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This page is meant as good advice for founders of online communities but
I may be also applied to the personal development of individuals or other
The general problem. Visions are forces that help to reach goals.
If you have no visions then the chance is high that you will arrive nowhere.
On the other hand if the visions are too far from your reality, if you
have not set proper subordinate goals, then visions become dreams,
they create a gap that is hard to overcome. This is a general problem,
but it is also an online community problem.
Visions in online communities. Online communities need visions (SuperordinateGoals) to inspire the founder and its members. But if the gap
is too large, then no significient progress towards the vision can be made,
and the result is an increasing demotivation. Sometimes the vision may look outright
impossible from the beginning, so visitors will turn away before they even
become contributors or members. On the other hand, if the gap is too small, you get the TargetReached or ShallowWiki problem. But this is easier to solve, because the discussion about new goals may inspire and motivate an existing community.
Be aware of this, check your overall design when you create new goals and visions, and every now and then. Just MindTheGap between your visions and the reality.
Be careful with great visions without proper near goals or stepping stones.
Keep the these visions for later. Perhaps some member will come up with it in a
few years and will really fight for it because it is his idea and not something
that known-to-all years ago.
- Example: Why does the WikiPedia vision of a "free encyclopedia" which is also a "great vision" work? Because you have clear near goals. Any page, any entry is a goal and you can look at it and judge: "yes this has the quality we aspire". So any good page is a proof of concept and a motivation to continue. If you can make one or a dozen, you can also create the 50K high quality pages you need.
Be pragmatic. WikiPedia also worked because they were pragmatic in practice, even if idealistic in vision. Similarly, Meatball is pragmatic, but idealistic in vision.
BarnRaising, not church raising!
Great ideas. Often people start with a really impressive great idea:
something like "Let's create a world community!". Fine, never heard before,
did I? Ok, but what then? There are some occasional visitors, some
contributors, maybe lots of discussions ... but what steps to take, how to
reach this goal? It turns out, that the great idea itself without a plan -
without subordinate near goals - is worthless.
BücherWiki. When I created the BücherWiki I was already aware of the
importance of visions, but I overdid it. I created a vision page with dozens
of ideas what could and should be done. But visitors and early members don't
feel up to discuss directions and visions - there were never contributions
to that page. While there is no real feedback on its effects, I think it did
more harm than good. -- HelmutLeitner
- Well, ... Why do you think it did harm? Can you give us some indication? -- LionKimbro
- For example I talked about exchange between readers and authors of books. But this is extremely difficult. Authors often put their life in their books and its hard and painful for them to stand real feedback. Readers are consumers that aren't used to give feedback. Although in theory it should be a big step forward for readers and authors, no-one can really live up to these expectations. This has an negative impact. On the other hand, without this vision, someone could sometime in the future jump over this hurdle and feel as an innovator - which he really is. But within the framework of my vision he's just doing "what I always knew". My visions reduce the space for individual creativity. -- HelmutLeitner
- It was in the seventies when - as a teenager - I've first been to London. The tube had a specific smell which I liked and one of the tubestations was special, as for some reason it was built in a bent of the railtrack. When a train stoped there the lower edge of the doors that were closer to the railroad car's wheels and the platform had a distance of up to 20 Centimeters, enough to slip in and break a leg when entering or leaving the train. For this reason there was a very loud warning voice playing, a tape-loop which automaticaly was switched on whenever a train was approaching until it had left the station. The voice was repeating the same words over and over again. I remember this intensly. This loudly repeated advise in a way keept going in my mind ever since my teenage days. A calm but distinct female voice spoke it. I still don't know what it really means, but there's a deeper sense, a hidden truth somewherebehind it: "Waterloo Station. Mind the gap!"
- Es war in den Siebzigern als ich - als Teenager - zum ersten mal in London war. Die U-Bahn hatte einen spezifischen Geruch, den ich mochte, und einer der Bahnhöfe war besonders, da er aus irgendeinem Grunde in eine Kurve der Untergrundbahn gebaut worden war. Wenn ein Zug dort hielt, bildete die Unterkante der Türen des Waggons, die näher an dessen Rädern lagen, und der Bahnsteig einen Spalt von bis zu 20 Zentimetern, genug um beim Ein- oder Aussteigen hineinzurutschen und sich ein Bein zu brechen. Aus diesem Grunde wurde ein lauter Warnhinweis über Lautsprecher abgespielt, eine Bandschleife, die immer einsetzte, wenn sich ein Zug dem Bahnhof näherte, und angeschaltet blieb, bis der Zug den Bahnhof verlassen hatte. Die Stimme wiederholte die gleichen Worte immer und immer wieder. Ich erinnere mich intensiv daran. Der laut wiederholte Ratschlag geht mir im Kopf herum seit meinen Teenager-Tagen. Eine ruhige doch entschiedene weibliche Stimme sprach ihn. Ich weiss immer noch nicht, was er wirklich zu bedeuteten hat, aber es ist ein tieferer Sinn, irgend eine versteckte Wahrheit dahinter. "Waterloo Station. Beachten sie den Spalt." --MattisManzel
- I like the pictures and the atmospheres you draw! A picture is more ... perhaps these are the paintings of the online world. -- HelmutLeitner
IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome. TechnologicalDeterminism believes you can code your way to salvation, which is false.
