Last week's announcement causes me to wonder whether formal organizations designed to (essentially) coordinate enthusiasm aren't obsolete as an idea in an era where self-organization under no cost business models are not only possible but superior. Rethinking the problem, why do we need an organization with a communal budget when we can tag content on the Internet and stream them together in places like LinkedIn, Twitter or even simple email?
Nobody has to wonder about motives - they are plain in the nature of the content an individual might post. Nobody has to worry about budgeting or paying fees for meetings - if members in a particular city want to get together physically to share space and collaborate, discuss or just have a drink or a meal together over their ideas, why should that require a registration fee? To secure the space? Maybe somebody hosts the meeting free of charge in their office space and happily find a few more colleagues in their own firm also interested in the subject?
Anyhow, Miguel, I guess I take the point of your discussion topic as, an organization without a staff or board of governors doesn't need a budget or revenue to support it. By channeling enthusiasm away from supporting an inefficient business model and into actual fellowship with peers around subject matter of genuine mutual interest, a far more authentic sense of intellectual (and emotional) engagement can emerge when people aren't motivated by the money or financial transaction involved in the exchange of those ideas. If expenses are marginal to zero, then the profit motive dissolves with it.
I've had some discussion with a couple of folks (Eric Garland & August Jackson) about the impact of Web 2.0 (and even web 1.0) on the intelligence community.
Web news delivery is crushing many newspapers in the US. Newspapers with 100, 150 year histories are closing their doors. We've seen many new upstart businesses that become major industry players solely on the basis of web presence. Web retailers rapidly leave physical retailers in the dust.
Amazon / Borders / Barnes & Noble
NetFlix / Blockbuster / Mom & Pop Video
Itunes / EMusic / New Napster / Local Music Stores
We blame the downturn in conference attendance on the economy, but that may just be a convenient scapegoat. In fact, attendance at conferences (not just SCIP) has been falling for some time. In general, the web has been a boon to intel & research, but it also devalues the end product in the eyes of many clients because (in their eyes) anyone who can type GOOGLE can get much of this info. A couple of good RSS feeds can gather what used to require an expensive newsfeed subscription.
The result is decentralized research, little integration, and fewer full-time CI resources.
Some non-profits are cancelling or modifying the subscription to the association news magazine or switching to digital publishing alternatives. The US Chess Federation offers membership at a 30% discount if you forego the physical magazine.
When much of the benefit of the membership is the opportunity to network with fellow professionals, physical networking is giving way to digital networking. I would submit most people have gotten almost as much peer interaction in their brief membership to this NING community as they received in their entire SCIP membership.
What presentations will I get at the SCIP conference that I can't replicate by monitoring the blogs of CI-professionals? Almost every presenter has a blog that in many cases covers similar material. While I think there is still value to the conference, it's clear that for some people the value equation no longer works the same way.
So...while I think the bad economy had a lot to do with the problems SCIP faces...it's just the bullet that shot a very sick horse. I believe a case could be made that SCIP is really a victim of a "failure to adapt" that has LONG predated the recent conference and economic problems.
What could a CI virtual community offer that would make a compelling case for many people that they should belong? What info, tools, templates & interaction would such an environment require?
I think that Web 2.0 tools and methods will revolutionize conversations and communications, power structures and processes in every industry that still works mainly on analog platforms. Any change of platforms from analog to digital will lead to a change of the business model - the music industry in the past, the book industry at the moment, the conference industry in the next 18 months. An institution like SCIP which is heavily dependent on revenue from conferences will have to adapt to those changes or it will continue to lose its scope. The main problem many other professional organizations also have is NOT to find ways to reduce costs - this Ning site is the best example for a no-cost-tool which works as an ongoing "conference between the conferences".
The bigger problem is to create new revenue streams in a world where content and connections are given away for free by everyone - you have to create scarcity by finding a balance between free content and paid content. I am not sure which business model will be the right one for SCIP (for some alternatives please take look at this book) and I'm very much looking forward to this discussion.
BUT what I know is that it is definitely much too early to say that "SCIP as we know it will no longer exist". At this very moment we try to extend our membership base and services of our German CI forum (dcif) which is going to be an affiliate in the near future - and like every other institution that is professionalizing we need a certain financial scope (which we will generate over here...). Yes, without personal commitment it won't work at all - but without money it won't last and it will not be as effective as it should be. So, I am convinced that SCIP will continue to be one of the major nodes in the CI community.
There needs to be an organisation like SCIP as a major node for the CI community to network, collaborate, learn and share ideas. However it does not have to be the current SCIP - and if the aim is to have SCIP continue in the same sort of format, but just under the F&S sovereignty then this will also fail in a web-2.0 enabled world. It's not just organisations such as SCIP but commercial organisations too. Web 2.0 changes consumer expectations - and how people expect to interact with companies, governments and much more. Failing to recognise this leads to either failure, or an autocratic approach to tie people in.
Strangely some of these ideas and developments were discussed pre-web by Alvin Toffler in PowerShift. SCIP's failure is symptomatic of this sort of shift - away from a central control to an information-led control.
Any new model needs to recognise this - and tap into the intellectual capabilities of the overall community and stimulate/encourage debate. It's that sort of facility that people will pay for - rather than a centralised board imposing decisions without consulting members.
If F&S recognises this, then its takeover may well succeed. If it doesn't ...... well we'll need to start something new. You can guess where my bets are on this.
I hope this is a wake-up call to SCIP to reduce its expenses and to offer more virtual services at a reasonable cost. Like Arik I wonder if the model for connecting at associations has changed as a result of Web 2.0 which brings many free and innovative ways to connect into our lives. AIIP is a great organization that has taken advantage of Web 2.0 which Arthur Weiss introduced me to several years ago. Our membership is quite different from SCIP's in that we're all small business owners, so we tend to be entrepreneurial in order to thrive, whereas 80% or more of SCIP members are corporate practitioners. A question I have is how many corporate practitioners are going to be willing to invest in the time it takes away from their work to participate in social networks? Most members of our CI Ning are consultants. Most of the forums are led by consultants.
However, I do think we can entice more corporate practitioners to join us, as long as their discussion doesn't disclose proprietary details about their companies. Much of our discussion on Ning doesn't go there. We need to think about the motivation for them to be engaged in Web 2.0.
I have invested almost 20 years in SCIP and even more time in CI, so I do hope it survives since we need CI to be represented centrally. It benefits us all in this community. Either way, count me into this community.
Several years ago, SCIP would routinely survey the membership (sometimes with Fuld help) about member demographics and salary. I don't know if most people ever used the information, but it was one of the most explicitly useful things SCIP ever did. The salary survey itself was useful in job search for better negotiations.
Ellen mentions 80% of SCIP members are corporate practitioners. I wonder if that is still true. Many folks who previously worked in the corporate environment are now solo acts because entrepreneurship is preferable to unemployment. Another key statistic used to be that a majority of SCIP members were lone practitioners or indep consultants. Would like to see how that breaks down these days.
A survey of membership demographics, membership job duties, and member salaries would be most helpful. With many folks in job search, salary survey would help with negotiating appropriate compensation.
We even considered trying to get the DFW members (including non-SCIP members or "prospects") to respond to a follow-up survey to identify local job conditions and local payrates.
I know that Linkedin allows 'Polls' but if Ning could also do it I believe we have here a great sample to get those results fast. Another way would be for Arik, given the fact that he's likely the CINing administrator, to send us all a 'survey monkey' link or even better a link to the community directly.
Arik - can you give any input on this? Sorry if I am giving extra work... ;-)