online communities of interest

Internet results in creating virtual social spaces no longer bound by time or space constraints, where people can meet, talk, and exchange views, ideas and information, communities where members function in a relational mode that excludes face-to-face physical contact.

A- Sharing knowledge

The Internet has encouraged the development of communities based on knowledge sharing in which individuals get together to pool and build up their knowledge. In these communities of interest learning is not the search of isolated individuals, but the result of their coming into contact within groups of people, thus opening up more options for exchanges. Each participant is a potentiel source of information for the others.

Some of these communities are based on what is called the “egoboo” motivation of ome self-styled “experts” in a certain field that contribute to the community to aid their peers. These human experts like take precedence over software search engines in the serach for information and data selection is based on contributions from the netsurfing community often on a free of cahrge basis. This form of human filtering of information can be collaborative and based on a community of volunteers who write specialized guides on certain topics, or select the best websites and online discussions forums.

– Examples

The best-know examples are the virtual library, a catalog of online resources started bt Tim Berners Lee, and the aaaliens project in France or, the open directory projetct (dmoz) whose data base is one of the largest on the web.

In the computing world, the Free Software Foundation’s GNU prject and open-source Linux are representative of communities sharing their knowledge. “Slashdot” with its motto of “nerds for nerds. Stuff that matters” has been home to many members of the hacker community since 1997 !

Communities of teachers and researchers, organized according to discipline or theme have aslo formed and developped using forums, mailing, lists and websites or blogs : good examples are the French CRu (University Commitee networks), or the literay group Fabula…

Generally speaking, communities of interest have sprung up raound specific topics or themes in many different activity sectors in order to exchange information actively or to remain up-to-date and monitor scientific developments. newsgroup and mailing list search engines are good way to pinpoint and identify these communities.



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