute traffic / readership / subscribers as a direct output from those engagements.

    Then, the value of community [elsewhere] is that it breeds more community on one’s own platform. And whether your own platform is an echo chamber or otherwise, that osmosis is a good thing.

    • JLM

      .
      In the last six months, I have completely ignored the blog and therefore it would not be an accurate insight into what I have or have not done. I did, purposely, not make a lot of blog posts because I didn’t want to be a one note symphony always commenting on the election.

      In May, 15 blog posts. The next six months a total of 20. The numbers speak for themselves.

      At the same time, I’ve been doing a little more CEO coaching and writing, so I had other uses for my time.

      I frequent a lot of other blogs — military, Texas, VMI, VC, startup oriented — and my comments are not really solely focuses on AVC, though recent developments did crystalize and focus my thinking.

      I also think that the high level of whiny, thin-skinned liberals pouting after the election fueled it even more.

      The readership here has been unusual in that some days I’ve had as many as 2,000 hits and some days as few as 200. It all depends on the subject, the day of the week, the time of posting and other organic/structural considerations.

      One of the things I’ve always liked about AVC (other than the folks and the comparative comity of the discussions) is the regularity of posting. I am going to try to be a more regular poster in the future but it is a daunting task to post every day.

      BRC
      http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

  • JLM