For Conversations, No Place Like The Well


brilliant Neither the blogosphere nor Web 2.0 social networking services provide the kind of intellectual community that drives innovation, according to‘s executive director, Larry Brilliant. As a result, there’s room for growth for companies that can find ways to foster productive intellectual exchange — and facilitate it for themselves.

Brilliant made his comments at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. In his view, The Well, an online community he founded back the public Internet dark ages of the 1980s, remains unparalleled as a forum for the sharing of new ideas because it doesn’t promote a linear, chronological conversation the way a blog does, but lets people drop in and add to the discussion already underway.

In fact, there are no forums online where the big issues of the day — whether climate change or homelessness — are being hashed out, Brilliant said. That’s despite a broad hunger for communities where people can have coherent conversations about issues that impact our lives. Companies need to tap into this desire for public conversation about big ideas by connecting to people’s emotional intelligence, he said.



You didn’t ask, but I’ll suggest anyway: is the type of community that Larry Brilliant is describing. It’s more philosophical in nature, but applies itself to stimulating and relevant topics.

Michael J. Russell

Dr. Larry Brilliant proves that he’s still…well, brilliant.

Although younger Millennials/Digital Natives are typically less familiar with The WELL, that’s really a shame. The WELL was the original social media resource that existed before any of us ever called any of this stuff “social media.” I had the privilege of working for The WELL’s original professional services group, WELL Engaged (now Mzinga) in the mid-1990’s.

Without The WELL, there would never have been a Facebook, a Twitter. Maybe an AOL…just maybe. The WELL is to social media what Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly are to rock ‘n roll – there from the beginning. Except The WELL is still alive and kicking, too.

For those who’d like to learn more, Katy Hafner’s seminal WIRED article is as brisk and gut-wrenching a read now as it was when it was first published:

The Epic Saga of The Well
The World’s Most Influential Online Community (And It’s Not AOL)

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