Online Community Security and Value – the Role of Boundary Negotiation


Whether you’re a social media junkie or just lurk silently in a private online community, the shaky state of internet security probably hasn’t escaped you.

Small leaks with monumental consequences make the headlines on a daily basis:

Emails toppling public figures and prompting FBI investigations. Soundbites swinging election consensus like a pendulum. The list is endless, really.

Yet despite what we have seen, industry and private internet use has taken a “boot first, ask questions later” approach to security.

Individual use of internet text, audio, and video platforms is at an all-time high and growing. And the fact that we are less secure than ever appears to have no effect on the trend.

Even in the risk-averse realms of business and government, telecommuting has exploded over the last ten years. Organizations rely more and more on text, voice and video communication as they become increasingly interconnected and remote.

online communitt. Private in the digital era.

So, what’s happened? Have we stopped caring about security?


Social media users struggling with addiction still consider privacy to be a critical factor in their decision to defect or revert. Others are increasingly opting for private online communities to meet their online social needs.

If anything, the past few years have given us reason to rethink what privacy means and how security relates to it.

The good news it, not all of security boils down to just keeping people away from information that can harm us.

Negotiating Boundaries means Negotiating Value

If privacy is the gateway between power and being powerless, security is the key to that gate.

But does everything we consider private have to be secure?

Let’s be honest for a moment. Do you really know where every unflattering picture of yourself is lurking? Social media comments? Phone numbers? Passwords?

Do you really know the exact whereabouts of your social security number?

There’s probably a massive amount of information about you floating around the internet and chances are you haven’t made the effort to collect or track it.

And that’s ok.

Because aside from all the fraud-prevention initiatives, insurance and other gimmicks we use to reassure ourselves, there’s another factor at play – strategic boundary negotiation.

You see, a lot of “private” stuff is private not because it can hurt you, but because it can help you. Both private and public network users allow rather broad access to “private” information in exchange for some kind of benefit.

The practice of determining where that line sits — personally, for you — goes a long way in encouraging online activity and generating value for community members.

So in an abstract sense, security is all about boundaries. And this is but one example of how it applies.

To an online community, this means more than just protocols.

A single admin moderating for content, removing trolls and conducting general QA goes a long way. It indicates that members can take your community seriously.

Security here means leveraging the value of information you wish to disseminate — under your terms.

Your Online Community Thrives on Exclusivity

Common interests and goals provide the value which binds an online community together. The currency for that value involves secured transactions of information.

Suppose a famous author announces a reading of brand-new material on a private platform, allowing access to only a limited number of attendees.

If she does this on the radio, the information is at the bottom tier of the leverage pyramid. But compartmentalization opens the door to charging premiums, generating hype and selecting the audience.

Security plays an enabling role in all this.

Whether die-hard fans or even the press distinguish between http and https protocols is almost irrelevant. That eavesdropping hacker isn’t going to deter them from capitalizing on what they perceive as exclusivity.

The fact that online safety might seem illusory today doesn’t mean that exclusivity is no longer an option. People will always want the greener grass.

Thus even the most pessimistic host can encourage online activity by leveraging security.

In light of all this, however, traditional security concerns probably still lurk on the back-burner. This is where our discussion turns to culture.

Where to Go and Who to Trust

Culture provides valuable insight as to the nature of an end product.

Facebook’s intention to launch a private online community platform, for example, has met with some understandable skepticism.

The company’s notorious, unilateral and sudden changes to terms of privacy are a recurring theme. Each time they nudge “consent” a little further and make the opt-out more complicated.

This practice routinely draws protest from users, generating waves of lengthy disclaimers filled with fanciful legal jargon.

Although the effort is understandable, they might as well be trying to paddle a canoe upstream with a toothpick.

There’s a reason Facebook waited until 2013 before making https the default standard. Their bottom line is sharing information — not protecting it. And social media giants have the fiscal and legal resources to reach that goal regardless of what you post.

But it goes beyond just legal tactics and choice of platform.

Sure, RumbleTalk’s clients can relax or tighten privacy settings per their own specifications. They can also request we do it for them.

But our priority is and will always be to make sure no one but the client can make or demand these changes.

Social media isn’t evil. Their culture is just based on inclusion and publicity.

Companies devoted to privacy operate on exclusivity and focused activity. The private online community culture drives the market to prioritize individual privacy.

If the classical notion of security is a must, stick with the pro’s. Choose a platform where keeping your information safe is a mission, not an obligation.

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