What do Seun Osewa and Linda Ikeji have in common? Very popular Nigerian online communities? No. There are both fighting to hold on to what isn’t theirs. Or what is no longer just theirs.
I’m sorry if some of this annoys you. Feel free to write a rejoinder.
Building a community is just like spreading a religion. In the beginning, you have to be strict such that new converts don’t change the core tenets in their bid to practice the new religion. This is enforced by a set of rigid laws which are open to interpretation only by a select few who were instrumental in the religion’s birth. This is taken further by imposing one language on the religion’s literature. This ensures there are no heretics, willing or unknowingly, who bring in foreign concepts in their bid to translate a new found religion they love.
Now, after a while, when the religion is old enough that every situation a human might need to deal with has been interpreted by the religion’s initial laws (or when you find a golden rule to apply to all situations), you will then have to open up said religion. This is done by relaxing the initial rules (as the spirit of the law has now been understood) such that the letter of the law can then be interpreted by everyone correctly as defined by the situation (or by the golden rule) so that growth and evolution becomes possible.
There are more examples outside religion. There is also music which starts out with a set of rules for a genre and then morphs to other creative brilliance. There is also language and the birth of English (from Anglo-Norman roots), creole and pidgin.
In technology, there’s Twitter listening to its community about Mentions, Facebook and their concessions to the African market (login with phone numbers and tweaks for ease of use on low bandwidth). And to cap it up, there’s the StackExchange group of sites which in my opinion treats its community the best.
So, what do Seun Osewa and Linda Ikeji have in common? In the words of Jeff Atwood:
“…in a nutshell, I was telling the people who loved Stack Overflow the most of all to basically … f**k off and go away.”
Cases in point – @pystar getting banned by Nairaland for building an unofficial API, and Linda branding people haters for copyright issues.
These two communities are old enough to suggest things on their own, but their previous sole owners refuse to let this happen. This is how things are done if you DO NOT want them to last. As they stand right now, Nairaland and the Linda Ikeji Blog will not survive the exit of Seun and Linda.
Once a community of people arise around a product they love, those who gave birth to said product have to listen to the community. This does not mean doing everything they say because “acting too directly on community feedback is incredibly dangerous, and the reason many of these community initiatives fail when taken too literally”.
The web is littered with the requests of the Nairaland and Linda Ikeji community. Better designs, respect of intellectual property, the list contains more. What is left is to listen to the them and work on the underlying issues behind these requests.
Arguing about whether the sites are making money or not isn’t important because we already know (or think) that they are profitable. What is left is to give the community some of the voting rights for the future of said platforms.
Photo Credit: André M.Silvestre via Compfight cc