WisdomMe is a social networking web site (or dhamma networking site) with users that are organized in a hierarchical manner as shown below:
- Users (devotees) – Anyone with an email address can obtain a user account.
- Groups - Ad-hoc group of users with similar dhamma practice interest. Anyone can create a group but to join a group, new user must obtain permission from the group administrator.
- Organizations- such as temples and meditation centers. Any user can “like” an organization and can select one or more as the primary organization.
Primary objective of the site is to allow users to conduct Buddhist practice or participate in other devotional activities. WisdomMe practices (or streams) are very similar to individual or group practices conducted at a temple or at home but with support from on-line resources provided by the WisdomMe site. Organization feature would allow members to be associated with a particular organization/temple for getting updates of events or news. This feature would also allow newcomers to find temples nearby to visit or communicate. In the future, this feature will be expanded.
Very similar to the way the Buddhist doctrine is organized, WisdomMe practices are organized by the three jewels of the Buddhism, Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. WisdomMe site uses these three major pillars to disseminate information as well as guide devotees to practice. Describe below are reasons for developing the WisdomMe site.
Only a limited number of people have access to authentic on-line digital Dhamma mainly due to lack of awareness and unwillingness to use existing content delivery systems such as CDs. Publishers are attempting to break into this market by converting existing publications into e-books. Attracting new users, especially younger generations, can be difficult unless they have a personal interest in Dhamma. Younger generations are more comfortable in immersive technology and using, interacting, and communicating with close knit social networking groups. It is the personal touch that people desire which is quite difficult to achieve through traditional means of communication. WisdomMe is attempting to address this problem by developing an on-line environment for Buddhist practices.
Social networking sites such as Facebook provide the capability for establishing “Birds-of-Feathers” social groups which are being used by Buddhist devotees to share and learn Dhamma. Capabilities provided via Facebook “Groups” are limited. Most of the content for the group is posted by the administrators. The members can mark “like”, “add a comment”, or share photos but non-administrators have to use cumbersome means to share knowledge. For example, having a personalized Dhamma discussion between two friends from the group is cumbersome. Features required for having an effective practice is inherently not present with existing social networking environments.
There is also the issue of providing access to quality and authentic Dhamma content. The Internet has been an invaluable resource for accessing the Dhamma for on-line users. Often, people from Western countries have their first exposure to Buddhism via the Internet. The difficulty is that where does one go to find authentic sources for the Dhamma or for learning to practice? There is not much room to filter or customization. There is a vast amount of information on the World Wide Web, which maybe overwhelming to newcomers who are just trying to understand the basics of Buddhist doctrine. WisdomMe could serve as a high-quality resource or hub that would direct younger and older generations to established centers, trusted teachers, and publishing enterprises.
The WisdomMe environment will be designed to aggregate content from members for sharing content among the Buddhist community. WisdomMe will be more practice oriented compared to hosting static content currently hosted by many websites. In the future, WisdomMe can align with retreat schedules of established training centers to allow participation from long distances.