Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Horizontal and Vertical Communities

Communities take many different forms, but most can be classified as horizontal or vertical.

A vertical community is driven by aspiration, a mix of wish and ambition. There is a desire to emulate and embrace what the best of the community represent.

Vertical communities rely on celebrities at the top of the scale. Sometimes these are celebrities in the pop culture sense, but every community has a form of celebrity, the people who attract the lion’s share of interest. They are the reason most try a service and why they return.

Celebrities define success for the community and motivate those who aspire to achieve the same status. Vertical communities often have a score of sorts and a person’s status relative to others is fluid.

The heart of horizontal communities, on the other hand, is affinity. People are drawn by a sense of belonging and commonality. There’s an inexplicable feeling of being at home.

There aren’t superstars and followers, brands and audiences. Everyone is equal.

The aspiration of a horizontal community is for the community itself to grow and thrive. Success and sacrifice are shared, and status is a reflection of what the community has achieved, together. It might be a park restored, voices heard, legislation passed, or bringing something new into the world.

Though we experience horizontal communities regularly with our friends and neighbors, they are rare online. Something is missing. Nearly two years ago, I wrote a post on Svbtle to see if others felt the same way.

Since then, a strong, delightful community of kind and creative people has formed around this idea we call Uncommon in Common. I’m working with a few friends to build an online home for Uncommon. Meanwhile, the community itself has taken root. We’ve had gatherings, mailed postcards around the world, and shared meaningful, memorable stories via a weekly dispatch.

If you’re curious about slow, thoughtful, horizontal communities in a sea of real-time, vertical, social networks with insatiable needs for our attention, reach out or send me a note. There is much to be done.