A great idea may be a bad idea at the wrong time. In 1500 the idea of the "United States of America" may have been obvious but worthless. An underdeveloped country will need a "highway system" eventually - but perhaps not now. A great idea will not nourish a wiki if it comes at the wrong time. -- HelmutLeitner
Helmut, the wording of this makes it look like you're saying that people
shouldn't publish grand visions. If you change the wording, I'll probably be
fine with it. I do hope you'll tell us how you believe grand visions (in
particular, communicated Grand Visions) harm communities. WorldForge?
wouldn't be WorldForge? without it's grand vision.
This entry feels way too binary to me. It's like, "Either dreams are
fulfilled, and that's good, or dreams are not fulfilled, and that's bad."
When you're talking about dreams and visions, I don't think you can reason
Some people are attracted by large dreams, some repelled, at different
points in their life. Too vague, to draw a specific conclusion one.
Especially not "You shouldn't publish your grand vision," as a general
principle for all community-kind. -- LionKimbro
- I agree that we will have to work this out. Let me talk about it a bit, perhaps you'll then be able to refactor it.
- We see great (online) communities and some have great visions. Does a great community need a great vision? Perhaps, but I don't think so. Is a great vision enough to create a great community? Surely not, that would be too easy. Other ingredients play an important role...
- A lot of millionaires are made by lotteries. Is it a good recipe to become a millionaire? Is the dream to become a football star necessary to become such a star? How many dream and fail? How many fail because they dream instead of just going forward step by step?
Again: do you have the intermediate goals that allow you to prove your concept and build trust?
- Other way round: You want to create a community. You know you need a vision. What should you take? You have a lot of possibilities. Each choice will have positive and negative effects. How to chose a vision? People in the internet are used to "great ideas" that are very short-lived. It may be a problem of trust and credibility. If people trust you, a great vision may be perfect. If you need to build trust, a simpler vision may be better.
- Very often the vision is too small. People come and say: "I have this shop and a lot of customers, I want to create an online community for them". There is a high chance that this won't work. Only 1-5% of them will show up. Only a small part of them will contribute. The vision (and therefore the target group) is too small. People dislike that their "technical idea" doesn't match the "internet reality" and that they just can't buy or create a community constructed exactly that way they envision. -- HelmutLeitner
- That reminds me of ErnstGruber, who had a great vision but couldn't show any ideas or personal effort how he planned to accomplish it. Thus he was ignored and subsequently met great resistance. -- DavidSchmitt
- Helmut, I think the questions you are asking are good. I also think that they have no easily calculable answer. I still think Visions and Realities things that Gods are made of. I agree with the sentiment behind Mattis' comment: "Mind the gap." I think this page is a good idea. But I don't think it should have answers on it; Only questions and possibilities. Mention that it's generally preferable to have stepping stones. Mention that you can usually come up with them. Also mention that sometimes we don't always have them, and sometimes we have to just "go" with it. Talk about mass movements, and the dreams living within hundreds of thousands of people, unconsciously guiding their motions. Talk about how we often operate according to a vision that we don't quite know. Talk about possibilities and abiguities. And then, I would end with: "Mind the gap." -- LionKimbro
How does the GoalStatement interact with this? Visions are important. You
need direction or meaning in life. They help shape your daily actions. But
even then you can't be governed by ideology; you have to keep your feet on
You may want to drive to San Diego, but remaining beholden to an ideology is
like just pointing your car at San Diego and then locking the steering
wheel. If you don't look where you're going and don't keep steering, you'll
be off the road very shortly, and quite probably crashed.
Ideally Helmut should close his VisionRealityGap? here by outlining the
Wiki:ThreeExamples that inspired him to write this page. That would help
frame the discussion. I have added some thoughts below that are rough, but
may be useful for a final Pattern. -- SunirShah
Would somebody please define visions?
Are we talking about utopianism, futurism, or technological determinism?
Each of these are evil because the ignore the human condition and therefore
increases suffering. Utopianism does not BuildInTolerance. Futurism ignores
all those who suffered and died in the past to teach us about who we are
today, and then goes on to recreate those situations. Technological
determinism disempowers people by caging them by what should be a substrate
that enables them.
If we are talking about imagination, that will always be out of phase with
reality. That is why it is important to validate your ideas. Do a search of
the historical and academic record. Consult others. Verify facts. Test
assumptions. Sometimes your hypothesis is so promising that you cannot
withhold your excitement. You may then hype your hypothesis. While this
is profitable in the short term, in the long term it almost always fails.
