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Web 3.0 and the Argentine Tango: Community, Personalization, Vertical Search

Posted on Sunday, Dec 18th 2011

Social dance is a natural for building wonderful, sticky, rewarding communities around. What are missing from the tango community are well-thought-through mechanisms to naturally facilitate the community’s interaction needs. Some very old-fashioned forums still work amazingly well. Tango-L is a mailing list that numerous aficionados have been using for at least 15 years to discuss topics of interest. It is a dated technology, but it works because of the lack of any other, better option.

But there is no Facebook for tango, or LinkedIn. There are some sites where you can look for dance partners, but they are poorly designed and not very subtle.

So, what would be the specs for a great community site for tango?

I think the answer is simply a Facebook-like place but dedicated to tango, with the elements discussed so far designed into the portal in more integral ways. It needs to include user-generated content in a significant way, whether it is by uploading or embedding videos; by bringing good bloggers into the fold; or by bringing community organizers together.
One of the best things, however, about the tango is that it is not a community that is simply interested in online communication. Because the center of gravity is the dance, people will use an online community only to facilitate a physical community, and to me, at least, that is a wonderful thing. So, while the purpose of Facebook is to keep the community glued to the site, the design principles of a community around the tango needs to be centered on getting people to meet and dance.

One of the key differences that came out of that fundamental difference from Facebook is in the business model. Monetizing eyeballs may not be the best business model for this Web 3.0 business. Alternative business models could be commissions for booking tickets to events, lessons, shows, and so on, as well eHarmony-like matchmaking services based on subscription business models.

For example, if an online service could help me to organize a weekly dance within five miles of my house at which only advanced dancers show up and are willing to spend a couple of hours with other serious dancers, that would be very helpful, and it would be a service for which I would pay. I would also pay for a service that can act as my private concierge to organize similar rendezvous with advanced dancers in other communities based upon my travel schedule. There may be other criteria based on which such custom groups can be configured, but in general, my sense is that the community, personalization, and vertical search elements are closely tied together in designing a site/service like this. First, we need the search criteria, then we need the personalized matchmaking service to organize highly customized groups, and finally, we need these elements of personalized grouping to operate in a scalable way. It is not an easy problem to solve.
One of my best experiences of a dance community that flowed beautifully was the MIT Ballroom Dance Club. Every Sunday afternoon, we would gather at the Student Center ballroom and spend the whole afternoon dancing – lessons, free dances. At the end, subgroups often would go out for dinner or ice cream. It helped that most of the community comprised MIT students, local alumni, staff, and so on, and the members had a lot in common even off dance floor. Perhaps this kind of flow is achievable only within a somewhat tightly defined environment around a university, but I must confess, in the past fifteen years, I have never experienced another similarly enjoyable, coherent community.

You see, thus far the Web has focused on dating and mating only. Other forms of “matchmaking” – finding friends, finding dance partners, finding people to get together and play music with, put up a play with – these are more sophisticated needs that have not been addressed quite so well yet. They need to be.

This discussion, I hope, will help to broaden your thinking and open your eyes to those opportunities.
In conclusion, I should confess that I would like there to be a great deal more dance in society. All kinds of dance. Although we have explored only the tango in this series, there are similar Web 3.0 communities to be built around swing, foxtrot, salsa, waltz, flamenco, jazz, blues . . . Through those efforts, if we can get the world dancing more, instead of sitting glued in front of a computer all the time, our net happiness quotient would definitely increase!

I leave you with a last video of a couple dancing the milonga con traspié – a joyful, melodious, and very fun dance within the Argentine tango repertoire. Watch the expression on the man’s face …

This segment is a part in the series : Web 3.0 and the Argentine Tango

. Introduction
. Context
. Content
. Commerce
. Community, Personalization, Vertical Search

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I totally agree. I wonder if something like this would work on WordPress? I live in a small town in Canada where the Tango community is small and struggling. Whenever I travel I try to connect with local Tango communities for some social dancing but it can be hard. A site like you are describing could be an asset to the whole world of tango connecting dancers, teachers and communities.

Bruce Sunday, December 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM PT