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Community vs. Utility... and My Birth Order View of the Web

Lots of great changes coming for SignUpGenius in 2010.   It can be a tricky thing orchestrating the direction of a web property. There are a lot of possibilities and the challenge is prioritizing and creating a singular vision. Here’s a little debate that I’ve been having with myself lately… community or utility?

Everywhere you turn these days, community is the buzzword on the web. Though some people insist that we are transitioning into a new 3.0 age... to me it seems like the concept of web 2.0 (interactive communities and user-generated content) is really just starting to hit its stride with the masses. Grandma and grandpa now have Facebook accounts, your pastor and boss now have blogs, and pro athletes hire their own social media consultants.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been a bit behind. It’s not because I’m not tech-savvy. I’ve been building web applications for 15 years. No… I think it’s a birth order thing… because honestly I was never much into the whole web 2.0 idea. To me, the web was all about productivity. Utility. It was a tool, not a playground. I visited websites that helped me get work done … like book an airplane flight, or manage my photos, or let me buy something 20% cheaper and 50% faster than I could do locally. As a job, I built corporate web applications that earned people real money rather than helping them reconnect with their high school sweetheart.

Like I’ve said, I’m a firstborn, type-A planner. I always thought I’d leave the Tweeting to those 3rd children in the family that just want to interact with people all day. SignUpGenius, up until recently, has reflected a bit of that thinking. It’s a productivity application designed to save time and avoid headaches.

However, in the last couple months, I’ve finally been realizing the advantages of the web for community. Yes, I’ll grudgingly admit that I’m actually enjoying Facebook. And I’ve been exploring ways that SignUpGenius could be more than a utility, but also a community of people that can help each other with their planning/scheduling/leadership responsibilities. Thus… we’ve recently added the blog and the resources tab with helpful tips and interactive commenting features.

But… I don’t want to get sidetracked from perfecting the useful functionality of SignUpGenius. That is still our priority. And with all the gobs of community sites out there… do you really even need any community features as part of SignUpGenius? What do you think? And be sure to say where you are in the birth order when you answer.