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Community Networks and Websites?

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the potluck dept.

The Internet 155

brendano writes "I've been doing some research into the fascinating world of community networks and websites -- online places that can inform and connect people of a real-life community. They typically provide news, discussion forums, and email for local residents. There are some quite successful ones (such as the nonprofit Seattle Community Network or the Blacksburg Electronic Village), but also also ghost town-like failures that show how hard it is to get a community network/website rolling. In addition, many struggle with questions of how to get funding; whether they can be for-profit while serving the community, or be non-profit with enough money to keep going. Unlike the wireless community networks we hear about so much, these types of community networks go beyond just internet access and try to provide access to the community itself. Some, even, are being done to help build up disenfranchised communities, such as one in a housing project, or the three of HP's Digital Village project (one of whose projects I'm researching for.) I was wondering if members of the Slashdot community know of more examples of community networks, and what people think of these projects. Can real-life communities succeed in the online environment as well? How so?"

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not the first post! (-1)

Angela Lansbury (568190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467803)

it's not the first posy! huzzah, for me! That's two in a row!

Re:not the first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467810)

did the parent make any sense to you?

I know it seemed rambly to me

Re:not the first post! (-1)

Angela Lansbury (568190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467903)

My parents are dead and my aunt susie is a drunk. Sometime she goes downtown and shows men walking with their families her underwear and then she falls down laughing. Sometimes I get angry and hit a dog with a stick.

Re:not the first post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467918)

You need to get down on your knees and suck my fucking cock, bitch. Swallow the cum too you dirty slut.

Re:not the first post! (-1)

Angela Lansbury (568190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467987)

Several elves of the line of Urathror had come visiting the lands of Haspensia looking to trade spices from the upper plains for cloth. Finding the village burned to the ground and the bodies of the town elders hanging from the boughs of trees the elves hightailed it out of their. Resting only when the village was nothing but a dim blotch on the horizon the elves took rest and supped soon after commencing butt love.

nagoobalhu (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467811)


Other examples abound... (-1, Offtopic)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467812)

Like my own! But I hesitate to mention it for fear of the Slashdot effect.

Heh, right, security through obscurity. But it isn't a secret, either.

Chamber of Commerce (2)

yintercept (517362) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468439)

The best other examples of working online communities are the numerous chamber of commerces across the country. These are usually funded by businesses, and do a great deal to keep business to business and business to consumer activity working. I know they usually don't have chat rooms, but often have good directories and calendars. I've been working on several chamber related sites. The sites don't generate a great deal of online activity, but generate a great deal of buzz in the business community.

The only place where I could find normal people (1)

WetCat (558132) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467815)

was in yahoo.com forums and local newspapers' forums...
A pity... the problem is not to create good website, the problem is to make it visited by locals...

Town of arlington, ma (2, Interesting)

RedMage (136286) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467818)

The town of Arlington MA has been online for many years now in the form of a community mailing list and adjuct web sites. The mailing list, of which I have been a member since 1998, serves several purposes: community Q&A, a notice board, and a place to vent on general topics of relevance. The forum is pretty self-regulating in the old usenet tradition, but there is a moderator to handle housekeeping and extreme problems.

Creating a free community network (-1, Redundant)

Metrollica (552191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467829)

The "freenet" movement based in Cleveland, USA has failed to connect
the vast majority of citizans in any way shape or form. Furthermore
"freenets" are not accessable to millions of adults and hundreds
and thousands of communities by virtue of the complex, politically
sensitive, corporate setup, operating system and sponsorship of
these entities. We are therefore, faced with an ever widening gap
between those who are connected to the Internet and those who are
not. The inforich get richer and the infopoor who will probably
never be connected to the Internet in any form. Not under the
current conditions anyways. The "freenet" groups are inaccessable, suscpetable to political
pressures and capricious changes in their policies as a result of
political and corporate pressures. The commercial internet and
information services providers simply do not tolerate unconventional
thought and divergant beliefs, opinions or practices. They are in
any event simply too expensive and complicated for the vast majority
of human beings to access in the forseeable future. There is no place
for poor people, dissent or minority representation. What is required is a non-profit, international and apolitical
internet services provider. An organization that will give any
community server a free connection to the internet regardless of
costs. A Free Community Network bringing the global Village the
information revolution without pre-conditions, economic blackmail
or controlling strings. Any group anywhere may set up a Community Server with whatever
equipment they may have at hand. The Free Community Network provides
whatever connectivity the group needs ... from a 2400 baud weekly
dial-up UUCP connection to 24 hour a day ISDN and beyond. All without
preconditions ... the exception neing that the participating community
server makes no profit from the services they in turn provide. The Free Community Network will take donations of money equipent,
time and resourxes from any and all sources. All contracts with the
Free Community Network will be written to preclude the possibilty
of anyone profiting from our services or from political or economic
pressure being exerted through the various donations. A Free Community Network is essential to the creation and survival
of the community servers which will be essential to propogating the
knowledge and information of the Internet to the people of the world.
Without a Free Community Network we will face a world in which the
majority of people live in conditions of knowledge blackout and
extremely dangerous and unbalanced situation. Discussions towards creating the Free Community Network have already
begun. International participation is encouraged and welcome. Let's
make the Free Community Network a reality to ignite an explosion of
Community Servers that will finally bring all of humaity into one vast
forum. Let us make it happen.

not in my lifetime (1)

crystalplague (547876) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467830)

I think the day my "real-life community" goes online, I'll lay off the caffeine i.v. I have going here and pry my ass out of this chair.

Real life is good sometimes people. I know...you gotta deal with other people but if you're to the point were you but black paint under your eyes to reduce monitor glare (no kidding I've done this in a personal 48 hour gaming marathon), it's time to take a walk.

Re:not in my lifetime (3, Interesting)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467872)

But the point is to organize.. At the hight of the on-line community I was a part of we'd have "events" at least once a week. Be it going to the movies, play kickball, rollerskating, or whatever, we made it a point to get out and get together, away from the computers.

Re:not in my lifetime (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467934)

Nice to see the moderators are on crack again.. Somebody says online communities are bad because you should get out into "real life". Somebody says that online communities helped them do more "real life" stuff with more people, and that's off topic?

I got your Community Network (-1)

Pen1s Goat Guy (535580) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467834)

Right here [oralse.cx] !

Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) (3, Interesting)

lopati (74873) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467839)

one way might be to start a LETS [u-net.com] , like the kind in victoria [victoria.bc.ca] .

Re:Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) (1)

Andreas Rueckert (138510) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468525)

Thanks for the links! I was looking for those for a while. I discussed the idea of a ETS for webmaster work for a while. Very similar to a LETS, but based on a virtual community of webmaster, who could trade their skills. A website would act as a clearing station and a blackboard for jobs and coders. But the system has not got very far at the moment, althought there a couple of interested folks.

