Online communities should have a better reptuation. Everyone should be in one. They're profoundly changing the world for the better.
Everyone has examples, here are a few of mine:
- I loved online gaming when I was 15. I was a bit lonely. I found online communities of gamers. I wrote for gaming community websites, ran events, managed gaming teams found a place to be appreciated for my passion for games.
- Before coming to University, I found people staying in the same building as me and started a small online group. It made the first day easy and fun. Today, this is normal.
- At University we launched Facebook groups for courses. These became the places where we shared advice, helped each other with essays, traded rare library books, exchanged articles, arranged study-groups and spoke with former students who gave advice.
- In 2008, I collaborated with Seth Godin and a group of virtual interns on an interesting project. We stayed in touch. They're a really remarkable bunch (they’ve published wildly popular eBooks, spoken at TED, launched their own start-ups, developed communities with a six-figure income). These are the sort of buddies the internet lets you have.
- When I moved to Geneva I joined an online expat community looking for advice about finding property. I found this superb apartment at a bargain and received lots of great advice from locals.
- I moved to London earlier this year. I browsed meetup to find about 5 meets I was interested in attending. In less than a fortnight I had found a good group of friends interested in similar things.
- Despite community management being a relatively new job, it takes a few minutes to find an online community for the profession here in London. Without any formal association or even an agreed understanding of the job where else would we be able to connect?
We need to share more of these stories. Online communities should be natural, you should be able to pick up your (i)Pad in a few years and talk to people from your sofa. No technology barriers, just communication with people with like-minded interests who don't have to live near you.