Communities of Commerce: Building Internet Business Communities to Accelerate Growth,Minimize Risk,and Increase Customer Loyalty

Communities of Commerce: Building Internet Business Communities to Accelerate Growth,Minimize Risk,and Increase Customer Loyalty

by Charles Bressler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071361156
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional
Publication date: 06/26/2000
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 6.38(w) x 9.31(h) x 1.29(d)

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1. The Rise of Communities

Communities of commerce are rapidly developing around the planet. In today's fast-paced and highly competitive environment, they can offer a haven for both individuals and organizations. But for savvy companies, communities of commerce can offer much more; they can increase your bottom line.

The very concept of community is a proven mechanism for dealing with cataclysmic change. This level of change is occurring today because of the Internet, but it is not the first time society has dealt with the stochastic shock waves of invention. By studying history, specifically the impact of Gutenberg's printing press, we can develop a framework for examining and applying the lessons for successful coping through the development of communities.

Whenever a group of people cluster and form interdependencies, a community is born. Communities can improve communication, enhance belief systems, foster education, influence politics, and even form governments. The type of community that we focus on in this book is the community that drives economic growth. If you understand what causes these communities to form and grow, you can harness their energy and apply it to benefit your company or organization.

Gutenberg Wired: How the Printing Press Changed Society and How the Internet Is Doing It All Over Again

This story begins around the year 1450. Western society was just beginning to emerge from a period that later would be called the Dark Ages. Stirrings and awakenings were occurring in many parts of the developed Western world, from St. Petersburg and Moscow in the north, to Buda and Vienna in the east, Florence and Madrid in the south, andParis and London in the west. The changes that people experienced in the shift from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance altered forever how humankind viewed itself, its neighbors, and the cosmos. We believe that those kinds of fundamental changes are happening once again.

The Internet has impacted our very notions of time, space, distance, and relationships. When shoppers visit a virtual store on the World Wide Web, they do not know whether that store was "built" in the next town or on the other side of the globe. It does not matter whether shopping takes place at noon or at midnight; and shoppers are likely to seek advice about products or services from people whom they have never seen. This level of change is monumental and requires the development of new coping mechanisms. There is a direct parallel between the adoption and diffusion of the printing press in the late fifteenth century and the adoption and diffusion of the Internet in the late twentieth century. The invention and adoption of the printing press created transformational shifts in how people governed themselves, organized their economic activity, received their education, and perceived their social community. Surrounding all this social upheaval was a precursor change in the arts and media that was evidenced by people's change in perception of place.

The voices of artists offer early warning signals, according to Larry Keeley, president of the Doblin Group ( They give us advance notice about what is happening, what should be addressed, and what should be taking place in society as a whole; this is, arguably, the artist's primary role in society. There certainly was a change in what the artists saw in Gutenberg's time. At first it was subtle; then it grew, gained momentum, and became a giant force called the Renaissance, or rebirth. But there were changes in context also. Expressive and imaginary art forms were beginning to present pictures, stories, buildings, all manners of things that reflected the world that existed outside of everyone's immediate physical place of living. Prior to the introduction of the printing press, people's sense of place resulted only from their direct experience with their own local area. It was limited, more or less, to locales within eight days' travel time. The cultural stories and myths explaining the substance of parochial experience and beliefs were translated and transmitted largely through oral history and the memory of local inhabitants. The advance of the printing press changed all that. Now stories could be shared, pictures could be copied, and reports of events could be retold all over the known world.

Today, this process is magnified ten-thousandfold by the Internet. In the summer of 1999, a small independent motion picture captured the imagination of a group of primarily young adults and became the impetus for a community that is having a far wider economic impact. The Blair Witch Project was a good, intriguing film, but hardly a masterpiece. Fueled by Internet chat rooms and Web sites, it became a cult hit. The media loved it; even that mainstream press icon, Time magazine, featured it in a cover story. Not only did its community following drive the movie's revenue, but stars and filmmakers Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Mike Williams, Dan Myrick, and Eduardo Sanchez became overnight sensations and hot properties in Hollywood. It will be some time before we realize the full financial impact. The speed with which this community grew and the level of devotion it displayed reflect a cultural perception shift that is just as revolutionary as the one that occurred in Gutenberg's day.

There is a direct link between new technology and our behavior. Especially when it influences how we communicate with each other, technology causes a change in our sense and experience of time and space. This change, in turn, brings about a change in our mental energy (or how we pay attention to things), and this finally results in a change in how we interact with the world-our behavior. The invention and diffusion of radically new communications technology inevitably changes how we live, work, and learn together as a human race. The cycle is simple but profound: Technology changes how we perceive and use time and space; the way we use time and space affects how we relate to and stay connected with one another; the way we relate to one another affects how we view the world and learn; and our worldview, coupled with the ability to discover new things, influences our behavior. Our behavior is what drives our communities and economy.

Awed by the explosive growth of Internet companies, we sometimes lose sight of how dramatic the changes have been that have led us to this point in history. In today's society, where obtaining virtually any book you want is as simple as clicking a mouse and providing a credit card number, it's important to remember just how radical the printing press was in its time. Just 500 years ago, only 5 percent of the population could read. An estimated 35,000 books existed, all of which were hand-copied. It took someone who was meticulously trained in the craft weeks to make just one copy of Plato's Republic. All aspects of commerce or trade required clerks (at the time, one of the most prominent and necessary of Europe's professional careers) to record, by hand, every detail of a business transaction. Within 50 years of the introduction of the printing press, more than 10 million books existed, spanning 100,000 to 150,000 different titles. More than 1,000 copies of Plato's Republic could be printed in one week. Put another way, literacy and communication were increasing at an exponential rate, similar to the pace of change we are now experiencing with the growth of electronic commerce.

Think for a minute of the cultural upheaval you would have encountered if you lived in a small village somewhere in the middle of Europe shortly after the invention of the printing press. All of a sudden, you could hear the stories that people in villages more than a year's journey from your home were hearing. Think about how frightening it must have been to realize that your immediate surroundings were not representative of the entire world. Once you and your community began to embrace the new printing press technology, our innate human curiosity would take over and you would feel that you couldn't get enough. Soon this new means of communicating would become commonplace and expected. You would begin to see things differently and to question the old order, a process that is being repeated today...

Table of Contents

Communities of Commerce: the Home Page1
1The Rise of Communities11
2The Drivers of a Community36
Case Study:
3The Business Climate for Internet Communities74
Case Study: The Drummond Group, Inc.
4The Transformation of a Business115
Case Study: JamtdataAB, Sweden
5Reinventing the Community Online159
Case Study: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts
6Steps for Building and Sustaining an Internet-Based Community205
Case Study: The Southern California Communities of Commerce[superscript SM] Initiative
7Company Structure for Community Support251
Case Study: BigAd, Inc.
8The Future of Online Business Communities281
Bibliography and Resources311

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