An online community (or virtual community) is a social network connected through the technology of the internet, using some kind of interactive platform, such as email, forum, wiki or dedicated social network. These communities cross national boundaries and barriers of distance, and may serve many purposes - many re for entertainment only, while others are focused on sustainability, tackling poverty, appropriate technology, or design.
Communities on such subjects are communities of purpose - however, building and managing such communities require understanding human needs and desires. The members may be more driven, passionate and/or altruistic than those on a hobby forum, but they will still be drawn back to a place where they experience connection and fun.
 See also
- Wiki community development, on Appropedia.org.
- Wiki ecosystem - Coalition of the Willing wiki
- Green knowledge ecosystem - Coalition of the Willing wiki
 Online communities
- Online Communities for International Do-Gooders, a compiled (and growing) list of online communities related to international development and assistance from how-matters.org
 Resources for community building and managing
Here is some suggested reading. Please share key points that are relevant to Appropedia, on Talk:Wiki community development or the site discussion page or community discussion list, particularly if it has inspired you to take action in a particular way.
- Art of Community by Jono Bacon, Ubuntu community manager. (You can download the pdf.)
- FeverBee, blog by Richard Millington, "an online community builder currently working for the United Nations Refugee Agency... the founder of Commania, a community for community professionals and the author of the Online Community Manifesto.
- The Proven Path - a clear introduction to community building that works, from Richard Millington.
- The Open Source Way - about online community, and being written by an online community. As at 22 Feb 2010, "The strongest sections are Communities of practice, How to loosely organize a community, and Stuff everyone knows and forgets anyway", according to the project leader.
- Lessons Learned in Building a Custom Community Platform - the pitfalls of developing online community spaces, looking at "The Climate Network" and why it failed.
- Community Managers - interviews with Collaborative Nation (a website for "Techno-Activist Communities")
- Wiki Patterns - growth and community in wikis (very focused)
- CommunityWiki (less focused, more open)
- meta:Wikicommunity - proposal for community-building within Wikimedia through activities not focused directly on content creation. Contains links to relevant pages and discussions on English Wikipedia.
 Deeper study
If you've read all the above - the books, the blog archives - you have plenty of knowledge to manage an online community. But if you still want to dig deeper, a few topics that might be useful to study are listed below - start at the Wikipedia articles, learn, and check the resources listed there. (This is an initial guess at useful topics - as you research, please improve the list):
Research and academic resources:
- Group Dynamics Resource Page - Donelson R. Forsyth, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond.