I am absolutely addicted to @StephenCaggiano’s daily #UsGuys #NightShift Clock in on video on Twitter. Check it out below. It will only take few seconds.
You might not be so impressed. #UsGuys doesn’t care! It is a daily group ritual and you are not in this group. People in the #UsGuys community wait for it nightly and Stephen delivers consistently. Sometimes others join in either by tweeting a ‘clock in’ or making their own video, but if Stephen skipped a night, many of us would feel like the whole night was off, just not the same.
What is going on here? Why should you care?
Group rituals are the cement of human community. Are you interested in creating or participating in a cohesive, sticky community that has longevity, loyalty, dedicated resource pooling and a strong sense of identity? Here you go! Ritual practice generates that hard to pinpoint, fundamental attachment to a group of people that will transcend all kinds of adversity!
And look at how easy it is. What Stephen does is not complex, but it is consistent. Variation in the videos is commented upon. Was Stephen at home? Out on the town? Was he in a t-shirt, dress clothes, shirtless? Was his hair a mess, is he sick? Recognizing variation creates insider status. Commenting on those differences illustrates #UsGuys culturally versant status.
This reminds me of the odd South by South West Interactive Conference ritual I stumbled upon. At 3 am every year at SXSW in a hotel lobby, this happens:
No one could tell me what it was about, but the large crowd was dedicated to the experience. “Stick around, you won’t be sorry,” I was told.
Quick Bit of Context:
This is a blog series that addresses how to strengthen our digitally based communities by leveraging the wisdom found in Native American tribal experiences and beyond. This post marks the halfway point in the journey through the Three Pillars; three tool types you can use to increase identification, loyalty and resource pooling for the longevity and cohesion of the group.
A Step Back:
Pillar 2 is Culture / Ritual. Here I am focused on my absolute favorite tribal aspect, Ritual. The term ‘ritual’ often carries a religious connotation, but it is really any sequence of acts done in a set manner, repetitively. Pledging allegiance to the flag before the ball game is a ritual ceremony. We have personal rituals, family rituals, community, religious and cultural rituals. My own Native American tribe gathers multiple times a year for late night stomp dancing around a fire that has burned without interruption for untold years. It is documented that the fire survived the Trail of Tears in the 1800’s until today, under 24 hour supervision. Powerful stuff, no?
Last year, I was surprised to hear from an anthropologist that rituals often develop meaning after they are established. The repetitive action happens first, then comes meaning. We have so many rituals we practice without being intentional about the meaning, yet we wouldn’t skip them without great gnashing of teeth! I would be delighted to hear about rituals you feel strongly about!
So let’s get to some more examples:
My cousin has been in a guild of between 50 and 80 people on EverQuest for more than a decade. Their guild is extremely dedicated.
Some of their ritual practices:
- They have met on the same nights every week for more than a decade. Some nights are raid nights, others are planning nights.
- At the end of a raid they “buffer” each other which means they give each other various forms of strength for the next log in.
- When someone in the guild has a birthday, they “kill something big,” to quote my cousin.
The people in this guild have been at the hospital for major medical issues before family members showed up. Legal and engineering talents in the guild have offered support to other members when they were in need, free of charge. This guild inspires enormous resource pooling and commitment that translates into “the real world.”
2. The TwitterChat phenomenon
TwitterChats are everywhere on Twitter. I have noticed a common practice on many of the chats. There is a good 7 minutes of greetings and welcomes before the chat gets started. This is the opposite of every meeting ‘How To Guide’ you will find: ‘Get to the point, rock through the agenda, make the meeting relevant and a good use of people’s time.’ But on TwitterChats we like to work the room before we settle in for the agenda. If you cut that short, your chat will feel bumpy and wrong somehow. Dedicating those first several minutes to welcome chatter is culturally versant.
In fact, TwitterChats have a ritual aspect by virtue of the weekly rhythm. People organize their day around a chat time.
I also love how folks do imitations of real world physical gestures in TwitterChat greetings, like “*waving* across the room” to bring another level of real world meet-n-greet to the experience.
