My experiences of online communities
Returning from Overseas after many years abroad I found first hand that all my friends were busy with family kids. Most of them had moved on in life, our thoughts and ideas had changed a lot and I was no longer the same person.
Only once I accepted the internet as a "like interest finding tool" did I find a connection to the rest of Australian society again.
For me: social life and get-togethers along lines of interest happen primarily via the internet.
A friend to whom I sent a link about a travel blog sent me this reply: (it shows how the net brings together people of similar interest)
......Thanks for that website :)
It's amazing to know there are other girls who share the same aspiration.
How about your story :)?
I also us the Net to run my own interest groups, earn some pocket money etc...
The safe remoteness and yet the meeting point on a common interest is great.
Couchsurfing is a site I like especially, I feel more at home there and it gives me hope to know others who feel similar to me are 'out there' doing this kind of thing - my profile is here www.couchsurfing.org/people/cinnamon.
Online communities to me mean I don't have to earbash my physically close friends, I can find people who relate to my interest on the internet. This blog is one way to get my ideas out there, instead of telling my co-workers I share them with you ! :-)
I publish stories and ideas on various blog sites. I have a story site, and site for metaphysical musings, another for travel and a static old fashioned home-site that is the hub of it all.
And there is one other aspects to online communities: you can become part of a community !
Yes, you can feel part of a community just like you can be a part of a group of people in your neighbourhood.
There are people on the net, I have never met in person, but I follow their exploits and tune in, and they feel like old friends. One such site is: mamamusings.net/
There are others who I talk to occasionally but again, will probably never ever meet in person.
And there is yet another aspect to online communities:
They are a way to get things "out".
For me it is something I want to, or need to do.
I miss not being able to write my ideas and thoughts down and share them with the world.This will not appeal to everyone but it is something I and I'd imagine most bloggers have in common: this need to share, talk, get it 'out'.
Long before blogging became 'blogging' I would write my ideas, make books to be published one of these centuries, or keep up a very lively correspondence with many people.
So I think it is a certain 'writer or author' personality type who likes to share, and write.
Blogging is just the modern version of something that has always been there. Samuel Johnson, G. K. Chesterton, Aldous Huxley and thousands more wrote streams of essays and articles - in today's world, I've no doubt they would be blogging as well.
Not every person likes to blog and write. Only a certain group do. This is important to keep in mind when you set up online learning and teaching communities.
Some students will love it, others simply don't want to do it. Those are simply natural differences, not everyone is an athlete and everyone is a natural scholar.
What does it mean for online learning though ?
How to do you get the best kind of online teaching ?
At its worst, online teaching is just a do-it-yourself guide, a manual that is doled out in small expen$ive chunks.
At its best online teaching is a living community of active people that has a life of its own. It is fun to belong and motivates people to contribute.
There is no sure-fire recipe, but there are a few commonsense foundations - details below.
Once I sat down to list them, I realized they are all put much better in the links below. So the rest of this article is more of a list of useful links about online communities.
Set up a fair and good government for online communities. The article by Joel Spolsky gives a good introduction: Building Communities with Software by Joel Spolsky - www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BuildingCommunitieswithSo.htm
I think this quote from Joel's site sums it up very well:
So, we have discovered the primary axiom of online communities:
Small software implementation details result in big differences in the way the community develops, behaves, and feels.
The theme of good government, fair government is also debated at:
Anthropology: The Art of Building a Successful Social Site - www.readwriteweb.com/archives/anthropology_the_art_of_building_a_successful_soci.php
Small things can matter a lot:
Can registration and email alerts hurt online communities? - philip.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=000teT
A review of the above articles:
Reflections on Online Communities - www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/computers/web/online-communities/#text
The article below is a classic and talks about the early days of online communities. We have progressed (???) since then.
See the classic: Clay Shirkey's "A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy" - shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html
Who is the community for ?
Be aware of the age and lifestyle of your target community. Busy parents, with kids, will not react the same way as teenager, who will not respond the same way as single
"demographics" is the key word: single people, will use the Internet and online tools totally differently from those who have children, a full time busy job.
Not everything can be engineered.
And of course, there is that final mysterious element which you simply can't force, can't bottle and can't define. Just as you might have two restaurants that look the same right next to each other, for some reason one is always full and the other is always empty.
However: if you do the above commnsense things and you do it with joy, chances are you will get a thriving online community in which people learn.
The links below are useful for anyone wanting to grow an online learning community: - you might not agree with it all, but they raises some good points.
BBC article about the business of online communities
The Online Community Biz - www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/podsandblogs/2006/08/the_online_community_biz_1.shtml
Various links that are related to this post
One person's positive experience from an online commuity - blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/what-stack-overflow-can-teach-you/
What does a moderator do in a community ?
My favourite is still: