The Future of Internet Communities
We spend a lot of time here focusing on vBulletin, phpBB, IBP, and other existing forum solutions.
Elsewhere people are focused on large Internet communities such as Facebook, and MySpace.
SecondLife and Entropia are Internet communities also, but based around graphical user interfaces and attempting to replicate "real life" online.
Kaneva is an interesting mix of features from SecondLife and MySpace.
When I look at these options, I see a bit pattern:
(00) General communities, old style (Facebook, MySpace)Has anyone looked into what would be necessary to create a niche social community providing features like SecondLife?
(10) Niche communities, old style (vBulletin, phpBB)
(01) General communities, new style (SecondLife, Entropia)
(11) Niche communities, new style (big blank space here)
Organic Communities - Fit, Focus and Function
As an "old school" top-down-design, step-wise refinement (did I age myself enough?) kinda person, I'm dealing with just this issue myself for a site I'm about to re-launch that was somewhat successful in its niche.
I do truly think that the mega-community sites will be few and far between, and that niche communities will develop organically. By that, I mean that the first thing to keep in mind is, well, the community that will be served. Then, look to the existing mega-communities for features that may serve you well.
For example, one site I'm finishing up was developed for a film student who wanted someplace where she could seriously upload and discuss film, music, etc. YouTube just isn't the kind of environment for that, but YouTube did have features that she needed. The resulting site springs from that specific need.
In other words, you have to understand the community (group, fans, teachers, paintballers, etc.) first, and the resultant site should be a reflection of what that community needs - "micro-sites" if you will that are fully featured but focused. How "wide" you define your "community" will be dependent upon whom you are trying to appeal to.
This approach will also hopefully make these kinds of sites a bit more economically feasible for folks - hey, not everyone is going to receive multi-millions in "Angel funding". ;)
My personal usage patterns follow just this creed. You can find me across several technically-focused forums, but I've never posted to Facebook (though I have an account) or Twitter (which I simply refuse to join). "Fit, Focus and Function" are my mantra.
Of course, this is a bit over-simplified, but so far it works for me. :)
Yes, that's the point... :)
Actually, you're right and this does play into what I'm talking about. :)
Originally Posted by texashiker
Some people want "real" interaction, others "fantasy". For me, anything online isn't quite real, but that's beside the point. ;)
What both groups have in common is, well, what they have in common. All social neworking sites, regardless of specific interest, are by their nature going to share certain features typically needed to facilitate interaction. Whether to discuss Shakespeare or World of Warcraft, you'll need, say, somewhere for them to post, some way for them to contact each other, and so forth. How many people really are themselves online? Hell, my own nick is nowhere near my real name.
Let's take Facebook. This was developed really for professional networking by some people in college who were thinking about what they would need upon graduation (a way to make the connections that could further careers and so forth), if I remember the story correctly. It just grew from there, but you get the point - see a common need or desire, and fill it well.
A more fantasy-oriented site was developed effectively for the same reason - the group wanted to interact (be it in virtual worlds or whatever) and so a site was developed for them. Same basic approach still applies. The specifics of each virtual community of course will ultimately reflect the needs of that community. However, the process is generally the same - identify the group (or the need), and serve it.
Hope I'm making sense, which can be in question after a 15-hour day. :cool: