A lot of people write and talk about “Community.” “How to Jumpstart a Community.” “How to Nurture a Community.” “The Ideal Community.” The murkiest part is always answering the question, “What is community?”
Community is identification. In every nuance of the word. In case you missed it: Community is identification.
Communities are not about “people helping people.” My doctor helps me out, but we don't call each other up Thursday nights to talk about it. His community consists of other doctors and nurses and stuff. Those are the people he identifies with.
A user group is a community. The people at the water cooler are a community. Fans of any given team are a community. Those are easy ones. Newsgroups, Forums and Listservs are considered community. Are blogs a community? Are Amazon Review(er)s a community?
If a group is distinct enough for people to identify with, yes. Some bloggers are not community. Some never look outside their own bubble or engage in dialogue. Some people read blogs passively, as a newspaper. No reaction, no identification, just more information. Fine. Then you have the ones who put a shout out when visiting a city and gather. That's community. Look no further than the mass of personal blogs that pre-existed tech blogs. These cypersoaps have massive back and forth dialogs, they ebb and flow, alliances form, rivalries get personal. Community? These cats have friggin' flags.
On Amazon the format discourages discussions. Everyone reacts to the same book, reactions to another reviewer don't stand out as such, and wind up voted “not useful.” But hey, some reviewers develop followings. Their readers become a community by virtue of their identification with the writer, and each other. These folks get talked about at the water cooler.
There are further differences among communities that reduce to: different styles of participation, and the location of ego. But that's another day. . .
Bonus Tip for .Text Bloggers: Ctrl-Tab switches between formatted and HTML views!