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Jordan Frank

John - You're cutting to the core of how E2.0 Communities can foster better, faster innovation and value. The Return on Information piece is a better way of looking at ROI than Return on Investment. I've previously covered Return on Information with my own take on tactical and strategic benefits:


Mark Yolton

Hi John:

I read your book from years ago, manage two very large communities (manifested in both the virtual online world at http://sdn.sap.com and http://bpx.sap.com and at physical events like our Tech Tour and TechEd conferences) for SAP, and was pleased (and enlightened further) to hear your updated thoughts during the Communities 2.0 conference. We work hard to follow the principles you've outlined, to adjust to the shifts in the world around us, and -- based on the success of our communities -- I think we're on the right track with something big and impactful that will evolve greatly in the years ahead. Thank you for your continuing attention to, study of, and thoughts on these communities. We'll continue to listen to your wisdom and insight - and to that of many others - in our efforts to bring the most value to our many diverse stakeholders thru these "new" methods.


Mark Yolton

John Maloney

Hi John --

Thanks for your thoughtful remarks.

Sadly, most people won't understand or resist exactly what it is your are talking about. For them, as Wikipedia says, "Community 2.0 is rich user-generated content and dynamic interaction. Community 2.0 is mobile, ubiquitous, and continuous (real-time) computing."

This, of course, is utter nonsense. It is shameful. It is regrettable that people are still pursuing this patently obsolete mental model.

I'm afraid your observations on the highly nuanced and subtle nature of true VC will be lost on most all people.

To be blunt, virtual community is in fact quite rare and a very difficult property to lead or manage using conventional techniques or ‘Returns’. (?) For most it is futile to even try.

This pernicious siren song of community has seduced even the most experienced professionals, seasoned investors and experts, as you pointed out.

Ironically, it is exactly the principles that you elaborate that lead directly to the failure of virtual community, e.g., the ‘Return’ on this or that.

What we today call ‘virtual community’ is in fact a complex adaptive system. It exhibits specific network patterns. It is in these patterns, the specific network mathematics, which the properties you describe of communities exists.

Furthermore, there is NO 'blurring' of network mathematics and complexity science. Rather, visualization allows these network patterns to be understood and optimized with ease.

Really the only tools to cohere these network inhabitants and their patterns are social, organizational and value network analysis. See:




Mark Schlager

My team of education researchers at SRI was among the wave of online community developers who bought NetGain 10 years ago. We were not interested in vendors and customers in the commerical marketplace, but instead teachers, schools, and teacher education and professional development providers. We literally crossed out the words vendor and customer in the book, replaced them with our terms, and set out to build an online community of education professionals that would empower teachers and offer a venue to connect teachers with providers on an equal footing. Ten years later, our Tapped In (tappedin.org) community is still thriving (20,000+ members) and evolving primarily through the dedication of community volunteers (we dont rerive revenue from ads, sponsorships, or subscription fees; we have "tenant" fees). We have experienced all of the challenges described above and found ways to overcome many of them (although the issues of revenue generation and return on investment persist). We too, exerienced a .edu boom and bust (in which all federal and state grant proposals promised to build online communities for teachers and then failed to produce) and the the backlash from the hype around the term online community. Finally, we too are seeing a resurgence of interest and more understanding of what online communities can and cant do for education (although the language problem is still an obstacle). Our new challenge is how to keep pace with our community members in the age of School 2.0 and offer services that add value to what teachers and providers can get from consumer-oriented or course management sites. We welcome any thoughts on this challenge or other advice that might help those of us working in the "parallel universe" of education online communities.

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