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Island Communities
Fragmentation paid dearly

by Christian Hennecke, © July 2006

The Editor in ChiefChristian Hennecke is the Editor in Chief of the VOICE Newsletter. While being a geographer originally, he runs an IT consulting and service company.

It has been conjured for a long time, but been more of an ideal: the OS/2 community or the community of OS/2 users. Heretical, yes, but one who leaves the euphoria of the feeling of togetherness behind and is willing to take off the rose-colored glasses will look into the eyes of other things: barriers, isolation, fragmentation, islands.

The reasons are legion. On a global level, they are of a linguistic, cultural, political, economical, geographical, and—historically—technical nature. Think of the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, or the surprise when the works of Team MMOS/2 Tokyo were discovered. If one narrows the view to the local, reasons of personal nature also come into play—not only strictly geographically. In USENET, animosities have an effect, too.

The image we see is not a static one but that of a world in flux. Drops of water which aggregate and are separated by obstacles again. While the number of OS/2 users was dwindling, the Internet, with access becoming faster, rapidly became important and gained key function as a bridge between isolated pockets of OS/2 and eComStation users. The demise of commercial ISVs was, at least in some areas, offset by freeware developers. After IBM's withdrawal, eComStation by SSI and Mensys advanced OS/2 a critical step.

All the above didn't remedy the situation initially described, they only mitigated it. Still, people get in the way of themselves and real improvement due to isolation and blind focus on their own efforts, and the island communities remain. At some point, even situations can be encountered where one cannot speak of a community in the traditional sense any more.

What is a community, actually?

A group of persons who are united by common thoughts, feelings, interests, or by fate (hardship, danger).

As far as OS/2 users are concerned, one would suppose a high level of common ground—especially the item danger holds a high unification potential. Although reality is different. Often the groups' heterogeneity is so strong that the term community as defined above does not apply any more but can only be used in the ecological sense:

An interacting group of species in an area.

This includes the competition factor and its consequences. Existing communities have reached a state of equilibrium. Once perturbed, a process starts that can lead to a new, different state of equilibrium—or to collapse.

The OS/2 world has endured many of such transitions. The fact that it still exists does not make a case for the belief that it shall do so in the future as the severely reduced population causes greater susceptibility to disturbance, and stronger reactions. That this applies to internal disturbance as well should have become clear when developers like Ulrich Möller and Christopher Wohlgemuth withdrew, at the latest. Obviously, time for opposition is short!

But what can be done to achieve a strengthening of the separate and ecological communities and to establish a base for them to bond and grow to a real community? There is no point in pleas for putting aside personal attitudes, sensitivities, and animosities for the good cause, or giving something in return instead of vampiric consuming. Each head of the hydra of beraters, grousers, and anti-eComStation crusaders will grow back. The key points of information and resource optimization provide better opportunities to bring leverage to bear on, with good flow of information being a requirement for improving resource usage. Bridges have to be built between the islands. Synergy effects can help to overcome potentially occurring and hindering inertia. That means that the bridges have to allow for bilateral exchange.

This is exactly the approach a new project is taking: OS2News.com. The strategy embarked on is promising since it allows for progressive association during operation and becomes more effective as the number of participants grows. More about that in our interview with one of the initiators.