The Shape of Online Communities: History and Promise

Online communities used to be analogous to cities and towns. Our first notion of virtual community was based on real-world, geographically-based interests. Technology then supported this notion by creating tools that mimicked cities and villages. This idea was wildly popular, but ultimately failed because we hadn’t yet figured out how unimportant geography was when it comes to online community:

Yahoo bought GeoCities — a collection of homepages organized by neighborhood. AOL and Tribune launched Digital City. Corporations from Citigroup to SAP moved into virtual terrain.

These city metaphors all failed. Why? Because they proved utterly unnecessary. The older generation, who might have used them as a crutch, found them unwieldy. And digital natives moved directly into new neighborhoods that they built from scratch — forums, message boards, blogs, and ultimately social networks. via Mashable

Here’s another evolutionary tale. When Twitter first launched, people used it to tell real friends where they were and what they were doing. It was mostly about their physical orientation to the world. Nowadays, while we do continue to post about these things, we’re spending much more time talking about intellectual matters. And we’ve expanded beyond our real world friends to ones with the same interests or values, whether they be in Utah or Uganda. Physical proximity has been displaced by cultural-value proximity. (more…)

Online Community vs. Social Media

There are a lot of thoughts floating in the digital ether about online communities and social media. Those thoughts often collide in confusing ways. Some folks – most perhaps – think that managing an online community is the same as working in social media. While an online community is built off a social media platform, the role of a social media manager and an online community manager are much different. (more…)