3. There are all kinds of rituals on social media communities:
- #FF (whether you like it or not)
- Regular giveaway days, like Luxor Casino’s Facebook Fridays
Ritual will cement a community feeling like nothing else. Ritual practice is powerful and fun. Things to remember:
- You can’t force culture and you can’t force ritual. Try something. If it doesn’t take, it wasn’t meant to be.
- Keep it simple and extremely consistent
- Allow others to participate, but remember, anything that is reliant on the participation of the group, while the most powerful, is the hardest to get off the ground.
Please share the rituals you have encountered on and offline! Digital tribes are still in their infancy. We are learning together.
I had a great time at #SXSW this year. I finally got to sit down with all my co-panelist face to face after months of Webex discussions. These folks are brilliant and funny and dedicated. They are my first choice for a deep discussion, a panel and getting stranded on a tropical island! We are all having withdrawal symptoms and hoping for another project together! Thank you: @LOrdorica (Lou Ordorica of Web Achiever), Circe Sturm of UT Austin and @CounterBeaver (Holly C. Beaver of Lighthouse Experience Design, the moderator with the mostest).
Thank you to the phenomenal SXSW staff. Everything ran like butter and the volunteers always greeted you with a smile! What a pleasure.
Big thanks to an awesome audience! The folks that attended were engaged and offered lots of great examples and questions. I wish I could have taken them all out for some BBQ and more discussion. I hope to chat with them more on #DgtlTribe or the DgtlTribe Facebook page, or here on this blog!
Thank you to OpenBeta6 and the awesome Oklahoma team who not only promoted our panel, but also took me under their wing and introduced me to all kinds of fascinating people who are building and sharing amazing work! If you haven’t looked in Oklahoma for your interactive projects, you are missing innovation. A particular shout out to @BeckyMcCray who instantly made me feel at home with prairie style hospitality! Check out her BIG work with small businesses, small towns and tourism.
Thank you Ogilvy Notes for selecting our panel for graphical representation! That is just a cool project and we were honored to be a part of it!
Thank you to #UsGuys for the IRL opportunities. It was so lovely to see so many of you. In particular, thank you @Josepf and @prosperitygal for the introductions to more interesting people who are getting stuff done! @prosperitygal, thank you for all the laughs! @Josepf is like a Sadhu Baba of networking (see him at work on Hashable). You know he saw something when he introduced you and it is your job to find the deeper connection.
I am also very grateful to have finally met the man that knows what he is doing, Ken Lingad of 1680PR, a company that showcases the incredible, cutting edge talent in the Native American community. He also made me snort giggle more than once! I hope to meet more of his gifted team in the future!
My SXSWi conference was fantastic this year! I look forward to many more.
I am starting a series of blog posts on what the Native American experience can teach us about building strong tribes in a Digital space. I am very grateful to all who have explored this idea with me, in particular my SXSW Interactive co-panelists, Lou Ordorica and Dr. Circe Sturm, and want to expand this discussion in a public dialogue.
The genesis of the idea came from two observations:
- The term tribe is quite liberally applied to online groups and communities. Two books: Bernard Cova’s Consumer Tribes and Seth Godin’s Tribes, also apply the term more broadly to people sharing a common interest, identity or objective. The term tribe doesn’t really have a solid definition in these contexts, but definitely implies that people are gathering online in search of stronger connections and community.
- Native American tribes have survived centuries of attacks & challenges as well as the single largest paradigm shift in their collective existence with the arrival of Europeans. In addition to attacks on Native resources,culture,beliefsystems,familial ties (see Indian Termination Policy) and, of course, their very lives*, Native American tribes had to learn how to navigate and in many cases adopt the European/Christian/Nation-State world view.
Those thoughts led me to these two questions:
- Many Native American tribes, mine included, are enjoying a kind of renaissance in pride and commitment to culture. What makes up these Native American experiences and enables the tribes to continue and even flourish after such long and varied challenges?