Attract visitors by allowing free buy/sell (2, Interesting)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467845)

My university has a very popular online community which sprung up around a site which was initially designed for buying and selling textbooks.

I suspect a lot of people in a geographic area would have something to buy/sell (cars, collectibles, appliances, computers, etc.) Advertise free buy/sell classifieds. They will come. And then introduce forums, chat, community calendar, and all that stuff.

Re:Attract visitors by allowing free buy/sell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467973)

Advertise free buy/sell classifieds. They will come.

Maybe if you're advertising inflatable dolls, dildoes, strap ons, pocket pussies, and whatever else you find in Kowboy Kneel's closet...

Re:Attract visitors by allowing free buy/sell (1)

quinto2000 (211211) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468147)

let me guess...it's called misc.market

WhitleyNet (3, Interesting)

InnovativeCX (538638) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467852)

I work for a local community network. I'll admit, it's a rather small non-profit operation with a 'staff' of about 10 people that meet every several months. The main feature is the forum board in which people sound off about anything and everything around town. Slashdot it [whitleynet.org] if you really care.

Re:WhitleyNet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468220)

It might be nice if you set the bgcolor to white (#FFFFFF) instead of default. The page looks awfully silly for those of us who change their default background colors to something else...

I was part of a really good one.. (3, Interesting)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467858)

At one point I was part of a really fun online community (I will not mention it because I no longer belong to it, and their webserver is having enough issues as it is right now). It was a lot of fun, we had all kinds of fun events and most of us got along really well.. Then it started to fall apart. The age difference between us really started to grow once som of us got over 21, then people wanted to have events where you had to be over 21 (like go to a local bar). This really cut off some of the members that were still under 21. Then people started having different interests, some of them got into drugs while others were really against drugs. Then both sides started to try to get more people to join in and back them up untill finally I had enough and left. I tried to form my own community for some of the people that felt the same way I did, but it just didn't work out. I'm still friends with the people that I was friends with in the community, but I don't belong to that community anymore. The things that were there that made me want to be part of it are not there anymore.

On a side note, it is interesting how people hold grudges and such, even on an online community. Still, on my online journal, and when I comment on friends, people that had nothing better to do in our chat room then insult me still do it, even after being gone for over two months now.

Re:I was part of a really good one.. (4, Funny)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467904)

Dude, that has nothing to do with online communities. It is called "high school."

Sure they can. (4, Interesting)

Rebel Patriot (540101) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467860)

Can real-life communities succeed in the online environment as well? How so?

As of right now I am posting this through community DSL. Granted, it is for profit and more pricey than Bellsouth, but I've had negligable downtime (only twice, once due to a server upgrade on their end and once when their pipe got broke). When I call them up with a problem (like getting a static public address), I talk to as person. There is no machine that picks up and asks you to hold for fifteen minutes with confusing options. The people are generally helpful and their service is impeccable. And if you're wondering if they are a community provider, website [gnat.net] .

Online Messaging (1)

Medevo (526922) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467861)

Communities like /. Provide a large user base, which allows for diverse opinions, from trolls to god.

While smaller boards allow for more of a targeted group, or individuals that are all interested or involved in a specific action or activity

It is hard to say which is better, for they both have there pros and cons, but if you like to argue about broad topics, /. And super-communities are for you. While if you are looking for specific things, check google for XYZ board

My $0.02


Communities of region (1)

ethank (443757) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467862)

I have run and developed communities online based on offline communities formed by media properties for a good number of years.

The common problem I have found is that the traditional media product failed to solidify a community itself, which inherently lead to difficulties reaching a critical mass in an online community.

As well, the community online needs to be able to solidify itself in various facets in order for it to be successful. For instance forming a community around Athens, GA wouldn't work as well as forming a community around Athens, GA and then a subcommunity in it based around the music scene.

So, in my experience, solidifying an online community around a regional media presense, or even a region is difficult. What I think would be more successful, and what is going to be my next project is forming the online community around national matters of interest (linked in with the national parent media company), and segmenting subcommunities based on regional interest, offering a kind of hybrid of regional/national topics.

Re:Communities of region (2, Insightful)

caferace (442) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468124)

Good god. You sir will be consumed alive by your buzzwords. Do you listen to yourself?

Trust me.... Literacy and marketing do not mix well.

This Post!! (-1)

returnofthe_spork (552824) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467863)

I just saw the new Star Wars movie on TV. That thing was terrible. The special effects were amateruish at best. Is this because they used Linux to render it? Movies made a decade ago had better effects. The one they made a few years ago was great, they need to switch back to real Unix or Windows or whatever they used for that one. George Lucas has really lost it.

My advice, stay away from this movie. It is not worth the 2.5 hours.

Re:This Post!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467982)

tell me about it. As a bonus for meeting some goal for the focus-of-the-month, my manager is taking my entire dept. out to see Attack of the Clones (aka Titanic in space) on opening day. I told him "No thanks, I'd rather work".

Tallahassee Florida (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467864)

today is the 10th anniversary of Tallahassee Freenet. Cinco de Mayo!
20K users, free dialup, community forums, etc. They sell used donated equipment from time to time, and have had library grant money in the past. Initially set up by Florida State University [fsu.edu] . Tallahassee Freenet [tfn.net]

How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (3, Insightful)

Seth Finkelstein (90154) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467866)

It seems to me an initial problem is that, by definition, the "community website" is only going to be used by people who like to use websites. Now, everyone reading/posting here is obviously part of that group. And hardcore to boot. But I wonder just how large a part it is, of the geographic community. It seems it'll cut-out almost everyone older, busy, or just not interested in playing with tech-toys.

If the community has a lot of younger professionals, maybe it works. But if there are a lot of older retirees, maybe it doesn't.

Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (1)

dalassa (204012) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467887)

Actually retirees might be the best. They are the most likely to be isolated as a group and an online coomunity could provide a way for them to meet new friends or for those who can't get around as much any more to keep contact with people. Amittedtly there is the learning curve problem. Perhaps online communities should try to train people in their use instead of wating for people to show up. That would create money problems though....
Curse that law of unintended consequences.

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (1)

jred (111898) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468070)

For real. Since my grandmother retired, all she does is visit Florida & stay online. She knows enough now that she doesn't call me for help anymore. If I want to say hi, I'm better off emailing her than calling. And don't get her started on AOL :) She's part of a huge travelling retiree community. They run into each other occasionally, but keep in touch over the internet. And they *love* Yahoo Games...

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (2)

flynt (248848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468078)

You just got me thinking, I'd love Yahoo games right now if I was retired...think what they'll have by the time I retire. Even if it doesn't progress that much, its still going to be a lot of fun I think.

