But first of all, a practical question. How sensitive do you think you really are? I only ask because tears and laughter while reading a novel seemed to me a most natural consequence of emotional excitation, so when I read about an experiment at MIT in Sensory Fiction (http://www.fastcodesign.com/3026104/a-wearable-book-that-programs-you-with-feelings) I really wondered if Wearables were going to provide our emotions as well as our logic boards. It turns out that they are not quite there yet, and, anyway, the heat generated burnt out the system, but it left me wondering: networks and communities are all about emotion, and we are sufficiently inept at communicating those emotions remotely (phone, email) already without living in a densely rather than a lightly virtual world. Add the developing communities in the network and our capacity for increasing the sum of human misunderstanding will be infinite.

It was Victoria Mellor of Melcrum (www.melcrum.com) who started me down these tracks. I was lucky enough to be moderating her session at Digital Media Strategies, one aspect of which I wrote about here last week. As CEO of Melcrum (4-5 March), she and her co-founder have more reason than most to think about this, since they chose to work in the entirely thankless field of trying to help executives to communicate more effectively. In Old Time Classifications this would have been stereotyped as a training business in B2B Events and Publishing. New Style, this is a Re-invention, and the current versioning of Melcrum is as a community based peer group.

The fulcrum is the Forum, enabling members of Melcrum to get research, in-house support from Melcrum’s professional advisors (aka training), diagnostic and assessment tools to measure practice against best practice, but all of it driven by and from peer-to-peer meetings and leadership sessions. So welcome to the age of Networks, but in order for everything to work remotely, as it should, there have to be moments in the mix of intensive face to face, of peer recognition and satisfaction, and of privileged moments of listening to market leading thinkers one on one or in small groups. The organizer of this physical to virtual spectrum can achieve powerful positioning and margins, but it makes me wonder what we were doing when we sold all of this research and support materials remotely – in a catalogue or online. The world we have left is not simply to be typified by moving from a real world relationship to a virtual networked world relationship. It is moving from a world of the remote where we knew little about how our users were thinking, feeling, changing, reacting, – to a world where we both meet our users regularly, we embrace them as fellow-members of the same community, and we listen and speak with them digitally every working day. It is a world where a re-invented Melcrum competes with Corporate Executive Board, not a myriad host of small training outfits. And it formed a very exciting vision.

But, curiously, the themes it explored had already resonated through the meeting. There was, for example, Adrian Barrick, Chief Content Officer at UBM (www.ubm.com). Now that session, you might have thought, would take us firmly back to the ancient regime of B2B. Not a bit of it. In a company now seemingly dedicated to events the role of content becomes more critical, not less. Think of the network presence needed to maintain the buyer-seller dialogue online between annual trade shows. If content is the connection between network players, what do you need to provide to maximize network connections by customers? Adrian’s vision was very much of the time: treat attendees and exhibitors and conference delegates as communities and create the content that binds them together. If the new look UBM is an events player, it will also need to be a content player to sustain its market positioning.

Yet the next speaker, I thought, will surely have to be wholly outside of this theme. Damian Kimmelman, CEO, DueDil, is the entrepreneur re-inventing the credit and company information market. That morning, 5 March, he had issued a press release confirming a further £17 m in mezzanine financing for his company (and also issued a report from a research group that he supports which indicated that the entrepreneurial activities of immigrants create a net gain for GB PLC over the costs of immigrants). DueDil (www.duedil.com), at launch, drove straight at the heart of the UK’s duopolistic credit and business information companies by offering core government-derived (Companies House) information for …free. Even now, less than 10% of his million or so registered users pay anything. So, the Financial Times and others were saying that morning, how does he monetize the community he has created? What happens next?

In what followed Mr Kimmelman reminded me strangely of what I had heard earlier in the day just as vaguely hinted at by Andrew Miller of the Guardian Media Group. we began to think about the meaning of a network of users. About the potential for user generated content and what people might share with each other. About the fact that these markets had always existed by sharing trading information between each other, and that the free was the glue in an extended dialogue. So perhaps the future here lay, as did the Guardian’s, in some form of membership organization. All of a sudden we were leaving the world of Dun & Bradstreet and Experian far behind and heading for a world far more familiar to Victoria Mellor’s re-invention.

Yet this was all B2B – but not as we know it. It was all accommodation with living in a digitally networked world, yet using the real world, as in Adrian’s exhibitions, to give purpose and vitality to the networked equivalent. I thought I was moderating three wholly different speakers with widely divergent subject matter. I left the stage knowing there was only one.

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