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Electric Minds (also known as EMinds) is a pioneering VirtualCommunity, originally founded in 1996 by HowardRheingold (user of TheWell and author of TheVirtualCommunity). Despite many changes of fortune, the community still exists today. The community is accessible at [1].

The community's history falls into roughly three eras, defined by its platforms:

  1. Initial founding - WellEngaged (plus customized content-management software)
  2. Attempted commercial exploitation - CommunityWare?, WebbMe?
  3. Community-based revival - Venice

Rough timeline of Electric Minds' existence:

HansWobbe asks: One immediate thing that strikes me is the apparent dedication of the user Community to its survival. Can you tell us a little about that, since it seems to me that most communities would simply have disintegrated, rather than having a core group fight for survival.

I think, the first time around, it had something to do with the strong personalities, such as Howard, that had helped bind the community together, and the fact that the community, in the end, wound up acquired by an organization that was so dedicated to the concept of online community (One of the big driving forces at the time in that acquisition was Casey Hughes, then-COO of Durand, who's a passionate online community person; he's still in that business today, see his Web site at [2]). Certainly, at the time of the WebbMe? shutdown, we had that example to work from, which is one reason we didn't disintegrate (or alternatively, fold ourselves into the CafeUtne community or some other community). Of course, it helped that we had an engineer (namely me) who was both (a) skilled enough to duplicate the essential CommunityWare? functionality in new software, and (b) crazy enough (or obsessed enough?) to try!

Even then, it wouldn't have worked out unless we were able to secure a server and hosting for it. The server was mostly generic hardware; we didn't spend a lot on it, at least, not at first. The hosting, however, was a concern. At first, I had planned to ask the Webb folks if they could do it, but they had no room in their colo facility. Luckily, the then-boyfriend of one of our conference hosts runs NetWizards in South San Francisco, and has been endlessly generous (and patient) with us. He even registered the domain name "electricminds.org" as an alternative to "minds.com" (the original EMinds domain name), which helped when Webb decided to use that domain name for something else. Naturally, we acknowledge his support with a blurb in the main "frame" of the site.

I guess there's no simple answer to this question in the end; maybe we're all just stubborn enough, or like each other enough, not to let the community die out. -- EricBowersox, 19 October 2004

Thanks, Eric.

I think I can appreciate some of what you are saying since I have been told that I too ab capable of being stubborn (I prefer persistent, but then I'm not objective.)

I'll need to ponder this for a while and perhaps even sketch out a bit of a time-line since these events seem to have transpired over a six year span and I'm unable to take the time just now to try to recall what else was happening during the key periods.

Thanks again for the additional insights. -- HansWobbe

You're welcome, Hans.

For further insight, you might have a look at the EMinds topic [The History of Electric Minds]. (N.B.: All EMinds topics can be browsed read-only without registering.) The topic as it originally existed on WellEngaged and CommunityWare? is archived at [3].



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