So, i've been reflecting quite a lot recently about communities, both online and off. one of my favorite online communities that i've been participating in a lot over the past few weeks (possibly at the expense of this site) is FilePile.
FilePile is a terrific example of a simple concept that succeeds because of its implementation. It meets a requirement that I have for an "I wish I'd thought of that" idea, which is that it's so straightforward in retrospect that it seems obvious. Those are the best kinds of ideas, and the most satisfying to work on. The entire concept and execution are the work of the inestimable Andre Torrez.
FilePile basically consists of a simple website where you can upload files. While the specific types of files vary, the three "piles" to which you can upload are simple, Movies, Pictures, and MP3. The highest traffic is in the Pictures pile, naturally, because of the smaller file sizes and the ease with which those files can be copied, created, and shared.
The MP3 pile is probably the second most-trafficked part of the site, but has the most devoted followers. The range of tunes, along with the frequency with which they're updated (faster than you can listen to them) makes it a compelling draw. The Movies pile suffers, as does all the web, from a lack of broadband users. It is a medium of inherent limitations, as well, since creating, editing and sharing video isn't nearly as straightforward as other media of online communication.
This means that, of the three, the least profound and most unwieldy content gets relegated to the Movies pile. Porn, of course, is a big factor in the two visual piles, but perhaps disproportionately so in the Movies pile, because there are few other subjects for which large numbers of digital video files are readily available.
The Pictures pile, which any of us who've been on the 'net long enough to grow cynical would assume is just chock full of pornography actually only has a small but significant amount of nudie pics. The majority of the photos are novelty images, or pictures taken directly from the news and things like Yahoo's most popular images link.
But here's where the community comes in.
Shortly after the launch of FilePile 2.0, when community features such as voting/rating and discussion on files and non-anonymous posting of files were added, a user named Goopy (check out his site at http://www.goopymart.com/) started to use his (quite formidable) illustrative abillities to augment the static photos with humorous animated characters.
These drawings, dubbed "Goopy Remixes", were instantly popular and became the recipient of many "This is Good" votes on the new rating system. Once Goopy remixes caught on, it was only a matter of time until other users started contributing remixes of their own.
This practice has expanded to the point where pictures are uploaded not just with the knowledge that they'll be remixed, but with that expectation. What started as a simple inside joke for the small number of users has grown to be an intrinsic part of the culture of the site as membership approaches 1,000 people.
Now, of course, the challenge for me is to determine how to start an inside joke on my own site, so that I can claim to have a community... hmmm...