Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Topic Hubs

The term topic hub was not something that I was familiar with until John Tropea used it to describe the content communities Social Media Informer, eLearning Learning, Mobile Learning, Informal Learning Flow, Communities and Networks Connection that we've been launching.

John really has helped me better understand and describe the value proposition of Topic Hubs.

Hard to Understand a Blog Network

In his post Communities and Networks Connection blog aggregator:
.... newbies to the blogosphere sometimes haven’t go time to immerse themselves and build a subscription of blogs they trust, this takes time, but it’s well worth it for personal experience. This also happens to me, I haven’t got time to find and build a list of sources for topics I’m slightly interested in, as I’m too busy on the topics I am interested in.

Anyway, for newbies and others, there has been a movement where this stage of finding and reading blogs on a topic has been made a whole lot easier. The blogosphere has matured and blogs on a topic have proved their worthiness (blogosphere self regulates reputation) and coalesced into one convenient space.
This is very true. It's hard to understand a single blog. I've been exploring exactly that in my recent post: Index Page. It's even harder when you try to understand a network of bloggers. I don't necessarily claim that content communities (or should I call them topic hubs) solve that problem, but they at least help to some degree.

Topic Hubs Bring Together a Network

In How relevant are communities of practice in a network age?, he defines one of the needs for a content community that I see as well:
one thing we do forgo is the neatness of a topic hub, compared to scattered content. What I mean is that if you network you know how to tie all the scattered content together as you blog about it and bookmark it. But for new comers, finding all content on a topic in one page is always easier.
Topic Hubs Require a Form of Community

John then describes a key requirement for topic hubs to work...
if you want to build a topic hub (a clearing house on a topic, as well as learning from each other whilst you’re building your practice via conversations), you need a community, people become members of a shared space, which is a commitment to contributing to the aim.
While Nancy White tells us that topic hubs are somewhere in between a network and a community, there are community like aspects required to create a hub. You need people who are focusing on similar topics. Most often these people are part of a network that has elements of community. Certainly in the eLearning world, bloggers have some kind of community.

The bottom line for these kinds of topic hubs is that they focus on the needs of the content consumer: creating a site that makes it easier to find and navigate a complex network of content. These sites also take advantage of a existing phenomenom, the loose community of blog networks.

I look forward to Nancy, John and others helping me to understand more about all of this.

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