Saturday, September 1, 2007

What's in a clan?

Birds of the same feather, flock together.

This isn't exactly anything new, right? Right. The formation of communities go way back since Adam and Eve went forth and multiplied. People of the same language, religion, race lived, worked, ate, socialised together because they all had a common binding point. Fast forward to future, a new marketing buzzword was form - peer group participation. Within these communities, subgroups were formed according to demographic profiles. And within these subgroups, even smaller nuclei began to develop. Amongst campus students alone, we see people conforming into different fashion styles and hobbies and what have you. I still remember one of my very first encounters of such peer group formation is when cybergames hit the town. Overnight, there were young people recruiting friends into their little clans. A really popular one which I can remember was called Atomic - according to them, they were atomic - quick and deadly in the world of Quake. Subsequently, they formed their own chat channels on the then super popular mIRC - Microsoft Inter Relay Chat. Most of the time, 'outsiders' were allowed to hang out in the channel. Not unless they don't like you, then obviously they can turn you into an instant social outcast, barring you from their chatroom. Such vehemence! I heard someone exclaimed recently that it was IRC which really brought the kids in Klang Valley together. Everyone knows everyone in #mamak and #happyhours. You'd know what I'm talking about if you were born somewhere between 1975 and 1985 :)

Online communities have since evolved into more complex social groups spanning infinitely beyond age, gender, ethnicity and nationality in the virtual world. If you can name a cause, a life dilemma, a social status, even a product which binds people together, add a dotcom and chances are you'll find 'the others' with similar interests. As Gary Marshall puts it, we're lonesome no more :) Check out BMW owners club, local opportunist Tumpang-ers, made in Malaysia indie bands, DiGizens and their friendsters, the albeit small but purposeful Norah Jones fans and something really grassroot, our own footie supporters. The list is growing as more and more people realise the power of a community and the wisdom of the crowd. Even marketers realise the importance of web. But while they still lag in building corporate-oriented homepages and/or ad hoc promotional sites, the real people are starting to evolve beyond those prehistoric usage of the net.

Okay. I'll take one question now.

Your question: Yea, but since broadband penetration is so low in this country and most users are still on dial-up, is there any point building such sophisticated web content and community at all at this point?

My answer: The difference between dial-up and broadband is the amount of time you spend waiting for YouTube to stream (when it starts to stream). Not really on the way you interact with other netizens or communities. You'd still be able to access Wikipedia on the slowest dial-up, no? You just have to wait 10 decades for it to load :) Besides, do you really need to learn how to row before knowing how to steer... a motor boat?


  1. here's a painfully similar picture to your heading

  2. Yea except their's is cooler and real (I think I saw a Malaysian flag on the roof of one of the cars). Mine's from a free photo library :)