Why community? That's the topic at tonight's edition of Third Thursday, a monthly Silicon Valley meet-up for PR and marketing professionals. We're interviewing folks from SAP Labs, Linden Lab (Second Life) and Vyatta for a talk about why businesses are so keen on communities. In short, it's a little thing called "wisdom of crowds" -- the increasingly well-known fact that when you have a freely organizing and sizeable community, all sorts of good things can happen. In business terms, we're talking about things like staff autonomy, business efficiencies, and "open brands." But building a community ain't easy. We'll look at the challenges that businesses face when attempting to build online communities -- political, organizational, budgetary.
There's one other thing we'll look at: online communities may be the place where we're seeing lots of innovation, but offline communities are getting a second look. In fact, we're seeing more and more interest in offline communities, and some of the innovative ideas from the online world are being replicated in the offline world. I think Third Thursday is a good example of this. For more than a year, many people in the PR world have been bumping, meeting and sometimes collaborating in the blogosphere. Then one day, a few of us (Mike Manuel, Jeremy Pepper and Phil Gomes) got together and decided to the conversation offline (literally). And yes, we're experiencing some of the challenges that all groups face when building a community (political, organizational, and budgetary). But we're already experiencing the benefits from the wisdom of the crowd that has been gathering each third Thursday at Fanny & Alexander in Palo Alto. Hope to see you there.