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There is a set of values to consider when developing an online community. Some of these values include: opportunity, education, culture, democracy,human services, equality within the economy, information, sustainability, and communication. [7]
In reference to an online community, the developers' main focus is to create a technology that adheres to the interests, as well as the social and basic needs, of the community. An online community's main goal is to serve as a common ground for people who share the same interests as one another. Some individuals are not confident when communicating face-to-face with other individuals and the online community provides a place for these individuals to practice techniques that will help them become more confident in their communication skills. People who are shy or insecure when it comes to face-to-face communication are able to use these communities to get to know other people without having to directly show their shyness or insecurities. Individuals are able to talk with people who share their same interests just in a different form of communication. [8]
When online communities first developed, they were seen as essentially different than face-to-face communication. However, today, being involved in online communities has become a normal routine in many people's lives all over the world. People use online communities to keep up with what is going on in their local communities, such as upcoming church or sporting events. Online communities also form around activities or hobbies such as online gaming or fashion blogging. Online communities have also become an important part of education. Students are able to take classes online and they are able to communicate with their professors and peers through their online courses. Businesses have also started using online communities to communicate with their customers about product and service enhancements and to share new information about the business. There are a number of online communities related to health care that help inform, advise, and support patients/members who are suffering from illness or any other health issues. Other online communities allow a wide variety of professionals to come together to share their thoughts and ideas on certain topics or issues. [9]
When developing an online community, it is important to have the right technologies necessary to keep members interested, asset management, and uphold community relations. Everything needs to be in place and organized in order for the online community to be successful and usable. The developers take into consideration whether or not all the online community members are good at using technology. If the online community is not workable or usable for some users, they will be discouraged, in turn, leading them to not want to use the online community(ies) at all. Also, to make certain that online communities are in the members' best interests, the developers are able to communicate with someone or a group of people within the local community to find out what the community as a whole likes to see online as part of the online community. Surveys and discussion boards where members are able to post their feedback are an essential part in developing an online community due to the fact that community needs, as well as individual needs, are always changing. There is barely any face-to-face communication in the online community world, therefore developers' want to make sure that all of the participating members are content and at ease with other members.[10]
Online communities were developed to encourage individuals to come together to teach and learn from one another. They open the door for collaborative learning and focus more on how individuals learn from each rather than how they learn from an instructor. Online communities encourage self learners to discuss and learn about real-world problems/situations as well as focus on things such as teamwork, collaborative thinking, personal experiences, et cetera. Members of online communities are entitled to their own opinions and thoughts, but the members are also encouraged to learn from other online community member's experiences and thoughts/opinions as well. [11]
Because of online communities, for the first time it is possible to be connected to hundreds of millions of people at the same time. The internet has become a medium of communication and due to low cost computing and technological innovations in voice and messaging techniques, it will likely continue to grow and spread.
Cost plays a role in all aspects and stages for online communities. Fairly cheap and easily attainable technologies and programs have also influenced the increase in establishment of online communities. While payment is necessary to participate in some online communities (such as certain dating websites or for monthly game subscriptions), many other sites are free to users (such as social networks Facebook and Twitter). Because of deregulation and the increased internet access and usage rates online community popularity has escalated. Online communities provide instant gratification, entertainment, and learning. Online community participants can communicate with one or many friends at one time, receive feedback from others (friends, family, and strangers), and obtain knowledge, whether it be sought after or stumbled upon. [12]
The medium’s connectivity has significant implications for the way that society interacts as individuals and as a collective. Individualism is shrinking while the prospect of a “global village” is becoming more and more apparent. Online communities are dynamic by nature and it is important that researchers and organizations have the power to classify them. For example it is important to know the security, access, and technology requirements of a given type of community as it evolves from an open forum to a private and regulated forum. [13]