I am participating in Online Social Networks 2005, which started on Wednesday. It includes a forum which is mostly text, but has some graphics and links to audio and visual. There are conference calls, gatherings in an IRC channel and other events going on.

I will be a panelist in the ‘Tools for Online Activism’ forum. I look forward to that. For the time being, I’m simply trying to get through all the forum entries and add comments here and there.

My initial thoughts are that at the conference there is this fascination in Online Social Networks in and of themselves. It reminds me of the old question from MOOs, “How is this medium different than all other media?” I think this could be rephrased for the OSN folks as, “How is this community different than all other communities?” I’m not sure they really are all that different.

To me, the key thing that isn’t being focused on yet is the purpose of communities. Why do people join Rotary or an online community? Typically, there needs to be some compelling shared interest. As noted in a discussion about Meetups, politics can provide this compelling shared interest. However, the topic of “online social networks” or even “blogs”, while they are compelling to a small set of geeky people, just are that interesting to most people.

Mommy blogs and teen angst blogs provide an interesting contrast. The blog, in and of itself isn’t compelling. It is the opportunity to talk about ourselves and our children that is what is so compelling.

Well, now I should get back to OSN2005 and try to get a little work done as well.