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (1)

jred (111898) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468133)

Actually, just about every person I know who isn't tech-y plays online card games, word games, etc. For a while I was even involved in a word game feud w/ my 3 sisters. 2v2, and we always kicked their butt :)

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (1)

brendano (457446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468259)

Good point. One of the questions I'm researching is, can it be successful among poorer communities as well? You then have to deal with digital divide issues at the same time -- very tricky.

Re:How much of *community* cares about a web-site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468497)

This [nairobits.com] might be of your interest. It's the result of a project to teach kids in nairobi to use computers and build websites etc...

It's nog really an online community be more the other way around, a real community getting online. Obviously that comes before any online communities can exist...

Slashdot is my community (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467870)

I know there's no way I can get a girlfriend on slashdot, yet that's where I hang all day. Go figure.

Re:Slashdot is my community (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467993)

I just got back from watching "Monster balls". It's a movie about some guy with a huge pair of nuts, or something. Anyhow, he has some jungle fever action with Halle Berry. I know who I'm gonna think about tonight hen I jack off!

It's allright, though, because she's half white. I just hope I can get that image of Billy Boc Thorton's ass out of my head!

Re:Slashdot is my community (-1)

Angela Lansbury (568190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468088)

I use a grapefruit as my girlfriend. Heat it up in the microwave for twenty seconds for added reality.

Training lizards. (-1)

Angela Lansbury (568190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467878)

I walked down to the Walgreens on the corner hoping hoping to catch Angela before she had left work and gone home. Before I was about to walk in the door I glanced at the young man sitting on a bicycle in front of the store smoking a cigarette by the newspaper dispensers, amazingly it happened to be Curt Cobain. I took a few tentative steps towards him and than a thought hit me. It was a big thought, one of those that blocks everything else going on around you. It was one of those thoughts that made me have to think about how to walk again. Had Curt Cobain ever driven a car? Did he have any need for drivers license at all? My mental powers were taxed as I was seemingly unable to comprehend him ever having to drive an automobile of any kind. By this time my external senses had returned to me and Curt was leaving his forearms on the bicycle handle staring at me with his cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth a small wisps of smoke escaping his lips. I stared back at him concious of only his probing eyes and my my arms and hands that were tnsed and hanging straight down the side of my body with sweat dripping off them. A moment passed and not knowing what to say I hurried into the Walgreens to find out Anglea had left early due to a canker sore inflammation. I dreaded facing Curt again so I wandered to a stall in the bathroom and read the etchings in the stall door. I wasn't sure how long I waited but finally I forced myself to leave to see if he was still there. I went outside to find that evening had settled in, I was flabbergasted, it had been at least three hours before sunset when I had arrived at the Walgreens, I hadn't been their that long. I saw him, I saw his unmistable features in the orangish glow of a street lamp as hew walked into the pet store across the street. Looking both ways I ran to the pet store and through open the door. He was behind the counter putting on a white clerks smock and putting out his cigarette in an ash tray. His eyes leveled at me as he turned around. "You want the goldfish in the tank with the orange sea diver." My mouth was dry I, I couldn't sat a thing. Curt lit another cigarette and picked up a plastic bag and a small net. Going to the tank he flipped up the lid, scooped up the fish, and slammed the lid back down on the tank in a few effortless motions. He walked towards me and gave me the plastic bag. "Soone you'll know what to do with this. It will be the beginning of your freedom." I sat their transfixed staring at him while he stared back at me for what must have been 30 seconds or even a minute, I wasn't sure. He took one last drag on the cigarette and crushed under his shoe and he was gone in a flash of blue light. I stared at the spot where he had been, the only thing left a smoldering piece of tobacco. I walked out the store and went home.

Re:Training lizards. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468002)

look, umm, that's nice. Not a criticism, just a suggestion. Next time, could your story involve sex with a woman? And some canned phrases like "purple headerd warrior", "love mound", "brown eye", "trouser worm", etc.



Community Website I've run / been involved with. (5, Insightful)

shri (17709) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467884)

We started a humor based community, catering towards Indian's in 1999. It has been very sucessful in terms of creating a hangout for Indians to share jokes and humor. Commercially.. we made a fair bit of money during the dot-com boom. Right now we've been reduced to using affiliate programs. The site is on Gandmasti.Com [gandmasti.com]

We then started a community website for Indian's in Hong Kong on hkindians.com [hkindians.com] and this has also been sucessful... even though we don't spend a cent on advertising, these community websites are very viral. People in the community (depending on how targetted your definition of community is) will talk about it and will spread the word. It is then up to you to make the money.

Here's my take on what it takes...

a) Building a community takes a lot of hard work. You genuinely have to be interested in networking with the people and getting to know people. You have to be prepared to answer tons of questions and deal with a lot of trivial (to you as a webmaster) issues. It is not easy.

b) Once you've got a few hundred people rolling, take some time and figure out what they purchase, who are the people who want to target them and try to bring the two together. On HKIndians.Com we are working currently with a couple of local insurance providers and a long distance call broker. We have had sponsorships from local cable companies who want to target new channels to the Indian community. There is money to be made.. just not dot-com millions. Don't give up your day job.

c) This is very important... don't loose your passion for the community. Once you do.. others will sense your disinterest and loose their interest.. this will happen very quickly.

On well .. just some random thoughts. :)

Re:Community Website I've run / been involved with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468409)

c) This is very important... don't loose your passion for the community. Once you do.. others will sense your disinterest and loose their interest.. this will happen very quickly.

In your post you refered to "viral" marketing, "targetting" your audience, and being "reduced to using affiliate programs".

It sounds like you've already soldout your community.

Re:Community Website I've run / been involved with (1)

shri (17709) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468717)

Why have I sold out the community? The sites are still bringing in a ton of traffic, people are still enthusiastic. We manage about 2 million pageviews a month with these sites... not a glorious achivement, but still commendable considering the sites are maintained by my wife and I, in our spare time. Yes, I do get cynical about things at times.. but then there are some great moments which make up for the cynicism also.

Is there anything wrong in making money on a community venture? The freebie newspapers have been making money based around microcommunities / free publishing / providing a service by infact doing what I have said...

They viral market, by publishing content which people are interested in and talk about. They target by providing content which is very specific to their audience and required by their audience.

The comment about being reduced to using affiliate programs was more of a statement on the downturn in the ad markets. We have fixed the problems by going out and actively seeking advertisers who need to get their products out in front of the people who visit the site.

While I am at it ... could you define selling out? Oh yeah .. probably means making some money out of your cause. Bleah...

one day... (1)

YahoKa (577942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467888)

Perhaps community sites would work if we started things like voting on-line. People would start to get the idea of what the web can actually do for their community.

A Community destroyed by it's creators... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467915)

This online designe community was destroyed [newstoday.com] by those who created it because of over-zealous deleting/censorship. They have effectively eliminated the most productive and helpful demographic because of puerile editing; an excellent way to bring a community to it's knees is by silencing it's most active members...

