Really Good Books

Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities. Amy Jo Kim, 1999.

Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Etienne Wenger, 1999.

Communities in Cyberspace. Marc A. Smith, 1998.

The Community of the Future. The Drucker Foundation, 1998.
Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities John Hagel, Arthur Armstrong, 1997.

Hosting Web Communities Cliff Figallo, 1998. Visit this book’s online site. View review.

Facilitating Community Change. Darvin Ayre, Gruffie Clough, Tyler Norris. Grove, 2000.

Smart Business: How Knowledge Communities Can Revolutionize Your Company. Jim Botkin, 1999.

Designing Online Communities: Supporting Usablity and Supporting Sociability. Jenny Priest. 2000.

Interface Culture: How New Technologies Transform the Way We Create and Communicate. Steven Johnson, 1999.

Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier Howard Rheingold. Updated 2000. Also see the first addition online! Also see the wonderful newly re-released Tools for Thought Howard Rheingold, 2000.

New Renaissance: Computers and the Next Level of Civilization. Douglas Robertson, 1998

Different Drummer: Community-making and Peace. M. Scott Peck, MD. 2nd Ed. 1998.

Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. Rena M. Palloff, Keith Pratt. Paperback, 1999. While this is a fine book, if you are interested in creating an online learning community I strongly encourage you to learn about community building and online communities before reading one of the books just on learning communities. The topic is far broader and richer than any of the learning communities books I’ve seen. The first few books in this list are the best in helping address the overall topic.

Creating Learning Communities: A Practical Guide to Winning Support, Organizing for Change, and Implementing Programs. Jodi Levine & Nancy Larson Shapiro, 1999. See Note with Building Learning Communities.

In the Community of Others: Making Community in the modern world. Claude Whitmyer (ed.) 1993.

Joy of Conversation: The Complete Guide to Salons Jaida n’ha Sandra, 1997.

Call to Connection: Bringing sacred tribal values into modern life. Carole Kammen & Jodi Gold, 1998.

Blueprint to a Digital Economy Don Tapscott, et al. You can also read chapter 1 online “Joined at Bit: The Emergence of Ebusiness Community” (Acrobat .pdf file)

Release 2.1: A Design for Living in the Digital Age. Ester Dyson. Paperback, 1998. (Hardcover 1997. Release 2.0)

Bowling Alone. Robert D. Putnam, 2000.

Community Building: What Makes It Work. Paul Mattessich, Barbara Monsey, 1997.

Great Good Place. Ray Oldenburg

Good Articles

Communities of practice at the core Maish Nichani. elearningpost. 4-Oct-2001

Working in Online Community: An interview with Amy Jo Kim Beth Garlington Scofield. LiNE Zine, Spring 2001.

Are You on Craig’s List? Katharine Mieszkowski. Fast Company, December 2000.

Community Standards, Katharine Mieszkowski. Fast Company, Sept 2000.

Learning in Communities. Etienne Wenger & Bill Snyder. LiNE Zine, Summer 2000.

Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier. Etienne Wenger & Bill Snyder. Harvard Business Review Jan-Feb 2000.

Knowledge Diffusion through Strategic Communities. John Storch & Patricia Hill. Sloan Mgmt Review Winter 2000.

Alliance for Converging Technologies’ Case Studies on eBusiness Communities from 1997 research.

Business Communities: Communication, Collaboration, and Commerce in the New Economy. A Whitepaper from December 20, 1999.

Pack em with good chat. Cliff Figallo in Internet World November 15, 1999.

Amateurs Lead Web Community Building CMP TechWeb, May 13, 1999

There Goes the Neighborhood Salon Magazine, January 19, 1999

Road to Webville Yahoo! Internet Life, January 1999

Here’s Where to Go When You Want to Feel Right at Home Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1999 Subscription Required

How To Build An Online Community [email protected] Reseller, December 21, 1998

Tools for Teamwork CIO WebBusiness, November 1, 1998

Hosting Web Communities Cliff Figallo’s book, excerpts and related info online, October 1998

VerticalNet Broadens Niche Appeal [email protected] Week, September 14, 1998

On-Line Communities: Towers of Babble or Rivers of Gold? PC Magazine, September 3, 1998

Portals Are Getting Into The Community Spirit [email protected] Week, August 17, 1998

Echoids: The Creator of an On-Line Community Explains What it Means to Those who Populate its innards New York Times, February 15, 1998 Note: This link requires you signup for a free New York Times account.

Building a Virtual Community Big Bang Workshops, January 14, 1998

Vendors Sell Community to Business [email protected] Week, January 12, 1998

Community Theater CIO WebBusiness, December 1, 1997

Surfing Is Passe; Join an Internet Community Business Week, May 5, 1997

Community: It Takes an Electronic Village New York Times, May 2, 1997. Requires Free NYT Account.

