There is a lot of important analysis of "conversation" going on today, as social networking and social media evolve to the next level of analysis. John Battelle's series on The Conversation Economy and David Armano's incredible blog post on Designing Conversations in Beta open up a new line of discussion on the "conversation."
Which brings to mind my one hour with Jimmy Wales in Davos. It was late at the Hotel Belvedere, and we were toasted. Yet I distinctly remember him saying that Wikipedia-land was no nirvana. Wales said that the Wikipedia space is like a small village--it has social patterns and political rules, rogue elements, a police force and an evolving set of regulations. Wikipedia isn't a pure open-source utopia where the best rises simply as the result of interaction among the many. By now, we kind of know that but hearing it from Jimmy on a cold night, it stayed with me.
And informs my thinking on The Conversation. If we are to take the conversation and make it our open-source, social networking paradigm, we have to understand what it means. Conversations have shapes, leaders, followers, threads. Someone starts them, someone stops them, someone molds them--or rather someone or some ones--many.
As companies, advertisers, marketers, bloggers, politicians journalists--you name it--become curators of conversations, they should be aware of all the anthropology and sociology that goes into a conversation. Armano is starting to talk about conversational architecture. A nice term. To him marketing is increasingly about experiences that are built and bolstered by conversations and community. Think about that and what it implies. Maarketing is not about the message but about the experience that derives from the conversation. Getting that conversation right in some fashion is key.
But how do you get the conversation right? And what do you do when people try to hijack your conversation. When consumers do your ads, when they are asked to participate in your design and development, stuff happens. More and more companies--and individuals will have to deal with these issues.
The conversation is the conversation.