- Can digital communities achieve the same kind of strong bonds, loyalty and sense of identity through the realization of the practices of indigenous peoples?
My research so far leads me to believe that online communities that are developing strong bonds, identity and organizations are employing techniques also found in Native American tribes. I do believe that the exploration of the Native American tribal experience can lead “neo-tribes” to the kind of loyalty, longevity and rich personal commitment that is experienced by indigenous peoples.
The subsequent posts will explore the role of leadership, mission, language, culture and governance as well as platforms in the development of tribes in online communities. I look forward to your feedback, examples, critique and additions!
*I recently read Little House on the Prairie to my daughters and skipped the repeated line “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
This is the image I chose to represent the discussion of What Digital Tribes can learn from Native Americans. I like this image because it was on a 1000 year old pendant found in Southeast United States, my tribal homelands. The image meaning is unknown.
I like to think it represents an alliance of various groups. Woodpeckers may have represented war, so perhaps it was the formation of a tribe or alliance to do battle. The square flows like an eternal river around the sun. Perhaps it is a reflection on the passage of time and a lasting commitment to established bonds.
This art was created by Burkhard Saur. Visit him on Facebook:
With my upcoming SXSW Interactive panel, I have been thinking a lot about what we are looking for in online communities. This post is the first of several that I hope will start discussions about the future of “community.”
I recently learned a lot about my Great-grandfather’s life in a 4 hour road trip with my mother. He was a Texas farmer who took great pride in his independence. He and his wife worked very hard to supply themselves with everything they possibly could. The neighborhood barter economy or resource pooling supplemented most of what they could not produce themselves. Money was used as a last resort. Great-grandmother sewed all the clothes. The neighbors pitched in to buy a communal tractor. My grandmother’s university education was purchased with pigs and cows at the Belton, Texas’ University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
My Great-grandfather lived in a community that was critical to his lifestyle, to his idea of independence. The neighbors pitched in when someone needed help, pooled resources for everyone’s benefit and traded with one another. I don’t know if my Great-grandfather liked any of his neighbors, agreed with their politics, faith or enjoyed the same hobbies (probably didn’t have much time for hobbies). But they were bonded in a very fundamental way. Tolerating one another had very real material benefits.
Today, observers raise concerns that we increasingly seek like minded people in the digital space. But, hey! What a delight to discover 100’s, even 1,000’s, of people who share our interest or perspective. Consumer Tribes is an academic term for consumer’s sometimes loyal, sometimes flighty interaction with company brands. Loyal brand communities represents the Holy Grail for modern marketers since modern consumers are perceived as fundamentally distracted, distractible.
Is that what is really going on? Are we just chasing online cocktail parties of like minded folks?
I’m not sure. I wonder if we seek what my Great-grandfather had; community on an existential level. We change jobs, move across the country, rely on money and contracts (life and health insurance, loans, investment funds), not other people, to provide security in our lives. The kind of local interdependence my great-grandparents, even my grandparents’s had, is no longer the fabric of our society.
I have been in my new town less than 2 years. After such a short time, who here can know me well enough to count on me when they are in terrible need? Our modern sensibility would find it odd for me to enter into a loan with my neighbors like my Great-grandfather did. What has gone astray with our new definition of independence?
Are we journeying through the digital space, looking for some illusive sense of community that has gone missing? I see evidence of this behavior: a sheltered teen’s 700 Facebook friends, a single, rural woman constantly and obsessively tweeting with 100 people she has never met…
But can the digital realm provide satisfaction?
My cousin, who has played on the same guild in Everquest for over a decade, tells me stories of how guild members arrived in times of great need (death, illness) even before family members. Guild members may change jobs, towns, and so on, but they congregate faithfully several times a week to combine resources in the virtual space. At times, these decade long relationships are stronger than family bonds.
What do you think? Will we find ways to migrate more and more material as well as emotional reliance to our digital communities? Are barter sites and sites like Kickstarter.com, and ughlyquilts.org going to become the new communal resource pooling?
Will you ever go in on a tractor with me?