Amy Jo Kim, one of the gurus of creating and managing large-scale communities on the Net, now says that these forums, chats rooms and email groups are 'old-skool.'
Blogging about emergent purpose, she writes: 'Online communities are old-skool. The heat these days is around social networks, buddy lists &blogs -- all bottom-up social tools that place the individual at the center, and grow outward from there. This is a very different design model than message boards, chat rooms and virtual worlds, which are virtual places where where like-minded people congregate.'
Amy Jo is author of Community Building on the Web, and was a very convincing and accessible proponent of her nine basic principles when in London a couple of years ago talking to community-manager members of the Emint network. Her principles relate to purpose, places, profiles, roles, leadership, etiquette, events, rituals and sub-groups. They make a lot of sense to me, mirroring off-line approaches to engagement and facilitation.
These principles are still relevant for community building, says Amy Jo, but we need to move from place-centric to people-centric models. Phew. That chimes with personal network models I've been picking up from my friend Dave Greenop.
What's changed is the way that network services are deployed, says Amy Jo. 'What I see all around me now are networked social tools that have 'emergent purpose' - mobile phones and other personal devices.
'So what is a Net community circa 2004? A set of overlapping links in a social network? A group of cross-linked blog owners and readers? People who participated in the Dean campaign? Kids who meetup in a club using their cellphones to coordinate? Lightweight content-building tools like blogs and social networks are enabling social groupings that are fluid and dynamic, and Net-connected cellphones enable 'just-in-time' socializing.'
Very much the issues that Lee Bryant and others at Headshift are exploring - and implementing. The latest from Lee reflects on the practicalities of informal knowledge-sharing among health professional, with a good round-up of links on blogs and wikis, virtual conferencing and other tools.
The problem once you get away from the various experts exchanging ideas, and those running blogs and wikis, is that most people are only just catching up with online communities. At least those are fairly easy to demonstrate and join ... and for people to evaluate as useful or not. Still, early days.