📻 — Persistent, Ephemeral Communities (and Channels): Humans Need Both

This is your Community, Daily.

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

Good morning yenizens!

For those in the United States, we’re celebrating XMAS over here and a lot of folks have the day off! So, a bit of a lighter issue today. 🎄 ✨ 🙏🏻

I wanted to talk briefly about something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time; almost as long as I have obsessed over the fact that comments are community; it’s the realization that people want, desire, and need different types of community — ones that are more persistent / permanent as well as those that are more ephemeral and impermanent in nature.

Internally I have come to call these pCommunities (for “permanent community” or “persistent community”) and eCommunities which is obviously shorthand for “ephemeral communities”.

And from a strictly data-perspective, I first codified this idea back in 2011/12 when Snapchat first arrived — the idea of quickly-disappearing images made a lot of sense and felt more natural to the way that we operate in real life than in the digital.

What I was trying to do as a socio-technical anthropologist is understand how this not only creates net-new behavior but how it also is a direct reflection of what humans already do.

I was given a counter-intuitive insight from more than 2,000+ customer interviews with creators, startup founders, and community builders: They wanted less community, not more.

Confused, I didn’t stop asking questions — here’s what I discovered: While every builder planned on building community around their product, service, and eventual business they were just as equally hesitant to boot up “another community site” for fear of the growing copycat clone wars of 2021 (and beyond) where every community effectively “looks” and “feels” and “does” the same things.

To make matters worse, community builders didn’t want to “force” their members to add “one more” Slack / Whatsapp / Discord / Telegram / Circle group into their already-crowded installs as they too exhausted of “carrying” all of their own Slack groups with them everywhere they went.

There must be a better way! Ironic, isn’t it, that if we had simply observed our own behavior a bit more precisely then we would have seen the answer appear (or disappear?) in front of our own eyes.

I only had to look to the growth of cloud services and the rise of the “full stack founder” for the answer:

… what Docker, Kubernetes, and “serverless” did for infrastructure, YEN will do for community, making it as easy to launch, grow, and profit from a community with just an email address.

In layman’s terms, the advancements in “serverless” allowed the builder to build, deploy, and destroy code faster into production (i.e. the real world); add on-demand orchestration and you’ve got “utility” computing’s final form.

This is as it should be! What Snapchat did for ephemeral images is what YEN is doing for communities; we’re just picking up where Snapchat stopped as the creation and automated-destruction of data shared between two nodes is an infinitely scalable technical model.

Or, in other words, why not extend this from a set of nodes to collection of “node-of-nodes” or more simply, community?

Besides, it’s just data at the end of the day.


Exploring pComm / eComm and pChannels / eChannels in YEN:

After all of our observations, customer interviews, and over 3-years of building lightweight community platform experiments and concepts, I’ve come to the conclusion that every human on the planet wants both pCommunities and eCommunities, full-stop.

Why? Because this is real life as we are all moving in and out of a wide mix of pComms and eComms all the time — the more important ones become more permanent while the more isolated (but poignant!) moments of relationship building, enjoyment, and connection but do not have to necessarily transform into something “serious” or long-term.

Community leaders — and their members! — want pComms and eComms. They also need this permanence and ephemerality represented at the channel-level too; so that’s what we’ve built. Compose and decompose at-will, up and down the entire communication-stack, just like communities IRL.

Go figure.

In a few months from now we hope to release our new platform into the public — the first of it’s kind — a CommSaaS at the DNA-level, built on a modern, orchestrated tech stack that can handle millions of community members for decades but is also light, fast, and nimble enough to boot-up and tear down in just a few clicks.

Our creators, armed with just an email address, can build, launch, and monetize as many communities as they want; community-building superpowers come built-in, standard.

A few of our early-users (#yenOG fam!) are test-driving the platform — here are just a few examples of p/eComm and p/eChannels in-action:

  • SaaS platform startup for early-feedback, validation

  • Venture-funded health / beauty startup with one-time / recurring events

  • “Info” products (pre)sales, content & product discovery

  • Influencer / vlogger monetizing audience, behind-the-scenes access

  • Blogger adding a community on top of their content

  • Newsletter creators / writers monetizing audience, paid content / subscriptions, direct access to author

  • Cryptocurrency projects, on top of (existing) forum, adding real-time / async chat, synchronizing communication across platforms

  • Hackathon (eComms) for teams where each channel is a different team, decompose into separate pComms post-event

  • Last-minute meetups with friends, share images, plan real-time, async coordination, recurring hangouts become pComm

  • One-time corporate training event, offsite, team event

  • pComm for your family, extended family, friends

  • Non-profits and school clubs, gatherings, events

  • Church group, mid-week prayer meeting, missionary comms

  • Coaching platform with dedicated pChannels and one-time eChannels for one-on-ones, high-touch, paid sessions

  • Quick creative brainstorm workshops with friends, colleagues, decompose or promote to pComm if warranted, desired

In short, there’s been an overwhelmingly-positive response to eComms / eChannels because — FINALLY! — no one feels “obligated” or is on the “hook” for keeping the community up and running past the original intent or moment of need. You can just delete it, forget it, and go on with life.

That’s the power of an eCommunity-powered or “Ephemeral Community” platform; there’s something “freeing” when you know that a group or channel has a clear and defined life-span — no guessing, no hidden expectations.

Now you can all truly focus on creating value, together.

[Last year’s promo video… but, still good!]

But the most exciting way that were using our own platform is via our upcoming cohort-based education courses where we’re now empowered to create an infinite number of classes of all types and kinds!

And, if you remember from our CommSaaS story, we manually test-drove this concept intentionally in early-2020! We’re bringing back our celebrated YEN.CAMP bootcamp — stay tuned (subscribed) to YEN.FM!

For instance, we can now create — with just a few clicks — these types educational experiences, cohorts, and classes for our yenizens:

  1. Date-range specific classes with clear start / stop dates (e.g. YEN.CAMP)

  2. We can create p/eComm and p/eChannels at-will, for one-time events (paid, private, and open / free) as well as recurring (monthly subscriptions), and/or seasonal offerings.

  3. We can do “pop-up” educational courses with unlimited enrollment or a hard-cap on attendees / subscribers.

  4. We can do on-demand (self-paced courses) or real-time / async cohorts.

  5. It can be text-based or rich media with audio / video add-ins.

Honestly, the sky is the limit as our platform is nothing more than a communication orchestration device, if we want to get super-technical about it.

In the end, I built YEN because I was tired and fatigued by the number of communities that I had to keep “installed” on my devices when I really wanted them to be more ephemeral in nature.

I know you feel the same.

But, it’s not entirely our fault! Much of this is because our current technology and platforms have been poorly designed, based on faulty logic and an incomplete dataset of how humans really operate, behave, and relate in the meatspace and on the internet.

There is vastly more to our lives that is impermanent than permanent and yet we continually build products and sell services that promote the idea that we’re going to live forever.

And ain’t nobody got time for that.

To infinity & community,

— john

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