Chickens and eggs, also irrelevant

Online communities, much like the people within them, come in many shapes and sizes. They also appear for different reasons and to fulfil different purposes.

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[F] Take facebook as a first example. This was an online site that filled a need for functionality to keep tabs on an ever expanding social network, especially whilst at University. The community was there before but exploded through new functionality.

[N] Forums and notice board facilities for niche groups, e.g. specialist bike part trading or stamp collectors, were also pre-existing of the internet but a loci of focus raises awareness that there are lots of others in that niche and sped up inter-group communication.

[T] Twitter on the other hand is very different – they created a new need (to use the quick-comms facility) and now have a bustling user base of millions.

[B] Blogs are a new twist on an old diary entry, whereby others interested in certain themes raised could stumble upon a fellow blogger and follow their musings.

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Quickly thinking about these, they are not as clear cut as they initially appear…

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[T][B][F] I would say I am part of the twitter/blogging/facebook communities – I engage with these online mediums. I am part of these user bases.

[T][F] I am connected with lots of other people/organisations, but I would not say I felt a sense of belonging to any online communities within these sites, just to the sites themselves.

[T] The communities I feel a part of trigger my twitter followings – clusters of organisations – rather than feeling my community is on twitter, I use twitter to strengthen my communities.

[N] When I visit forums, I always feel there is a greater sense of belonging, although I do not ‘belong’ to any forum-based communities.

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I feel more of a sense of belonging to the internet as a community than the sub-sets within it. I feel like a global citizen more than a resident of the Newington (Edinburgh) community.

However, I also have very few non-internet based hobbies and have always enjoyed my own company. I have never felt a need to be surrounded by others to feel a sense of belonging but have always found it easier to be part of larger communities, e.g. a school, mixing between smaller local groups than to be fully committed to one group completely.

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This makes me think personality type could play a role in online communities – not just in the type of communities involved in but also in the perception of community itself.

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