Redefining online community Part 10: World, meet Eos!
Author Cal Loo is a serial social entrepreneur, the founder and executive director of a nonprofit company, a self-professed techie at heart, a 30-year tech consultant, and an ordained ceremonialist. He has been blogging about living more intentionally and navigating major life transitions since 2015. In this final piece in a ten-part series Cal summarizes the key messages of the other nine parts and brings it all together with the imminent introduction of the Eos Community Connections Portal – an online community connections portal unlike any other.
Redefining online community – sounds simple enough, right? It isn’t. Over the course of my last nine posts on this topic I’ve used over 12,500 words to introduce key elements of and platforms for online community, and explore the good and not-so-good things about them. Am I simply too verbose? Well, maybe – but I’ve tried to get straight to the point in all of the posts. If you’re interested in a concise summary of those nine posts, dear reader, then check out my synopsis at the end of of this one – but if you’d rather just jump straight to the punch line on this series then here it is:
World, meet Eos! The Eos Community Connections Portal is the culmination of over three years of work by an established non-profit company to develop and deliver a uniquely powerful community-building and community-support system that’s also integrates many compelling features that offer a fresh, safe alternative to conventional social media, event management, discussion forum, blog, and story sharing platforms. We guarantee to never sell Eos user data or allow advertisements on the platform, and all users agree to abide by our Good Human Code of Conduct (™) or risk losing their accounts. The primary goal is to build better community by providing a place to connect online with other people and organizations in a safer, more authentic way. If you happen to be in a city where we’ve already established a local footprint, you’ll find that our in-person spaces operate on the same principles of community orientation, safety, respect, and integrity. I’ll wrap this series up with a simple invitation: come check out Eos for yourself on the TILC website or at eosportal.org and see if it feels like a community you’d like to be part of. It isn’t perfect and we’ll be continually evolving it to best meet the needs of people and communities across all of North America. Come be part of something amazing with us!
Looking back on the previous nine posts, I’ve covered a lot of ground in this series about redefining online community. Here’s a concise summary of the earlier posts:
- Post 1: on authentic online community. We collectively need safe, authentic community more than ever, and to feel truly connected to those communities using online platforms, and the platforms that are currently mainstream fall short in a number of ways. In the words of Adrienne LaFrance “…we need to adopt a broader view of what it will take to fix the brokenness of the social web … and we need enough people to care about these other alternatives to break the spell of venture capital and mass attention that fuels megascale and creates fatalism about the web as it is now.”
- Post 2: social media with a heart. Research by Statista shows that social media plays a huge role in the ways we interact and relate to one another in this day and age. Today’s popular social media platforms serve such an important function for many of us that about 82% of us (223 million people) in the US regularly used one or more of them, as of 2020. There are, however, major issues with the mainstream social media platforms, including privacy concerns, data leaks, and incendiary content, the monetization of our personal data, and research showing that these platforms can severely affect peoples’ mental health.
- Post 3: resource-matching platforms. Major life transitions sometimes come at you in waves. When they do, you’ll have to figure out how to navigate more than one major life change at the same time – which can be overwhelming. When dealing with big life changes, emotional support is an important protective factor for dealing with life’s difficulties, and the most obvious sources of that support – family, friends, churches, and mental health professionals – sometimes fall short, leaving you isolated and confused. There are also resource-matching sites available to help you quickly and privately find what you need, but they’re limited to the resources that are currently listed in their databases, and they can also yield an overwhelming amount of information to sort through. We need a new community support system that operates with the speed and scale of the internet, while making it simpler to find exactly what you need in a safe, private, and compassionate way.
- Post 4: blogs and podcasts. Blogs and podcasts offer the ability to share and shape opinions from peer to peer, but there’s so much out there that it can be a challenge to sort through everything to find what’s most relevant and helpful. Looking in the right places, knowing the right search terms to use, and effective use of filtering are all important tools to use to get to the exact information you need. In the end, it’s on each of us to use the tools available to us wisely and efficiently, and we need to choose our online information sources carefully.
- Post 5: discussion forums and redefining community. Online discussion forums can be an amazing place to make connections and have real conversations with like-minded people about your shared interests. You can start to feel like you belong to a larger, online “community” of people that share an interest in a particular topic, and you can even form friendships with the people you connect with there. The downsides to discussion forums can include information overload from ineffective filters, personal safety issues due to insufficient protection policies and tools, and data security issues from having personal data shared with or sold to people you don’t know.
- Post 6: online groups and event management sites. Apps that offer Groups features can make it easy to connect with specific sets of people – like teammates or coworkers – and offer dedicated spaces where you can share updates, photos, or documents and message other group members. Event management sites can be very good for managing and promoting your own events or finding events from others that look interesting. While both types are useful, the downsides to these tools are that it can be challenging to keep member information current, so a portion of what you find may be outdated, and sometimes ineffective codes of conduct for these groups and their events can allow inappropriate or uncomfortable things to be found on their sites.
- Post 7: the real cost of “free” apps. Nearly all of the online community platforms and apps that are popular today come from for-profit companies, and all for-profit companies sell something with the objective to make as much money as they can doing so. Whoever is paying for that something is the real customer, so if you aren’t paying to use the platform or app, then you probably aren’t the customer – you’re the product. In these instances, platforms collect data while you’re using their product and then sell it to advertisers, sponsors, or data aggregators that use it for their own purposes. Many of us have therefore knowingly or unknowingly sacrificed our data privacy in order to access all manner of free stuff on the web – and most of us have come to accept it without question.
- Post 8: balancing safety with freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Providing a consistently safe, healthy online space for people to share their experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings while also encouraging people to show up in their most authentic way poses a real challenge. Sometimes thoughts and feelings can be messy, and true honesty can sometimes mean saying things they don’t necessarily want to hear. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are very important concepts that we value highly, so we based our “Good Human Code of Conduct” on a few clear guiding principles: community orientation, safety, respect, and integrity. None of us wants to be told how to behave, but we believe that embracing and reinforcing these principles allows people to feel safe in our in-person and online community space while allowing people to show up in authenticity. It’s a good start, and we’ll learn and evolve it along the way.