Sunday, January 4, 2009

Looking way back

Communities are as old as humanity. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about recognizing that the human animal, with some exceptions, seeks the company of others like it.

Although I can’t seem to put my finger on one now (when I want to re-read an article written by someone else on the topic), it seems that many headlines in 2008’s final days reminded readers that Virtual Communities grew and might, in retrospect, be “the next killer app.”

Can anyone recall or find such an article I can read and to which I might point? Please post in comments.

To give these bright people (whom I seem to have imagined) the benefit of the doubt, I’ll refine the comment I believe these writers and thinkers were making into a simple declarative statement with the minimum of buzzwords: virtual communities are hot attractions. The digital broadcast channel has evolved into millions of conversations.

Some may have forgotten or not been aware that the virtual community phenomenon was detected as an emerging trend on the Internet at least 15 years ago. Barry Wellman published many academic and popular works on the topic for nearly two decades. Howard Rheingold’s 1993 book Virtual Community documented it and, some say he coined the term. Writers for technology audiences have been aware of this for a long time as well. In mid-2000 WirelessWeek ran a short article with the headline “Community-the Killer App?” Five years ago, in 2003, Rheingold wrote an update about and expanded upon the topic in Smart Mobs. Around the same time, Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore took the concept much further and examined how communities would change the way companies communicate with their customers in their book Communities Dominate Brands.

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