The Epic Saga of the Well update 4/98 Wired, Issue 5.05, May 1997

Can Virtual Wilburs and Orvilles Get Online Communities to Fly? New York Times, April 11, 1997

Extranets and Intergroupware: A Convergence for the Next Generation in Electronic Media-Based Activity Working Paper, Telshuttle, Inc., March 21, 1997

Real Value of On-Line Communities Harvard Business Review, May 1, 1996

Interview with Howard Rheingold The Well, October 1995

Public Life in Electropolis: Feed’s Dialog on Virtual Communities Feed Magazine, August 1995

Plato: The Emergence of an On-Line Community Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, July 7, 1994

Towards Understanding Community
In the past few years you may have heard the term Community used in conversations you never expected to hear it. Community has probably popped up in talks about learning, knowledge management, the web, and content delivery. Community?

Many of these conversations have probably focused on what people want online communities to offer and may not meet your preexisting understanding of the term itself.

As a result, I’d like to introduce (or reintroduce) you to the term Community and address the critical elements that will make online communities successful in the context of what community really means. Here is background information and some interesting resources to learn more about physical communities and those you may find or want to build online.

What’s a community?
How the web help extend Community?
What do we know about Community by the time we reach the world of work?
Why do people seek communities and what must they offer to succeed?
Who’s doing a good job today?
What are the qualities of a good online community?
Are there email groups on Community?
Any good books on Community?
Any good articles about Community?
What tools help facilitate online community?
Where can we learn more about online community?
So what’s a community?
In the physical world, communities are typically groups of people (a town, for instance) held together by some common identity or interest. The same holds true for virtual or online communities in that they, too, are comprised of people with shared identity or interests coming together for a shared purpose.

This shared interest or intent offers a strong forum for members of the community to build relationships and affiliations out of which they can learn from one another and make an impact on the society or culture around them.

Coming from two Latin words meaning “with gifts,” the term community suggests a general sense of altruism, reciprocity, and beneficence that comes from working together. Communities help generate a shared language, rituals and customers, and collective memory of those that join the group.

For me, Communities are about Camaraderie, Content, and Context.

Want More Definition?
The 1998 Encyclopedia Americana (Int’l Edition) defines a community as, “A relatively small, isolated center with a stable population, in which all economic and social services necessary to life can be maintained. The community is on the of the oldest forms on human social organizations… The ideal type of community emerges as an intellectual concept when social change threatens to destroy a locality’s isolation, traditionalism, and solidarity…. [This] leads to a newer form — including occupational and professional groups, neighborhood groups, and ethnic and political groups — becomes the functional equivalents of the older, ecological, isolated community, and they make it possible for their members to avoid the problems of a multidimensional mass society. Their members can find a focus for their social relations, loyalties, and interests.”

M. Scott Peck, MD in The Different Drummer: Community-making and Peace says, “Community is something more than the sum of the parts, its individual members. What is this ‘something more?’ Even to begin to answer that, we enter a realm that is not so much abstract as almost mystical…. The analogy of a gem comes to mind. The seeds of community reside in humanity — a social species — just as a gem originally resides in the earth. But it is not yet a gem, only a potential one…. Geologists refer to a gem in the rough simply as a stone. A group becomes a community in somewhat the same way that a stone becomes a gem — through a process of cutting and polishing. Once cut and polished, it is something beautiful. But to describe its beauty, the best we can do is to describe its facets. Community, like a gem, is multifaceted, each facet a mere aspect of a whole that defies description.”

Sociologist, Victor Azarya, of Hebrew University says, “a preliminary confusion arises between a community as a type of collectively or social unit, and community as a type of social relationship or sentiment…. Community, in the sense of type of collectivity, usually refers to (1) a group sharing a defined physical space or geographical area such as neighborhood, city, village or hamlet; (2) a group sharing common traits, a sense of belonging and/or maintaining social ties and interactions which shape it into a distinctive social entity, such as an ethnic, religious, academic or professional community.”

Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science said in The Community of the Future, “Human communities are no different from the rest of life. We form our communities from these same two needs — the need for self-determination and the need for one another. But in modern society, we have difficulty embracing the inherent paradox of these needs. We reach to satisfy one at the expense of the other…. As we create communities from the cohering center of shared significance, from a mutual belief in why we belong together, we will discover what is already visible everywhere around us in living systems. People’s great creativity and diversity, our desire for contribution and relationships, blossom when the heart of our community is clear and beckoning, and when we refrain from cluttering our paths with proscriptions and demands. The future of community is best taught to us by life.”

“Who cares,” you say, “I have software to build?” OR “These are all well and good but we’ve got money to make?” Organizations can do both by extending communities.

How we can help to extend Community?
Communities in society have always been supported by whatever tools are available to their members at the time. Before writing, communities were very small because the enabling communication vehicle was the member’s voice. They had to be able to share their issues and concerns, triumphs and stories in person because that’s all they had.

Once writing was developed monks and scholars continued to meet in person, but were able to extend their communities by writing down their stories and sharing them with people beyond the sound of their voices. Socrates supposedly said that writing would lead to the end of civilization because people didn’t have to be amongst one another any more. With Gutenberg’s printing press, more people were able to contribute to the community and share their messages. Paul Revere’s postal service became another tool, extending some communities wider… and then there was the telephone, the car, the airplane, and the Internet.