Freenets (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467917)

Freenets (no, not the peer-to-peer who stole the name) have been offering community access and news for over a decade (albeit dial-only access). The National Capital Freenet (http://www.ncf.ca/) has been in existance since 91/92 and is still in operation today, still as a not-for-profit organisation.

They offer access, local newsgroups (SIGs), internet access, etc.. etc.. etc...

At one time there were almost a hundred Freenets around, but only a handful are left. They offered internet access (gopher, telnet, newsgroups, IRC) even before the Internet was commercialized. For many, Freenets was the first taste of the Internet (myself included).

Re:Freenets (1)

swirlyhead (95291) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468168)

I work for a freenet that's been around for quite a while. It's the Eugene Free Network [efn.org] and it started off back in '92-'93 as basically a single box under the stairs at clif's house. Nowadays we serve approximately 16,000 members.

A few years ago, (before I joined) the IRS came in and gave the organization a bunch of grief for providing internet access as a non-profit, basically their stand was that since EFN was providing a service (internet access) it was competing with other businesses and could not qualify as a non-profit organization regardless of whether it was a money-making operation or not. The end result was that we ended up with two organizations OPN (Oregon Public Networking) which is a 501c3 charitable organization which owns EFN (Eugene Free Community Network) which is a not-for-profit business.

OPN is involved in a variety of efforts that would interest the more public-spirited slashdot members, including internet access for the blind and disabled; hosting the local LUG [euglug.org] and most recently an ongoing effort to encourage the local school districts to adopt the LTSP.

If you're ever in Eugene, come check us out 43 w. Broadway

CMU web community (2, Informative)

Bert690 (540293) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467935)

I work on the YouServ [ibm.com] (formerly uServ) project and right now we're experimenting with setting it up at Carnegie Mellon University [cmu.edu] to see what kind of (if any) web community might evolve around this network.

Unlike standard file sharing networks, your identity (by way of your university e-mail address) is clearly tied with your content, so the theory :-) is that should discourage blatant piracy and encourage sharing of "commnity oriented" content. Unfortunately we launched it right before summer break so users are slow in coming, but we hope interesting things (other than rampant piracy :) will happen...

IMO this is a much better example of "community web" since each user has as much control as any other member of the community as to what content is published. Of course this is also rather anarchistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Give 'em good tools and they'll build it themselve (4, Interesting)

MattRog (527508) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467940)

I'm the Technical Director/CTO for a large sports-based web forum located at http://forums.fanhome.com

I basically do all the tech work (Sybase ASE, PHP, Linux, etc.) but am also vitally interested in keeping the user-base happy with high-performance and reliability combined with ease-of-use. The problem has been integrating casual members of different real-live groups (e.g. Red Wings sports fans interacting with PGA Golf fans) while still catering to the hard-core fan.

We've taken to limiting almost all off-topic posts to specific forums (called the 'BBQ's) while keeping on-topic posts in the team-related forums. Typically the 'word association' and 'what are you wearing' type threads are relegated solely to the BBQ. Users who want to get their Pedro Martinez fix can do so without wading through 100 pages of 'What is your favorite food' threads. This allows both the hard-core and casual fan user groups to coexist but also via the BBQs we can also get different fans (Football and Hockey for instance) to begin to know each other.

Another often-ignored section is usability. As has been said countless times before - usability is king. As we all know from Windows vs. Linux etc. the mass market is generally quite computer-illiterate when it comes to anything more complex than double vs. single clicking on icons (sometimes even that is too complex!!). Slashdot for the masses? Sheesh, if you look in the prefs section there are a billion different things to click on, some of which have scary names like 'threshold', 'display mode', and 'thread'. Sure, for Slash's audience this makes perfect sense, but for mass-appeal you have to really, really dumb things down. Keep that in mind when developing - as the 'elite' we work with computers very often. Mom-n-Pop (who probably have a larger disposable income than most college computer-savvy types) need to be able to maneuver and feel comfortable in your site. Why is AOL so freakin popular? You don't have to worry about DUN, TCP/IP settings, or even trying to figure out what browser you are using! All you have to do is click "Connect to the internet" and you're there!

Don't also forget that usability doesn't necessarily mean 'high-tech'. The user doesn't necessarily need to have 30 widgets available to them on the front page, but us geeks really like to poke with settings. Make the 'default' interface nice and clean. If it limits some of the 'cooler' options then so be it. Let the geeks check the box called 'power user'. :) But don't confuse 'usable' with 'simplest'. The technologies you use can't be crap. :) No one likes reading Times New Roman 10pt. for your entire site. Font tags can be your friend!

Keep it fast - they say that most users have a 3 second (or thereabouts) tolerance for page lag. Most I've noticed are quite lower than that - if it doesn't start loading by the time IE makes that little 'click' sound they're somewhere else.

And last of all -- make sure it is 'boss friendly'. People that need to browse covertly at work have a much easier time if you use few 'neon' colors and pop ups! :)

Perfect Timing (3, Interesting)

fivepan (572611) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467943)

This may not be an insightful post to anyone, but I thought it was so great of a coincidence that I had to post a comment.

I've just recently started working on a community website for my local community. We're not a large group of people and fairly rural as far as that goes. But we are growing fast (in the top 3 fastest growing counties in Missouri, USA) and a lot of "computer-friendly" families are moving here from the city. My web design business is starting to pick up as they do as well.

I've started to do a lot of research on the 'net, looking at other community sites and reading articles on the subject. I haven't found too much to help me, however. The Seattle website that you mentioned was one of the best organized that I found. I think, for-profit or not-for-profit, that a community site could work if advertised, well monitored, updated regularly, and information posted that was relevant to the community. You might even find people logging into the site that normally don't spend any/much time on the Internet.

With that said, I am still looking for help myself. You can be sure I will be reading through every post on this subject over the next couple of days. If anyone knows of sucessful sites or websites that offer points to consider, I would appreciate the info...either in reply on /. or via email (fivepanATyahooDOTcom -- you know how it is).

Re:Perfect Timing (1)

Yambert (88999) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468274)

You might want to check out craigslist.org [craigslist.org] , in my opinion it's one of the better community sites. A lot of people in the bay area, california who doen't even own a computer themselves use craigslist.

Community technology center web sites/locations (2, Informative)

sbrsb (233569) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467945)

Here are assorted Web sites [ctcnet.org] of members of the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet) [ctcnet.org] . And there's a complete directory of the Network's 650+ member organizations at a href=http://www2.ctcnet.org/ctc.asp">http://www 2.ctcnet.org/ctc.asp Most of those centers would love to get more volunteers with good tech skills since their budgets are usually pretty tight. Some are full-fledged community networks, others mainly provide skills-building opportunities for people in the neighborhood. -S.

design factors (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467948)

Most of the angles seem to be based on what will appeal to your clients. This requires some sort of market research

Not all things are intuitive. For example, NeighborSpace.org, cited above as a ghostown, is a pretty site, but Seattle Community Network, a successful one, is fairly simple and plain.

