Thursday, January 26, 2012

Makers vs. Takers

I was having a discussion about online communities--really they are communities with an online component (which may be 100%), but if you start thinking about them as online then you are putting the cart before the horse--and I realized there is a nice phrase that is also an important part of the issue: makers versus takers.

Communities are made and re-made through a few key actions:

  1. Communication (shares the same root as community)
  2. Making (can be making textual content, the same as communicating)
  3. Sharing (communication is part of this)
  4. Play (with others)
Communities make themselves. Yes that is analytically unhelpful, but I don't really care, because it is true. They are self-forming. Despite what I have seen on some marketing web forums, marketers and forum hosts do not make communities--they can provide the right environment, but the people (the community members) have to do the rest.

Often the result is an in-group versus out-group situation: the community (in-group to itself) versus those who think they made and think they own the community. If you are outside the community but seek to harness the community for your own gain, you are taking from it. Communities don't take kindly to this (if you're familiar with American history, think taxation without representation).

There are lots of examples from spaces such as Second Life, Spore, LittleBigPlanet, WoW, and others. These are spaces where there is a community (of some sort, and also communities) which occasionally disagrees with and argues with the controlling company. It is makers vs. takers.