aSmallWorld & Scarcity (vs. Abundance) in Online Communities

Are members (Marc?) of aSmallWorld sworn to Masons-style secrecy? Too bad, because while more egalitarian sorts out there might be be less fond than I am of a social networking site that is unabashedly elitist and exclusive, there is a lot to be learned from the idea.

For example, I like — a la Gmail’s early days — the notion of rationing membership invitations. That is, in effect, what happens via aSmallWorld’s policy that you must be invited by five members before you too can become a member. That is a clever idea, one that, while not bulletproof, forces the community to be more circumspect about who gets invited and who doesn’t.

I also like the idea of scarcity rather than abundance in communities. Too many social networking sites over-focus on getting Big N rather than thinking carefully about to whom their social network is appealing, then narrowing — rather than growing — their intended audience, and then providing services that make those people deeply attached to the network. For all their frisson, Friendster and Linkedin are cold and sterile places, over-stuffed communities that would feel little different if created and run by Wal-mart.


  1. Hmm, Google used this approach for Orkut, yet they are 5 mil (or more?) members now and most of them young Brazilians–and some of that invitation-only elite is apparently trading drubs, according to news reports . . .
    I think the idea that one community is exclusive is old and very Web 1.0–on LinkedIn, each of our members decides who open or exclusive they want their network to be.
    And busy business people have very little time for community and chatter–they appreciate the value of search and contact, but we deliberately kept LinkedIn to a place that is intensely functional and useful.

  2. OK, I admit the jab at LinkedIn seemed harsh, but one would expect a reply from actual people who make “intensely functional and useful” (I assume Web 2.0) web applications to be well written and not full of typos. Truthfully, I think you got too focused on the negative and potentially did not get the real point made.
    I do agree that the idea of exclusive communities is very old. Some might even go further than Web 1.0, say as far back as time. Exclusivity has been around forever, it is human nature to want to feel special.
    Wal-mart can be “intensely functional and useful” at times. I just got a $19 BBQ there, and it is very useful. But did I feel special going there and buying it? Not really, it was cold and drab, it was Wal-mart. I was there to get something cheap, fast and I knew it was not high end. Wal-mart does not carry exclusive items.
    aSmallWorld provides services to people who like to think they are distinguished. I would imagine some are even busy.
    If my goal was to be linked to loads of people, sure I might go to LinkedIn and find it did the trick. But if I wanted to be linked to people that I really knew shared something in common with me (in this case money) I might rethink LinkedIn and go somewhere a little more special feeling. Different goals for sure, but my level of trust is going to be higher in the second case.
    Let me know when you get Paris Hilton to sign up for LinkedIn!

  3. Courtney says:

    can you get me into small world?