The approaches are quite different, but SCN seems to be providing a resource that is useful, while NeighborSpace seems to be more focused in getting me to contribute something first. If I lived in Seatlle, I would probably use the SCN local directories, at least for a while. Just looking at it, it is useful to me, streamlined, right to the point.

Oaxaca.com (1)

jaruz (577963) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467958)

A few years ago I started the "Oaxaca Web Community", to help people from Oaxaca stay in touch with each other. Oaxaca is a Southern state of Mexico from which millions of people have had to emigrate in order to find a living. Most live now in the USA, and through this site I tried to give them a place where they can stay in touch with each other and their origin. It has had quite a following but due to time constrains I have not been able to update it in a while or add new services.

It has about 1659 registered users.

URL: http://oaxaca.com [oaxaca.com]

our own community (0)

gerf (532474) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467959)

just look at university communities. through gaming and other 'real' activities, i've met many people. check out www.ecliptik.com and its forums. this is a widespread phenomenon, really.

liberals are at it again... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467960)

LIBERALS HAVE FINALLY found a people even more worthy of their
admiration than the adulterous French: synagogue-burning, genital-
mutilating, terrorist-cheering Muslims.

Make Comments

View Comments

Printable Article

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Ordinarily, Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's
National Front Party would be the left's ideal
politician. He regularly denounces U.S.
"imperialism." He opposed the Gulf War. He is
supported by communists. He so despises
religion that he happily married a divorcee,
pleased that he would not have to marry her in
a church. He has lots of affairs - the centerpiece of France's superiority to
But liberals don't like Le Pen. They want Muslims to do for Paris what they
did for Kabul, and Le Pen stands in their way.
After years of irrelevant rants against Muslim immigrants, Le Pen's anti-
immigration message has finally hit a nerve with voters. Despite glib,
cheerful assertions that Islam is a religion of "peace," the French have been
repeatedly presented with stark evidence to the contrary. In addition to
their usual prodigious criminal behavior, French Muslims are responsible
for a rash of recent synagogue-burnings and anti-Semitic violence. (One of
them even took a field trip to America, hoping to slaughter yet more
infidels on Sept. 11.)
And then, suddenly - shocking liberals everywhere - Le Pen rose like a
phoenix from the ashes, placing second in the presidential election. He even
beat the sitting prime minister.
Liberals are hopping mad about this turn of events. Consequently, they are
accusing their beloved French of "xenophobia." "Odious xenophobia," in the
words of a New York Times editorial. The Times was in such blind rage that
it simultaneously denounced Le Pen for capitalizing on opposition to
immigrants, "mostly Arab," and for speaking in "anti-Semitic overtones."
How, precisely, opposition to anti-Semitic violence committed by Arabs
reflects anti-Semitism remains murky.
Whenever liberals are frustrated, they accuse their opponents of
"xenophobia" - which is, admittedly, a step up from Muslims who express
frustration by strapping dynamite to children. In the Times' classic argument
-by-epithet style, an op-ed referred to the surge of European opposition to
Muslim immigration as: "hypernationalist," "anti-foreigner," "anti-immigrant"
and "ultranationalist."
I don't know. Maybe they just don't like female genital mutilation. (On
account of the rich culture brought to France by Muslim immigrants,
France actually had to pass a law specifically forbidding this charming
When President Bush cut funding to the U.N. population fund - which
evidently issues periodic and utterly impotent condemnations of
clitorectomies - liberals accused him of "stand[ing] for" female genital
mutilation (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, April 26, 2002). But
when French voters oppose a massive influx of immigrants whose cultural
customs include female genital mutilation, the Times calls them xenophobes.
I propose a new term for people opposed to Third World immigrants
coming to their countries: "Westerners Against Genital Mutilation." Other
apt labels include: "Westerners Against Arranged Marriages for 12-Year-
Old Girls," "Westerners Against Beating Women Whose Shoes Make
Noise," and "Westerners Against Barbarians Committing Acts of Savage
Violence and Then Explaining They Felt 'Humiliated.'"
In addition to mutilating girls and burning synagogues, another popular
Muslim pastime in France is to steal cars, set them on fire and push them
off cliffs. Is xenophobia really the only explanation for Le Pen's surprise
Very possibly, what the Times calls "xenophobia" is a logical reaction to a
specific group of immigrants. It has to be said, no politician ever appealed
to voters by railing against Belgian immigrants. If an abstract fear of
foreigners were the issue, France would not have already admitted so
many Arabs that Islam is now the second-largest religion in France.
But in the careful analysis of the Times, the various permutations of
"Westerners Against Genital Mutilation" (my label) have three "interlocking
obsessions": "crime, immigration and the loss of national 'identity.'"
Arguably, foreigners who move to another country and refuse to abandon
genital mutilation, polygamy and violent attacks on Jews are more
preoccupied with maintaining their national "identity" than the Frenchman
who never left home but suddenly finds polygamists slaughtering goats in
the back yard.
Last year, when British Home Secretary David Blunkett said immigrants
would have to adopt "British norms" by dropping such quaint cultural
traditions as forced marriages and genital mutilation, a female writer by
the name of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown condemned him, sneering that "British
norms" consisted of "drink[ing] themselves to death in a pub." (One British
norm Ms. Alibhai-Brown embraced with little difficulty was the one about
women talking.)
When the French outlawed polygamy in 1993, Muslim immigrants
perceived discrimination. One polygamist announced his refusal to
relinquish his supernumerary wives, saying, "I will never divorce, even if
they had a knife and cut off my head." Of course, the risk of a beheading is
rather remote, inasmuch as Frenchmen, not Muslims, will be enforcing the
Another Immigrant for Polygamy said: "We accept the French for how
they are, and I would like them to accept the way we live." Just like in the
old country - where they warmly embrace other cultures by blowing up
ancient Buddhist statues. Give them another few years, and they'll dynamite
Notre Dame

Real Online Communities (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467965)

There used to be a board called The Dwelling Place in my hometown. Every now and then, the sysop invited all the callers for a potluck dinner at his house. It always felt like Thanksgiving with the family, even though some of us had just got done flaming each other in the Politics & Religion forum. So yeah, it's possible. I can see it happening today if there were bulletin boards and suchlike on the community freenets, accessible only to members of the local community.

heh (2)

AnimeFreak (223792) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467969)

http://bogr46qdy22tc.bc.hsia.telus.net:9000/networ kp/

I just finished this project a few weeks ago for my Information Technology 12 class. It was a half-ass job, but I got a really good mark for it seeing that others didn't go as far as I did.

I am QUITE aware of the holes in my project.

Re:heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3467978)

FYI, this was converted from a Word 7.0 document to HTML. So forgive me on the formatting.