None of these tools has replaced the community. They have simply extended its reach, it’s depth, and it’s potential impact.

What do we know about Community by the time we reach the world of work?
Most of learned about community in stages.

age 2-5 Fisher-price, Dr. Seuss, Sesame Street, Mr. Patches, Romper Room, Mr. Rogers introduce us to the neighborhood.

6-8 School introduces us to a class with a leader. We interact with other class/communities & community services (lunch, jungle-gyms

9-12 Brownies and cub-scouts, camp cabins and sports teams introduce us to communities of interest.

13-18 Clubs and hormones also introduce us to communities of interest but usually the interest is of a more-social(?) nature.

19-22 College is the first ecosystem that we are aware we are in because we interact with so many different community services, community leaders, communities of interest and social communities. Most likely there are many different community purposes and each community is employing every tool it available.

22+ At work, many employees only deal with their immediate department community. They are not aware of or encouraged to interact with other departments or form cross-department communities. If they are to find communities of interest, for social support and networking or to learn from community leaders (experts) in their or other fields, they usually seek out these communities on their own time

Why do people seek communities and what must they offer to succeed?
While Howard Rheingold has really only focused on consumer communities in his book The Virtual Community, he could be describing any community when he talks about the “social glue that binds the WELL into something resembling a community” as 1) social network capital, 2) knowledge capital, and 3) communion. Social network capital is knowing there is a network to support you. Knowledge capital is the “on-line brain trust representing a highly varied accumulation of expertise.” Communion is making connections with people you may not have known without the community.

Together, these provide what Marc Smith calls ‘collective goods.’ “Every cooperative group of people exists in the face of a competitive world because that group of people recognizes there is something valuable that they can gain only by banding together. Looking for a group’s collective goods is a way of looking for the elements that bind isolated individuals into a community.” In that respect, the collective good makes the community compelling.

John Hagel and Arthur G. Armstrong, authors of Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities, say “Virtual communities are groups of people who share common interests and needs who come together on-line. Most are drawn by the opportunity to share a sense of community with like-minded strangers-regardless of where they live. But virtual communities are more than just a social phenomena: what starts off being a group drawn together by common interests ends up being a group with a critical mass of purchasing power-based in part on the fact that in communities, members can exchange information with each other on such things as a product’s price and quality.” We’ll be providing that merchant piece from the onset, but to create something more than a storefront, we need to support the word-of-mouth suggestions communities offer.

“…just because you have a large audience doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a community. Netscape, for instance, is one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet, because many people automatically go to Netscape’s home page when they start their Netscape browser. But there is no community [because there is no connection].” Penelope Patsuris and Adam L. Penenberg. “Eyeballing community” Forbes. February 6, 1998.

The Motley Fools’ mission is to “Educate, amuse, and enrich the individual investor. Get folks to work together in a community and friendship to take control of their finances.”

“There’s more to the Internet than connectedness, and e-mail, groupware and e-commerce. The Internet is a destination. And the content in these destinations is evolving to the point where people can interact, allowing workspaces to replace workplaces. It’s not the content or the technology that counts; it’s the ‘high touch’ over the ‘high tech'”. Leon Navikas, Al Rogers, and Michael Turzanski’s talk “Exploding Networks” at the 1998 Camden Conference.

“A business ecosystem is an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals –the organism of the business world. This economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders. Over time, they co-evolved their capabilities and roles, and tend to align themselves with the directions set by one or more central companies. Those companies holding leadership roles may change over time, but the function of ecosystem leaders is valued by the community because it enables members to move toward shared visions to align their investments, and to find mutually supportive roles.” – James F. Moore, The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the age of business ecosystems. Paperback, 1997.

What are the key qualities of a good on-line community?
I define the key qualities as:

Strong connection between participants
Critical mass of content from community members
Integrated rich content and transactions
Choices between competing merchants alongside unbiased consumer testimonials
A sense of fun and discovery
Learn more about Community
Members of the CCL-LLC discussion list, from Japan to Moscow, have written a book on line, “Creating Learning Communities.” You can see it at If you’re interested in learning more about this list, take a look at the discussion list page. There is also a companion list focuses on refining and expanding the concepts and philosophies within the book “Creating Learning Communities.” Subscription information for that list, is also available on the discussion list page.

Tools to help facilitate online community.
Here is a small sampling of tools that can help you develop an online community. offers a community tool that helps develop high-trust business partnerships among individuals and organizations. (Having participated in many online communities, I’ve been very impressed with this tool. Very impressed.)

Mongoose RealCommunities has built scalable, standardized, configurable, and integrated community infrastructure software. Their site also has some interesting information.

Communispace enables professional learning communities for collaborative learning and knowledge creating work. (I’ve participated in two of their communities and am excited by the interest they are drawing to this topic. Communities are a fundamental tool for learning.) offers integrated online community management software.

Knowledge Navigators created a personal community tool called This is a great concept and a remarkable tool. can loosely be considered an online community tool. So can Yahoo Groups (formerly eGroups) and ClueIN is a public and private community Web service and email list server.

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