Every industry has it’s own jargon. It follows that the Internet, and every industry built around it, has it’s own jargon. Jargon develops because early adopters of – something – have to find words to describe the new concepts they discover, learn, or create. I’ve just reached a point where I may need to create another word for our Industry’s jargon.
But first, let me tell a story (warning, I’m about to brag). Around 1998, I “came up with” a term to help me explain part of the website development processes to a client. This term was “Information Architecture“. Later, I continued to use this term while working in a different studio. Sometime after the demise of that studio in 2001, I noticed the term listed in the resume of a fellow x-employee. Not long after this, I started to notice the term used here and there. Finally, I found the term in Wikipedia. If you reference the history of the entry, you’ll see entry was first added as a term in Feb 21, 2003. But it wasn’t until May 25, 2003 that a Web centric definition was added to the entry.
Well, now I am once again looking for a new term. Given the scope and nature of what I’m doing, and more so, what I plan to do at Gearbox, the title “community manager” seems inaccurate. The title implies management over the community itself – the populous. Lately, I’ve been very concerned with the foundation of that community – to be more specific, I’m talking about the software that allows the community to exist. While researching the subject, I found myself looking for an appropriate verbal container for this discipline.
As I pondered a new, more appropriate title – three came to mind:
“Community Designer” in my mind, suggests visual design. Perhaps I have this connotation because I mentally relate to “Web Designer”. That, alone, turns me off on the term.
“Community Architect” initially appealed to me. I connect Architects to buildings, and buildings come together to form cities… and cities hold communities. An artistic touch, so to speak.
“Community Engineer” seems equally satisfying. I think of “software engineers”. While it may not have the same clever community connection that Architect has, it does more technically define the role I’ve visualized.
I’m unaware of any previously defined title, and I see this discipline growing into it’s own all over the Internet. While most companies pile their online communities onto message board software, there exist a wide variety of unique virtual communities. Some of these try something new and different while others just collected a lot of good ideas and mash them together. Once you open the scope of online community up to any Internet technology, the whole idea of what a community really is becomes very broad.
From blogs to games, virtual communities are diverse both in function and in audience. Occasionally, they even have a purpose! How long until an industry evolves around the design of custom communities? Not long, because it’s starting to happen right now.
Now we’re “Building” Communities….