Rural Portals (1)

von Konrad (181540) | more than 12 years ago | (#3467972)

I'm a contractor working on a rural area community site. After going through various phases before I joined the project we are now partially under a state grant and trying to go for-profit. We've been relativly successful considering that we are located in northern california. Access to the area is limited by a few hundred miles of highway in any direction and a small airport. With the lumber and fishing industries going down hill we are struggling to get other indutries into the area, including IT. This community site is part of the effort to get local residents more involved with IT.

The 'portal' in question is HumGuide (http://www.humguide.com/).

Re:Rural Portals (1)

frankmu (68782) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468068)

how to provide people in the community with access to the internet, when there is chronic unemployment. Not all of us have dsl available, and even if they did, couldn't afford it. i do understand your position, since i live just north of you on the southern oregon coast. unfortunately, oregon is not flush with cash like california is, so getting a community up and running can be more challenging. i hope you guys succeed... and we can learn a thing or two from you.
on another note, if you put a ".com" after our city name, you get links to porn sites. i wonder why someone bothered to buy the name of our town... there's no money here to buy it back from them.

damn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468053)

jeff kim turn off your fucking aim sounds and stop fucking chatting. you dont do shit on your computer and you're a fucking loser.

naykid furor's homepage(s) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468058)

don't forget to visit this NYT Forum [nytimes.com] where billy's paid2post ?pr? ?community? ?members? prattle on 24/7/365 about the advantages of PayPer LieSense FUDgePacking, over anything else that moves IT.

NWTekno.org (1)

endquotedotcom (557632) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468063)

I run a community site at NWTekno.org [nwtekno.org] (basically ravers in the northwest), which is kind of interesting because many of the people on it know each other in person, and for lots of them, their whole social life revolves around the web site. Kind of weird. We've made very little money (kids don't have credit cards, can't sell ads without losing indie cred, etc etc) and survive only because our hosting is donated, and I of course pimp them out [dreamhost.com] every change I get in return. Just thought I'd add that, in case it's of any value to your research.

Matching the site to the community (5, Interesting)

GNUCyberKat (62503) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468081)

Having read all the (on topic) posts on this topic I find myself wanting to describe the website I am building for my community. I live in a co-operative housing community of approximately 180 residences in the middle of a large city. Currently there is no online presence for the community other than a single page advertising its existence on its parent associations website.

The people who live in the community come from all walks of life and embrace most age groups, religious backgrounds, levels of financial stability, etc. However, having talked to a large number of them, I have come to an understanding of some of the general functions and premises that would build a great community website.

First is universal access. A website doesn't do a community any good if there are some who cannot (not to read will not) gain access to it. Currently there is a single computer and dial up internet connection at the main office available for public use. After talking with the board of directors for the co-operative, they have agreed that if I could get enough interest and show sufficient progress and early participation from community members that they would be willing to purchase three additional computers and install high speed internet...its a start. (Note: about 78% of the residences in my community have Internet connected computers).

Of the things that I have discovered that are most desired are:

1. A community schedule of events
2. An online copy of the co-operatives manuals
3. A set of community chat boards
4. A news board for non co-operative sponsored happenings
5. An online booking resource for the co-operative's public maintenance and groundscare equipment
6. A community for sale / wanted board
7. A babysitting service listing / opportunities
8. A personalized reminder / scheduling system for those community members who have tasks assigned
9. A place for people to publish their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, comments, etc...(moderated of course)
10. A place where some of the more creative souls in the community could write the occaisonal column or review for their friends to read
11. A listing of all the public facilities with up to date descriptions and comments on availability
12. A birthday / anniversary board
13. A listing of all the businesses in the area such as stores, restaurants, etc. where the members can post reviews, critiques,etc.
14. A member listing
15. A security and advisory alert
16. Links to other pertinent and community-useful sites on the internet.
17. Personal pages for some of the members

There really isn't much else that the community has currently expressed interest in so I won't try to include anything that isn't needed yet. As the title to my comment notes, you have to target the community with the website.

These are just suggestions that have come my way. I plan to implement them in stages as time and resources permit. Currently I have just the basic foundations laid out so this is quite a timely discussion for me.

As for the site, I have a service plan through my service provider that has a static IP and a domain name...I will be offering it to the community as part of my contribution as a member of the co-operative.

I will be making every available attempt to make the site fast, easy to use, and personable for as many people as I can. You cannot usually please everyone, but if I can get most of them then we're laughing. Who knows, if this takes off, I might box it up and offer the basics to other co-operatives to use...anyways, thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

We Have a Very Successful Community Network (3, Informative)

GroundBounce (20126) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468085)

I live in a predominantly rural area, and we have a community network [nccn.net] that does a pretty good job of providing an internet-based tie for the community. The network is run by a non-profit organization and is funded primarily by selling internet access and web hosting to local individuals and businesses.

Among the community services that are funded by this are providing free internet access in libraries, schools and senior centers, which would otherwise not be available in typical rural communities, providing free web space for other local non-profit organizations, providing local real-time election results, refurbishing donated PCs for use by other non-profits, and providing links to local businesses.

Our community network has been very successful. Because of being non-profit, they can offer competitive internet access rates and high quality local service. They have attracted many local users who have migrated over from larger ISPs such as Earthlink as their rates have gone up and their service has gone down. Selling low cost internet access as a non-profit and providing good service seems to be a good way to fund a community network, at least it has worked for us.

I'll use one when.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468095)

They can help me find a girlfriend.

The best I've ever seen. (1)

A. Lynch (17937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468108)

http://www.livejournal.com [livejournal.com]

They focus on building community, rather than specific content goals.

It can be done... (2)

Moonshadow (84117) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468114)

I'm actually working on a business/service that aims to do just this. It's an entertainment guide aimed at teens here in the Phoenix area, but it's also designed to build a community and help foster the community offline as well as online. The point of the site is to help people find things that help them get off their butts and go have fun with other people in their community.

I'd give a URL, but the server's struggling as it is, and a little /.-ing definately won't be good for it's health.

Why not? It's a great use of the web. The trick is certainly getting people using it, but just let people know about it, and if they like it, they'll tell their friends, who will tell their friends, etc. Internet popularity is as much viral as anything - you just have to plant the seed.

Online Communities. (1)

ghastlycult (318450) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468119)

The area in which I live (Cairns, Queensland, Australia) has a rather large community of folks that are online and they all usually congregate on an IRC channel devoted to the Cairns area to chat to each other.

They are mostly teenagers but a few older folks also participate. There are also websites for the channel which say where the parties and events in the area are happening and pictures of those parties.

Its amazing how many people i meet in "real life" that also chat on the channel.
Quite a few slashdot readers are there too :)

The Well (1)

deverox (177930) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468159)

Remember The Well [well.com] from back when the mainstream internet was in its infancy. They are still around but they are subscription based. Also this seems like old BBS' used to be before the internet was common.

