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The coming shift of niche online communities into real-world hubs

Will your city be one of them?


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Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 15, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 11:13 pm CDT


We’re now in a world where geographic proximity isn’t the driving factor to bringing community members together. The following statement, from the Balaji Srinivasan’s recent Wired aricle, “Software Is Reorganizing the World,” is quite telling:

People are meeting like minds in the cloud and traveling to meet each other offline, in the process building community?—?and tools for community?—?where none existed before. Those cloud networks where people poke each other, share photos, and find their missing communities are beginning to catalyze waves of physical migration, beginning to reorganize the world.

So what? Why should I care? Why does it matter?

Communities are what attracts people to physical locations. It’s well-known that Silicon Valley is known for technology. New York is about finance, fashion, and media. L.A. is the place entertainment. London means finance. Boulder stands for outdoors and entrepreneurship. And Seattle (hopefully) equates to social entrepreneurship.

But what’s the next wave? Over the coming years, we’re going to see niche communities emerge in the physical world.  Where is the strongest (and largest) microfinance community in the world? What about the largest yoga community? Cycling? Dirt biking?  Impact HUB ?  Kiva? Equestrian? Woodworking? Rails? GhostDiscourse? Real estate technology? Archery? Scuba diving?

If you care deeply about any of those topics, or any of the thousands of other niche topics, you care who the people are in those communities. You care where those people are, so you can spend time in person with them to learn.

The starting point to moving online communities to offline communities?—?is making those niche communities transparent and connected, with a geo-layer overlaid. Only then can you discover where the true communities you care about are in the world.

The high level goal for Oh Hey World long term is, and always has been, to connect people with shared passions and interests in person. There is a long, long way to go; we haven’t even scratched the surface. But we see this trend toward micro-communities organizing in the physical world ahead of the curve, and in the crazy, ambitious mind of mine?—?I see an exponentially better way to connect, organize, and visualize the micro communities that exist all over the world.

I believe that once those micro community visualizations exist in the right way, we’ll see an acceleration of online communities forming into lasting communities in the physical world. Moving decisions WILL be driven by these visualizations, as will travel decisions. The cities that think strategically about the opportunity to build real, engaged, passionate micro communities ahead of the curb?—?are the ones that are going to capitalize on the economic opportunities associated with hosting those communities in the real world.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice to “pick a niche.” Cities should take that same advice. Over time, every niche community will have a specific city known as the “hub.”

Will your city be one of them?

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon. Global nomad originating in Seattle. Ex-Zillow community builder. Social Entrepreneur. Microfinance advocate. Travel addict. Find him on Twitter @drewmeyers. This article was originally featured on Medium and reposted with permission.

Photo via PreciousBytes/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jul 15, 2014, 10:00 am CDT