Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community

…being a virtual community is important for sustainability. It is worth noting that at the end of the blog author Julie‘sendeavors to cook her way through the cookbook, she stopped her blog posting. Although several participants tried to create an online group for fans of the the Julie/Julia Project to interact, it failed. The Julie/Julia Project was not self-sustaining. It depended heavily on Julie to succeed.

These findings have implications for our understanding of the importance of sense of community in determining whether or not a virtual group can be correctly called a virtual community. —Anita Blanchard

Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community (Into the Blogosphere)

A good case study of a single blog, but I wonder about the value of the survey results. Is this dataset the baseline, or an exception? We can’t tell from a single measurement, since there’s no context in which to place it.

If survey respondents are 25% more likely to agree that blog X makes them feel like part of a community than they are to make the same statement about blog Y, then such a survey is useful. But the simple statement that X% of respondents said that blog X made them feel like part of a community is only worth so much. There may be other factors as well — perhaps people who are interested in a cooking blog, or people who find out about a blog via a TV news report, have different definitions of “community” than the readers of other blogs. It’s probably safe to assume that a blog with a mostly male readership might require a lower level of activity before its members would say they are part of a “community” — or, maybe the activity would simply be of a different nature.

The Julie/Julia blog had a particular narrow focus. While it also met other needs that emerged along the way, once the main objective was fulfilled, the blog stopped. A blog that exists for a specific purpose — to document one woman’s progress through a particular book — shouldn’t be judged by the same criteria used to judge open-ended blogs that don’t have mission statements that include a final destination. A made-for-TV movie “stops”, but a soap opera does not (unless the show is cancelled, of course). They are different genres.

While I’m quibbling about the lack of context, I liked the methodology of this article, though the intense focus on one blog means we don’t (yet) know what will happen if a similar survey is done across a wider range of blogs (k-blogs, edublogs, fiction blogs, group blogs, etc).

And while this particular blog didn’t make use of blogrolls, there are tools, such as Technorati and other content aggregators, that can serve much the same function (that is, bring together strangers who have both blogged about a similar topic).

This area still appears to be pretty wide open, though there are several other articles in this collection that touch on similar areas.