My Small Community Server (1)

peatbakke (52079) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468181)

I'm currently running a server for my friends and relatives. We were a pretty tight knit group in high school, but now we're scattered all over the United States and New Zealand, going to school, traveling, working, etc. It's not a big group, only 25 or so people, but it works.

It's great -- we have forums, a web based instant messaging system, web mail, file archives, and a handful of domains for people's personal sites. It's really helped us stay in touch.

As far as funding goes, everyone chips in. The server is hosted at Rackspace, and between all the people involved it costs about $6 per month each, which is really affordable, even for us student types.

It's a very successful system, in my opinion. If anyone's curious about my experiences setting it up, or has any questions, send me an e-mail.

I work on one for Aggies, very ghost-townish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468190)

MaroonTown [maroontown.com] is a place our little start up got hired to fix up. We did a good job, making it about 10 times more useful than it was (check out the menus). The marketing company we partnered with hasn't been promoting it much though, so it just kinda sits there. Couldn't be more free. Not even any banner ads (can't sell 'em when there's no traffic).

Any specific opinions would be helpful.

community networking, over time (1)

ckolar (43016) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468193)

One of the difficulties with getting a successful community network off the ground is the amount of buy-in that you could get from the general population. Many projects were started by early technology adopters who "knew" that widespread capacity and the early development of resouces would benefit the community, but if a broad base of support did not come together then it would be difficult for those individuals to sustain. I co-authored an early study [uiuc.edu] of the expression of community networks through the web and directed a community-funded project as well, Aurora Online [aurora.il.us] .

While we had buy-in from community leaders and early adopters, the rate of technology adoption by "real people" was always too slow to help us build critical mass outside of certain key segments (education, government, but not business in this manufacturing town). Involvement at the state level [icnweb.org] pretty much mirrored this: the community network initiatives that did well did so in communities with either a rapid rate of adoption (pure numbers) or a broad adoption pattern (depth).

As the term "community" has come to have a broader application I think that the same observations apply. Fan sites, communities of interest, &c. generally do not do well if they are imposed top-down by a few individuals, but can thrive if they allow the broader base of potential participants to express themselves through the medium, while also feeling that they are served/informed or that they otherwise learn of grow via participation and contribution. Anyway, if you want to follow up with Seattle and all of the things that they did right then take a look at Douglas Schuler [scn.org] , particularly his book on community networking. There is a lot of good history out there, starting with the FreeNet movement and NPTN, and you can get a good idea of how technology has changed over the years as CN issues have moved from access to hardware, to access to bandwidth and email (I am retiring the free email accounts on AOCN this summer, it was a big deal to offer them in the pre-hotmail days), to community technology centers and job training. Glad to see this get a thread.

Square Bob Sponge Pants (2)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468213)

One group of people you might want to talk to about funding/providing content for would be your local newspaper if you have one. A community website shares many of the same functions as a daily local paper. Community features such as bulletin boards and chat servers could be provided either with a paper subscription or by a small monthly (or yearly) access fee. It might be a local community blog. News articles could be discussed on the forums or in the chat rooms. It might even be pretty useful to have some method of talking to your neighbors about some local bit of news. An article complaining about potholes in the road could spark enough discussions and whatnot that could lead to someone actually fixing the holes in the road.

Re:Square Bob Sponge Pants (1)

brendano (457446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468279)

Many of these sites actually have started with a newspaper site, or later get taken up by a newspaper for funding reasons. It's definitely a good idea, except that sometimes they could need to do things beyond the scope of a newspaper -- like host websites for community groups, provide a forum to criticize media coverage of a particular event, etc.

BEV (1)

dabudah (577924) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468228)

I was a little surprised to see Blacksburg Electronic Village as one of the examples, because compared to Seattle we are a very small town. On the other hand, we do have a very successful electronic community here, and I think the are two main reasons for this:

The first reason is that Blacksburg as a whole supports this online community. The whole town is devoted to improving local connections and online information.
The second reason is the support received from Virginia Tech. We have several research oppurtunities related to BEV, and have played a large roll in deveoping and improving this community continuously.

From this it seems large-scale community involvement and university support help promote a healthy electronic community.

Re:BEV (1)

brendano (457446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468294)

Well, the success of an online community is more important than its size. The fact that it can work in either a small place like Blacksburg or a big one like Seattle says something about the entire idea. I'm wondering what elements are common to these different examples. Thanks for the comments.

Would I do it again? (2)

ttyp0 (33384) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468280)

I started an online community for Purdue University students [purdueonline.com] in late 1997. Going on our fifth year, I'm frequently asked if I would do it all again. I'd like to think not. Using slashcode has certainly allowed me to focus time and money elsewhere. Our target audience is small, operating budget non-existent with page views in the 300 thousands per month. When the board of trustees [slashdot.org] wants your domain, it's tempting to just give up at times. The $5 in advertising revenue certainly doesn't make up for the bandwidth. So, would I do it again? I'm a geek, enough said.

City Stories (2)

lactose99 (71132) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468316)

Check out the City Stories [citystories.com] website-- a weblogging community of local events and culture.

Ghost town-like failures (2)

guttentag (313541) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468328)

... gost town-like failures [neighborspace.org] ...
At a glance, I see several rather frightening spooks scaring most users away from Neighborspace:
  1. Name. The name "Neighborspace" has no specific connection to Menlo Park, Palo Alto, etc. If I'm looking for an online community, something called "Neighborspace" sounds like the ambiguous name of a failed dot com (and these days Silicon Valley residents have an internal BS filter that causes them to ignore anything that sounds like a dot com). Here's a novel idea: call it something painfully obvious, like "Palo Alto - Menlo Park Neighborhood Association." That's right, you don't have to add "Online" or "Interactive" to legitimize your site.

  2. Navigation. Dig into the site a bit by clicking on a link, and you'll find that you have a cryptic pictogram navigation on the left hand side. No one likes guessing what the pictures mean, and it shouldn't be some big insider secret. You can't even determine where the links go because they lead to cryptic URLs that end in a string of numbers. Then again, maybe I'm the only one who couldn't figure out that the Superman icon stands for the "Religion" section.

  3. Static Home Page. The home page should showcase the vibrance of the site to get people hooked immediately. Instead, Neighborspace makes you dig to find out that nothing's going on. After one or two sessions spent digging to discover that no one is using the site, people leave and don't come back.

  4. You can tell the site was designed by a Sysop. At the bottom of the pages you'll find the friendly, "Email the Sysop!" link. Most people don't know what a Sysop is, but it probably sounds like some demonic cyborg. You may as well say, "Problems using our site? Direct complaints to the hooded executioner!" What's an "NS Keyword?" How is that different from a normal keyword one might use on another site? And why can't people just type their keywords into the "Full Search" box below the "NS Keyword" box? It's a classic case of "this is what works for me and everyone else will just have to learn how to use it" that doesn't work very well on the Web. On the Web, when a site asks a user to invest time and learn an interface, users go elsewhere.

