Online Communities: websites with users

This week’s section on online communities put the spotlight on what seemed to be websites run by communities instead of one webmaster. Websites are published by a person or corporation and are viewed by its users. Blogs are written by one or many and commented on by one or many. Social network pages are created entirely by the community with little dependence on a central moderator (in most instances). Online communities seems to be a hybrid between these options, with a webmaster who is more of a community leader than dictator; he moderates and suggests rather than deciding and publishing. However, online communities also seem to be scattered along the spectrum instead of generally collected in the middle between the extremes. In fact, some online communities look a lot more like standard websites than thriving communities. Others look almost meaningless to outsiders who are not members of the community and don’t know what’s going on. Web Junction, for example, looks very much like a neat, professional site that offers many resources for the common visitor and clearly shows what the site is about and who it is for. However, it is apparent that there is a vibrant community under the polished exterior; there are login opportunities on almost every page, and many resources such as discussion boards and groups within the site that are only accessible by members. SkokieNet, on the other hand, is not very self-explanatory and a little disorienting to outsiders just discovering this site. Perhaps it’s just that it is not immediately apparent that this is a city community site, or what the role of the links and the public library in this site is.
All in all, though, online communities seem to be a good way to run a site centered around a community that is anxious to get involved and contribute to the communal knowledge and resources.

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