Skip to main content

Online Communities Temporary at Best

The word "community" is overused in academic fields, but it is the best word for what it on my mind today.

I closed a Web server this week on which I had created a Drupal and MediaWiki site on special education. The site was functional for about two years, which is an eternity online. The reality is that online communities come and go so rapidly that what was popular a year or two ago is often "inactive" now.

There are dozens of Yahoo groups that are dedicated to special education. Most of these were active five years ago, but have since fallen out of favor with users. Just as the Usenet groups and most "listservs" have faded away in the last five years, so have many online forums.

The Internet has accelerated the speed with which a community grows, propers, and then declines. The timeline of the Internet is punctuated by technologies and business ideas that were "hot" for a moment. When is the last time you used IRC or read a newsgroup? Remember CompuServe? Prodigy? And Netscape was nearly synonymous with the World Wide Web.

Many of us live in physical regions or communities for decades, even lifetimes. I've read that most people end up living and dying within 500 miles of their birthplaces. Humans demonstrate a bond to physical communities we simply haven't developed, and might never develop, with online settings. I read a study in "Population and Environment" finding only 92,000 U.S. citizens migrated in or out of California in the 1980s (international numbers were much higher). Thirty million Californians remained in the state.

We enter and exit online communities impulsively. We form few lasting online bonds. For the most part, we use online spaces for a purpose. Once the purpose is met, we exit. How many truly close, lasting friendships are formed online? They come and go, like most school year friendships.

I wonder if Web pages will matter in a decade. I now read more news and information via non-browser technologies. My iPod Touch is my primary Internet device. Specialized applications present the information. The Web? I navigate it indirectly.

Many of my colleagues in education talk about Second Life and other "virtual worlds" as the future. I don't think that's the case -- Second Life has already "come and gone" for most Internet users. My students scoffed at the mere thought of using Second Life -- they'd rather use video chat and see real people. I don't know if online game worlds last longer or not, since I don't play any multiplayer games.

I miss FidoNet and BBS systems. I miss the sense of community I felt on CompuServe. Increasingly, the Web seems more like television and pop culture magazines -- video, audio, and very short articles. Even blogs with comments sections seem less about dialogue and discussion than they are about ranting and some level of narcissism.

Yeah, I'm a curmudgeon. I miss the Golden Years of online communities.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Slowly Rebooting in 286 Mode

The lumbar radiculopathy, which sounds too much like "ridiculously" for me, hasn't faded completely. My left leg still cramps, tingles, and hurts with sharp pains. My mind remains cloudy, too, even as I stop taking painkillers for the back pain and a recent surgery.

Efforts to reboot and get back on track intellectually, physically, and emotionally are off to a slow, grinding start. It reminds me of an old 80286 PC, the infamously confused Intel CPU that wasn't sure what it was meant to be. And this was before the "SX" fiascos, which wedded 32-bit CPU cores with 16-bit connections. The 80286 was supposed to be able to multitask, but design flaws resulted in a first-generation that was useless to operating system vendors.

My back, my knees, my ankles are each making noises like those old computers.

If I haven't already lost you as a reader, the basic problem is that my mind cannot focus on one task for long without exhaustion and multitasking seems…

MarsEdit and Blogging

MarsEdit (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mailing posts to blogs, a practice I adopted in 2005, allows a blogger like me to store copies of draft posts within email. If Blogger, WordPress, or the blogging platform of the moment crashes or for some other reason eats my posts, at least I have the original drafts of most entries. I find having such a nicely organized archive convenient — much easier than remembering to archive posts from Blogger or WordPress to my computer.

With this post, I am testing MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software based on recent reviews, including an overview on 9to5Mac.

Composing posts an email offers a fast way to prepare draft blogs, but the email does not always work well if you want to include basic formatting, images, and links to online resources. Submitting to Blogger via Apple Mail often produced complex HTML with unnecessary font and paragraph formatting styles. Problems with rich text led me to convert blog entries to plaintext in Apple Mail and then format th…

Screenwriting Applications

Screenplay sample, showing dialogue and action descriptions. "O.S."=off screen. Written in Final Draft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A lot of students and aspiring writers ask me if you "must" use Final Draft or Screenwriter to write a screenplay. No. Absolutely not, unless you are working on a production. In which case, they own or your earn enough for Final Draft or Screenwriter and whatever budget/scheduling apps the production team uses.

I have to say, after trying WriterDuet I would use it in a heartbeat for a small production company and definitely for any non-profit, educational projects. No question. The only reason not to use it is that you must have the exclusive rights to a script... and I don't have those in my work.

WriterDuet is probably best free or low-cost option I have tested. It is very interesting. Blows away Celtx. The Pro version with off-line editing is cheaper than Final Draft or Screenwriter.

The Pro edition is a standalone, offline versio…