When it does "succeed" (i.e. survive), it does so at a great cost/benefit
Therefore, DefendAgainstPassion. Close the gap between your idea (the ideal)
and the real using the scientific, academic, or common sense
methods. --anon., brainstorming
- I don't think we're talking about any of those things (utopianism, futurism, technological determinism). We're talking about any vision that people think is worth persuing. -- LionKimbro
Well, are there any examples here except TechnologicalDeterminism and/or
TechnologicalUtopianism?? But maybe there are other types of visions that are
salient? I already know that CryptoNauts are evil, but I don't mind
pounding that idea in a little more.
"Mind the gap" T-shirts and more Info http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/4761/90349 -- MattisManzel
So, there's the famous "Chinese" saying, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." (I think I'd like to eventually do a paper on fake Chinese sayings. If you ever want to say something silly, but there's no existing aphorism for it, you can always fudge it and blame the Chinese. Poor bastards. I have a feeling it was probably Seneca who said this, but I can't find a citation.)
Anyways, I think the big "gap" problem is that a community needs a SuperordinateGoal to make what you're doing worth doing, yet there have to be small, easily-achieved tasks that lead to that goal. Wikis are actually great for this: you get a warm fuzzy feeling every time you correct a spelling mistake, because each tiny bit of work leads farther to the goal. It's tough to get people to think in terms of teensy-weensy steps -- one fact, one comment, one letter -- rather than in terms of a big step (like, "OK, you handle the section of WikiPedia on philosophy, and I'll do physics").
OK, I think I wanted to say something deeper than that, but I went astray. You need a destination 1000 miles away to make the journey worth while, but each step should be ~3 feet long, and it should go in the right direction. --EvanProdromou
- The Wiki is the donkey, that carries us forwards, us all together here in our big Wiki-saddle. It carries us forwards, because we hold a carrot fastened on a stick in front of its nose - a carrot that it seeks to reach and eat. MindTheGap would be the attempt to agree on the right distance between the donkey's nose and the carrot, in order to make our Wikimule trot forwards most finely. The dispersion of the individual single conceptions of this "most effective nose-carrot distance" as well as their dynamics are interesting. Two special conditions: 1.) all agree on a distance, this means total peace and nothing but the purest most effective co-operation. Special condition 2.) One person says: "Let the donkey take a bite from the orangecoloured long-vegetable, another person says, the carrot must be positioned outsides of the jupiter orbit to make the animal precede effectively. That is the moment, when the community falls apart. The special condition 1.) however is an ideal that now and then can be reached for an instant, however it will never become a permanent condition. You can groove in on it all together though and work swaying around pretty closely to this point - but then again a newbie arrives or a conflict emerges and all the dragging around about the correct position of the carrot starts again. Fataly there is a superordinate power in this mechanism which is superior to the work on the actual content. All keep an eye on the nose-carrot distance and compare it permanently to their own ideal conception. Now if somewhere someone goes off forwards, others will immediately start to brake. Does someone brake however, soon others will begin to pull forwards. Interesting these Wikis, aren't they?
- Das Wiki ist der Esel, der uns voranträgt, alle gemeinsam hier in unserem Wikisattel. Er trägt uns voran, weil wir ihm eine an einem Stock befestigte Mohrrübe vor die Nase halten, die er zu ereichen und zu fressen sucht. MindTheGap wäre unser gemeinsamer Versuch sich über die Distanz zu einigen, die zwischen der Eselsnase und der Möhre zu herrschen hat, damit unser Wikimuli am feinstem vorantrabt. Die Streuung der individuellen Einzelvorstellungen von dieser effektivsten Nase-Möhre-Distanz sowie deren Dynamik ist interessant. Zwei Sonderzustände: 1.) Alle einigen sich auf eine Distanz, es herrscht totaler Friede und nichts als reinste effektivste Zusammenarbeit. 2.) Einer meint: "Lass doch den Esel endlich mal abbeissen von dem orangefarbenen Langgemüse, ein anderer meint, die Möhre müsse ausserhalb der Jupiterbahn positioniert werden, damit's effektiv vorangeht. Das ist der Moment, wenn Gemeinschaft auseinanderfliegt. Sonderzustand 1.) hingegen ist ein Ideal, dass mal für einen Augenblick herrschen kann, nie aber ein Dauerzustand sein wird. Man kann sich allerdings gemeinsam eingrooven und ziemlich nah um diesen Sonderzustand herum eingependelt arbeiten, ja, ..., aber schon wird ein Neuer kommen, oder ein Konflikt taucht auf und die Zerrerei um die richtige Position der Möhre geht von neuem los. Fatalerweiser liegt darin eine der Arbeit am eigentlichen Inhalt übergeordnete Kraft. Alle halten den Blick auf die Nase-Möhre-Distanz und vergleichen diese permanent mit der eigenen Idealvorstellung. Zieht nun irgendwo einer los, dann werden andere sofort bremsen, bremsen hingegen welche, beginnen alsbald andere wieder voranzuziehen. Interessant diese Wikis, nicht wahr? -- MattisManzel