All you need... (1)

destiney (149922) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468329)

...is a copy of phpRated [phprated.com] .

Palo Alto Freenet (1)

pixphys (165846) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468341)

Palo Alto Freenet [pafree.net] is a project I started a few months ago. It has been fantastic. We are networking and meeting our neighbors at the same time.

palo alto, ca

Foo - Slash software sucks! (2)

dhogaza (64507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468351)

While I don't know if such efforts are successful or not, the OpenACS project I lead is directly oriented to this space (and other common-interest communities).

I'd say that thus far such communities most naturally grow around subjects of global interest (such as photo.net [photo.net] ), which spawned the codebase that grew to be OpenACS.

But I wouldn't give up on communities of more narrow interest. After all, in wetware space frequently membership to meetings is depressingly low. Yet ... much can be done by dedication, knowlege, and persistence.

Re:Foo - Slash software sucks! (1)

brendano (457446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468416)

What websites currently use OpenACS? I couldn't find a list on openacs.org.

wow, very interesting (1)

XO (250276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468421)

I find it very interesting that slashdot is running an article on this very topic. I, personally, have been working on some PHP based on-line community type software. Sort of mixing some of the BBS stuff from days of old, with new technology, as well.

MAGE [kicks-ass.net]

I'd definitely be interested in hearing what types of features and functions people who are interested in doing this type of thing would find useful.

Though my site has no specific Geographic limitations, the vast majority of it's users are from Michigan and Louisiana. I find it really quite difficult to get most 'net users into message boards, and such.. but perhaps I just don't have the right layout/format.

I'm open to all ideas, and I'd love to contribute work to a project, if there's anyone out there that's thinking of doing something like this.

Redbricks online community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468478)

http://www.redbricks.org.uk/ [redbricks.org.uk]

Let the community evolve its online resources (2)

namespan (225296) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468519)

Everybody thinks they know what their community wants/needs. Sometimes they're right. Sometimes they're not.

That's why the model of an individual creating a geographic community's website doesn't work so well. Instead what you need is a place on line where individual community members can create their own resources. They get involvement at a level they're interested in, you get volunteer labor and a diversity of ideas that couldn't exist otherwise.

tablelandsonline.net.au (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468551)

This top community website cost $1,000,000
of tax payers money in Oz.

Derek Powazek wrote the book (2)

KFury (19522) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468618)

Derek Powazek, creator of Fray [fray.com] , Kvetch [kvetch.com] , and others, wrote an excellent book on the subject: Design for Community [designforcommunity.com] .

I highly recommend it. It goes to the broad level of creating relevant communities, how to make sure they're useful, and also discusses the nuts and bolts of registrations and logins. It even has the pragmatism to devote a chapter on how to close communities down when they no longer serve a needed function, without leaving people in the lurch.

This really is a great book.

The BBC - A Sense of Place (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468657)

The BBC is trying this idea out in the UK with three new websites:

They're set up to have articles on various aspects of local life... to allow people to create pages about whatever they want... and with forums for discussion on each page. However, there don't seem to be too many people there yet!

I guess it's mostly a case of good publicity and luck...

Current community network research (1)

bovril (260284) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468671)

I was wondering if members of the Slashdot community know of more examples of community networks...

Telstra Research Labs did a little bit of an information session/recruitment drive at my university a few weeks ago. One of the things they said they were working on was a community network in Launceston [telstra.com.au] . Sounds like the kind of thing you're talking about. There's a link to the community's page [elaunceston.com] but nothing about the results of the research as yet. Not that I could see anyway.

An Atlantic Canada Community Net (1)

InternalWave (546747) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468710)

I volunteer as an online help guy for our local community net, Chebucto Community Net [chebucto.ns.ca] , which is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. As you can see from the About Us [chebucto.ns.ca] link the community net here has been around since 1993; that page is also a reasonable summary of what the operation is all about.

I have participated in some policy workshops, and although I am by no means a primary volunteer (too much other stuff to do) I can certainly assert that community nets like this are the only source of connectivity for low-income folks, are one of the few affordable sources of connectivity for many other community organizations, and are also frequently the only ISPs that seem to give a damn about accessibility.

Although I use cable myself (now) I still maintain a dialup account through CCN. It is interesting to note that they provide a full-featured PPP experience at a theoretical 56K for only CAN $100 per year. Contrast that to any other ISP locally, where your annual costs will be at least quadruple that.

They offer a reliable connection and the responsivity to help requests is good. What more can you ask for?

ISU Community Network (1)

Troublemakr (567357) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468720)

I am a student at ISU (Iowa State University). Here we have a thriving community network (even though it partially revolves around *ahem*trading files*ahem*). It all started about 4 years ago with the creation of a ISU network search engine, StrangeSearch.http://strangesearch.net/ by one Dan Dunham.

here's one example of what you're looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3468759)

take a look at VillageSoup.com [villagesoup.com] . IT's an online community 'station' that provides news, real estate listings, local gossip, community boards, jobs, for sale ads etc.. a great resource, but one that is still searching for how to become a successful for-profit business. I suspect that the web-surfing community here is just not quite large enough to tip the scales to full profitability - but the company has been going for several years now, and they are working hard to survive.

Anyway, take a look...

What about Wikis? :-) (sites one can participe) (2, Informative)

xof (518138) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468771)

I did not read all the comments yet, but I did not found the word wiki in them... This is a powerful technology for building something together. It is sometimes difficult to keep the structure sound but some are used with success in wireless community networks seattlewireless [seattlewireless.net] is one, wireless-fr [wireless-fr.org] is another one (in french). General info about wikis can be found on Google directory/Wiki [google.com] A lot of implementations now exist (I prefer phpwiki), the original one is on c2.com [c2.com] Some of them, like TuxScreen [slashdot.org] allow you to protect modifs with a login.

The only ones I know of (1)

willpost (449227) | more than 12 years ago | (#3468779)

I've only seen two kinds of communities that still exist in the traditional sense.

Traditional meaning the users are online together for a period of time, not just posting messages or web pages in a collective area.

The first one would be online action fps shooters like Quake Arena, Unreal, etc. These are where players want to compete for a few rounds and focus on a task.

The second one would be online role playing games like Everquest, AO, DaoC, etc. Here players are visiting the dungeons with the good experience or loot in their quest to get maximum levels and loot (could take thousands of hours). Ultima Online could be in this category but the game had a mass exodus. It's too easy to get the maximum attainable skills (a month or less) and instant teleporting to anywhere. Kind of like winning a Warcraft level.. nothing to do afterwards.

Online communities only seem to work when the people have a common task. Otherwise it becomes a chat room.. which some enjoy but i'm an action person.
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