The question has been posed, what is a online community? At first reflection I wondered whether I was thinking deep enough on the issue. Was the concept of "online" and "community" as simple as they were obvious?
I am a member of twitter, delicious, facebook and diigo. Each of these services allows me to put something on display for others to see. I can achieve the same process in other ways. I could send SMS or email messages containing the exact same content and push them out to everyone in my contact list. I could spend the time to call people on the phone and advise them what I was thinking or doing. However this requires me to seek the connections and push the information.
To me, the key characteristic of an online community is we seek the connections and information we desire, it is not pushed to us. Any updates I receive through the services I use has required me to "buy in" and agree to updates. I have sought the information that others have posted in the space. If I find a particular person's updates irrelevant I can ignore them or even request no further updates from them. Each individual builds their own online community depending on the tools they use and the people they follow.
This then sparks the thought of tools as enablers for the community. As my repertoire of tools has expanded, my community has expanded. However with that I feel I have also lost regular contact with some people. There are then tools we can use to gather, sort and present the information from the services we subscribe to. I can use Twhirl to view and manage twitter posts. I can establish personal portals (eg. netvibes) and install a facebook widget. The possibilities are never ending.
So what is an online community. At its core it is a personal community constructed by the individual. It is often thought online communities cross boundaries, however boundaries as constructed by the individual still exist. The potential for them to grow beyond control is immense, therefore the ability to facilitate an online community and the skills I learn in this course will enable my personal community as well as any learning communities I endeavour to manage.