Lee over at commoncraft.com has posted a great review of the online community business.
The term ?online community? has gotten a bad rap in the business world since the late 90?s and I think I know why.
?Community? was held up as a cornerstone of online businesses in the late 90?s. Influential books like Net Gain got executives excited about all the possibilities. The thought was that the Web would enable communities of loyal customers to form and once they do — the cash would start rolling in. Or so they thought.
In the aftermath, ?online community? has become a bad word- something that has come to mean ?something we tried in 1998 that didn?t work.? The reputation was well earned in a lot of situations.
As I said in the comments, I think that the biggest reason that “community” failed in circa-1998 was that businesses were using their 1980 business mindsets to approach community. Most community was thought to happen on the corporate Web site, not where the people actually already were (which was rarely on the corporate site). When no one showed up, they assumed that community didn’t work, rather than understanding that like real estate, it’s all about the location, location, location.
I think that we have a better platform (and more importantly the right mindset) for helping to build community now, at least in theory. I think that businesses are starting to understand that they need dedicated people, who understand community, and are willing to go to them, rather than forcing them to come to the corporation.
At least I’d like to hope so…