Strong Associations

One of the most important features of the Internet is the ability of people to connect. This is most intriguing in the way Associations can form as like-minded individuals become aware of each other. So what is an Association? The Thesaurus suggests some related words are brotherhood, club, fellowship, guild, order, society, coalition, federation, organization or gang. To my way of thinking, these words all are describing historical forms of Association. The Internet allows new forms of Association. Provided the members of an Association share a common objective then the Association can be defined by the interconnections of its members as they work on that common objective.

The reason for this thought is the happy coincidence of two new Associations that are attempting to coalesce and grow. They are both treating very important subjects and are going through the same steps at almost exactly the same time. Each involved a working group. I am a member of one of these working groups, but must quickly add that these thoughts represent my own personal reflections on what is happening. I have no mandate to represent any aspect of the working group’s activities.

Interestingly either of them might have called themselves a Professional Organization. Neither did and I’m very pleased to see that. Professional Organization implies a wall that will exclude. It may even represent a Barrier to Entry to restrict the number of suppliers to the market place. On the other hand, Association can be a very inclusive term. The word implies a welcome.

The first of these is the SMA-NA. The website is an evolving draft prepared by the working group. The Association was the initiative of Ian McAnerin. The acronym stands for Search Marketing Association – North America. It is following in the footsteps of similar organizations set up in the UK and in Europe. Internet Marketing is becoming more and more important to all businesses. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an important part of that. So this Association aims to spread the word and provide a focus for much more effective and wide-scale application of SEM.

The other important Association is the Pro-Bloggers Association. This was the initiative of Paul Chaney of the Radiant Market Group. It aims to help the fledgling industry of business and professional blogging mature. You can see some recent happenings in a blog entry by T. L. Pakii Pierce, one of the founding group, entitled A Professional Blogger Association?. Indeed this Association may illustrate how Associations can flourish on the Internet. It provides a great example of the power of blogs and blogging.

How can you best get a strong group of individuals to form and push forward a major initiative? It’s interesting to look at a way this was done in the past. In 1985, Harrison Owen got a group together in Monterey, California, in a “happening” that eventually evolved into Open Space Technology, which has now been applied widely around the world. This is a process in which a group of even up to 1000 people assembles at a physical location to tackle some major problem. A good account of the method can be found in a brief history of OST. Basically it works by individuals who feel they want to tackle a particular aspect of the problem setting up their proposed method of attack. Others may group around the proposer, if they are attracted by the proposal, and work with the individual. On the other hand, proposals may get ignored by others if they have no appeal. So physically within the large room participants can see what is attracting attention and check out whether they want to get involved. Clearly this physical approach has some serious limitations. People cannot instantly zoom from one end of the room to the other and indeed may not know what is going on there.

Twenty years later in 2005, a similar process can work much more efficiently on the Internet. Possibly blogging and blogs may be the best way to determine how different individuals thoughts may be coalescing around particular proposals. The system of pinging and trackbacks can provide a visible indication of what themes are drawing the most attention. In addition Google, with its emphasis on back-links suggesting authority, gives a powerful infrastructure support to this process.

So here’s a hearty endorsement of what both Associations are seeking to achieve. Both have important missions and we will all benefit if they are successful.