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In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, a baseball-obsessed Iowa farmer (played by Kevin Costner) has repeated auditory hallucinations consisting of the single sentence, "If you build it, they will come." He acts on the hallucination by creating a baseball diamond in his corn fields, complete with bleachers and stadium lighting, to the consternation of his neighbors and family. After the diamond is complete, however, ghostly baseball players (the uneasy spirits of the disgraced 1919 Black Sox team) emerge at night to play on the field. The same neighbors and friends who discounted the idea as crazy come to watch the games. Eventually, everyone -- ghosts, farmer, family, friends -- learns valuable lessons about life, love, baseball, and other sentimental subjects.

IYBITWC is a phenomenon of online communities, too.

IYBITWC is more of a myth than anything else. Why does this myth arise?

There's an interesting parallel with FreeSoftware projects. The myth of Free Software posits the hero working in obscurity and creating a fabulous product, then springing it on the world to universal acclaim and acceptance. The reality -- that projects don't just become miraculous successes the day after the first release, and that most software project creators (free or otherwise) have to spend years fine-tuning, fixing, and enhancing a program before it becomes an Apache, a Linux, or a perl.

External References

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Comments / Discussion

I like this page but too many people already think that their dreams are enough to produce reality. Too many ShallowWikis. [-- Anonymous Coward who is often accused to be cynical for his "won't work"]

Oh, absolutely. I wanted to try and document both sides of the idea: that sometimes they come when you didn't expect them, and sometimes they don't come even though you wished and wished and believed and prayed really, really hard. --EvanProdromou

I wrote a little something on WikiReputation, but I think there's lots of stuff on the care and feeding of a Wiki on WikiLifeCycle. --EvanProdromou

So, one thing that's starting to worry me is that Sunir tends to refer to this page like this:

... which is TechnologicalDeterminism, that is, IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome...

I don't think this is quite accurate, and perhaps I've described the fallacy too poorly to be clear. I don't think it's actually a question of how the technology determines the character of the community (which is my take on TechnologicalDeterminism). I think at issue is the mistaken assumption that the creation of a space will through some kind of ChemicalPotential? attract a community to that space. It doesn't really matter if it's a mailing list, a Wiki, an Elks lodge, a chat room or a penpal network: establishing a community space doesn't guarantee a community.

It works with any kind of people group. You can't start a new barber shop and just hope people will show up to get haircuts -- you have to advertise, you have to have a big sign out front, you have to give your friends free haircuts right up in the window so everyone knows you're open for business. --EvanProdromou

Proposal. Considering the title is too long and hard to read, perhaps this page could be renamed as WishfulThinking?. The other name "If you built it, they will come" for the Pattern would then be listed as an Also known as.



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