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"There is no there there." - GertrudeStein?

For all the fancy rhetoric that has been bandied about in the last decade or so about virtual communities, ComputerMediatedCommunication, and so on, it seems that the things that make a VirtualCommunity successful are those very things that bring it closest to an idyllic community in MeatSpace. These are:

(At this point, I shift gears a bit...)

Interestingly, I just came up with five senses (without trying, really!), which leads me to consider how our own physical senses could also be used as a metaphor for perceiving comfort in community. Let's use these five senses to see how a VirtualCommunity could approach providing a pleasing sensation:

These are my preliminary thoughts on BuildingVirtualCommunities. Please, feel free to join in!

I think that the considerations above are too theoretical. Virtual communities are beasts of their own. Although a sparrow and a elephant are both animals, I don't think that knowing a lot about elephants will help us in raising and feeding and understanding sparrows. There are a number of good books about building commercial virtual communities (e.g. the outdated classic NetGain, CommunityBuildingOnTheWeb), but I think the authors never try to understand the people and the needs and the mechanics of virtual communities. -- HelmutLeitner

One very concrete litmus test for community that works for me is whether there's a place i can go and be pretty sure that there will be someone to hang out with. In the virtual context this has the regular meaning for real-time systems. For asynchronous communities it's more like how sure can i be that someone will respond meaningfully within a reasonable amount of time. For example, when i post to a newsgroup or wiki how likely is it that i'll get a response in a day or two? the more likely that is, the more it feels like community (so someone better reply/edit this :) -- JohnAbbe

I think you are absolutely right. There also should be enough traffic in RecentChanges. -- HelmutLeitner

If you are not being heard (via RecentChanges), it could be because

The interesting thing to me is that this suggests a scaleable RecentChanges - a member registers their topics of interests (eg. on their HomePage, or by simply adding their signature onto a page as with normal practice), and then some [mumble] code finds those changes near to you. The scale of "near" could be determined by you as just another parameter (like the # days parameter). The analogy then is if you don't see anything interesting happening you should (a) come out of your cave, and (b) look up from the ground and towards the horizon.

Is there a RecentChangesSuggestions page where this concept of ranged locality of interest is already discussed? -- EricScheid [CategoryMeatballWikiSuggestion]

Sometimes I don't reply to people addressing me directly because I'm very busy. But then again, I'm a NegligentLeader?. -- SunirShah

This page caught my eye in RecentChanges because i thought it said BuildingViralCommunities?. Hmm...

Some virtual communities are indeed viral... once infected, you just can't stop coming back...

It can help in building virtual communities to give gentle nudges and reminders about the community to its members. People don't pass by casually, like they might a local park or cafe on their way to work or whatnot. No one likes constant email pestering, but the ability for users to opt in on for reminders--maybe a digest listing of "recent changes" in their email box every x days--can help. Community email newsletters--again, something they can opt in/out of--would also help. -- JohnWindmueller

I think this page has begun to drift toward just a list of attributes of a good virtual community. And sure, a good community is a good draw. But maybe it would help--or at least fit the page topic a bit more--to refocus more at the act of building those communities -- JohnWindmueller

See also Rheingold's TheArtOfHostingGoodConversationsOnline.


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