Are online communities worth it?

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The boom of the internet is better documented elsewhere but the one key and founding principles is the ability to converse with anyone, anywhere in the globe. From the early days of IRC and email, onto graphical websites and instant messaging through to the current swathe of, for want of a better phrase, Web 2.0 services.

Twitter, blogs, social bookmarking, and online communities are the current rage but, do they work?

I’m a member of several email lists, swapping emails with a large number of people on a range of topics. I spend a fair amount of time filtering out topics which don’t interest me, and over time I’ve come to recognise various people by name. However email, whilst great for sharing information, is a limited when it comes to building communities.

Understanding who you are conversing with and the additional interests they have helps build trust, helps build better conversations and helps build communities. Transferring that kind of interaction online means we can better leverage shared experiences and hopefully make it easier to find other people with the same, unique, slice of knowledge and interests.

It’s only now, pulling together all the available technologies that such online communities are possible.

And the good news is that we, as technical communicators (content professionals) now have such a community.

Scott Abel, aka the Content Wrangler, has launched the Content Wrangler Community website and, having signed up and started using it a little I have to say that it is well worth a look. There are already several hundred members (825 at present), and these early adopters have started forming focussed groups, all of which relate back to our profession. In the words of the website:

Network with peers. Find jobs. Share information. Start a blog. Upload and watch videos. Join a group. Begin a discussion. Learn about software. Find events. Ask for help. It’s all here. Become a member. It’s free!

It’s safe to say that “social networks” aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d strongly urge you to check it out. Despite only having been launched a couple of weeks ago, it’s already proving popular and, as the conversations start and people start to find clever ways of using the various features available then it’s only going to get better and better.

Visit the Content Wrangler Community website today, sign up and join in!