I’ve spoken a few times in workshops and written here on the bloggy (e.g. April last year) about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Jean-Marie Guitera from Subversive Games mentioned it tonight at AIMIA Oline Games as if it was something new – I think he said no-one in the States was following it. But that can’t be true, I know that in the last ten years, numerous large networks have referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy. In fact, it was further developed in the late ’90’s by Amy Jo Kim in her seminal work on Online Communities and the concepts are really basic. Take Maslow’s heirarchy of needs appropos communities and apply them online.

Which means:
Human beings can’t focus on self-determination and the higher musings on politics, religion and the meaning of existence if they don’t have health, can’t eat and can’t sleep. Online, you don’t worry about the how the game (MMORPG) or social network is progressing if you are continually receiving 404 site not available errors, or if there is a rumour that the network is going bankrupt and all your photos and videos are going to disappear. Sustainability of identity is paramount and system access/uptime must be around 98% right?

Wrong. There is an exception. And only the ten million or so gamers in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft would understand this. It’s entirely possible for you to take the whole addiction err world, offline for up to, say 8 hours at a time. Even 8 hours a time, once a week. Say, on a Tuesday night, Australia time.
It was great of AIMIA to organise an evening on games on a Tuesday night when WoW is not available. 🙂 For the last three years, World of Warcraft is offline every Tuesday evening, Sydney time.

If you ask a blogger, they will tell you that taking a highly addictive world offline for what is effectively one working day a week, would be the kiss of death. As in, Don’t Do It! That’s because bloggers understand social networks through their own scope of vision. But the world of the MMORPG is different. Set the expectation, enforce it, ignore all opposition and do what thy will. Social networks are not blogs (PR articles with some conversation) — which is why Zuckerberg can face down all opposition on Facebook – and SNs obey a complex set of rules. But they don’t break the Hierarchy of Needs very often.

This works in non-game social networks too. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is relevant to wherever humans gather – online or offline. But we can jump the ladder – homeless people blog, social networks thrive with no visible moderation/policing. But the exceptions are interesting in that they adapt to the local environment. You can enter a flame war site and become addicted to it … but why would you want to? Well, if the expectation was set that it was not a ‘safe’ environment and it was clear that you entered at your own risk, you might be tempted to walk on the wild side. But only if it’s clear.

So ask yourself this – if you were to manage a social network where 10 million people were paying around 20 bucks a month to access it, could you take it offline for 1 day a week with no qualms? (World of Warcraft). Could you tell 1/3 of your multimillion membership to “take a chill pill” and institute the thing they were demonstrating against (Facebook) with nary a second thought? Or would you have to listen to the bankers, investors and shareholders and nix your vision and dilute your own business requirements? If it is the last, you might want to give running a social network a miss, and stick with blogs. Heh.