As we look to developing or adapting social networking content for our individual or collective websites, I think it's important we find products that reflect public broadcasting's, well, more mature demographic. There's always a tendency to say, "This might be a way to attract younger listeners [or viewers]." A statement like this could be true... the young folk are certainly comfortable posting their lives online. But, my parents aren't. Even my friends (who are NPR fans and reasonably technologically up-to-date) are a mixed blog when it comes to blogging and posting boards.
If the idea behind pub-casting friendly social networking is to build stronger bonds, the more people participating, the higher the value of the service. So, we need to make it fun and easy. I say this because, in prep of the conference, I signed up for Gather and I'm still a bit befuddled. They've made it easy to create accounts and invite friends, but how do you find someone to talk to? It's like going to a party where everyone is in different rooms behind closed doors. Which door do I knock on, and what do I say? What if the folks I pick aren't expecting company? On the other hand, the World Crossing boards I post on are like a big open conversation. You can eavesdrop without worry and it's fun to make new friends.
There are most likely fans of public broadcasting all over this country eager to talk about their favorite programs with like-minded souls (I would have killed for a decent conversation about Foyle's War earlier this year - "World War II as depicted Allo, Allo, Foyle's War and Dad's Army. Discuss."). And the more people feel a part of something larger, the more loyal they feel about the product. But, let's have clear direction, add features gradually, and think fun over fancy.