Community Landscape

There's a confusion rolling around right now about the difference between a community (as a group distinguished by a shared interest) and the software that supports the current style of online community tools. Communities have made use of a wide variety of communications channels since the year dot. We're just adding to the channel options right now. And like the telephone, some of these tools and tricks are profoundly changing the behavior of communities. But I don't think they're changing what a community is.

I've been involved in online communities for more than 15 years now, since when your email address was a string of numbers (remember CompuServe?).

Anyone involved in a discipline requiring audience analysis and the analysis of communication channels develops a keen understanding of the attributes of a community.

Here are some examples of different styles of online communities for later discussion:
  • A forum for experts on hot button topics
  • A reference resource for specific types of business advice
  • A user group
  • A group of employees of a single company
  • A working group
  • A national sales organization, out in the field
  • A team of catastrophe adjusters in the field
  • The admins in a large company
  • Wine collectors
  • Yacht owners
  • Bentley owners
  • The members of a family trust
  • Usability experts

It's a mixed bag, but each has its distinct online channels.

Next: More on each and the difference and similarities.

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