John Dvorak, a leading tech writer, today posted an interesting column in PCMagazine called "The Mystery of the Online Community- Is there any way to weed out the fakes and the vandals?". Here are some excerpts:
"Though there are a lot of social networks, newsgroups, forums, and club-like Web sites on the Internet and Web, these entities are not true communities, although many purport to be. Worse, they are often peopled with phonies and posers who see the whole thing as an elaborate video game...The article goes on to descibe some communities that have faired well and concludes: "So what do they have in common? First, they are self-selecting and not necessarily democratic... driven by technical information, and where destructive forces have no effect because the community is information-driven."
So within any online community, a certain percentage of the participants are out-and-out fakes. I would argue that within some communities the number is higher than 50 percent. The interpersonal dishonesty and fantasizing do not make for any sort of real community. Most of the destructive force within any online community comes from this large group of fakes who see the community as something of a video-arcade adventure game where the user can go in and stir up trouble, then leave.
Because of this, you have to rethink online communities if you actually want them to be maintained and grow over time. How do you do this? First, you can take a look at some successful initiatives and see what makes them work. In this situation, you want to find a mechanism that is aging well....
Maintaining a great community is a hard thing to do in light of destructive people. I have to commend Papachalk and Desound for making this place such a success for the past eight years. And the people here are remarkable! This forum has stood the test of time and continues to grow.
Dvorak leaves readers with an open question which we can discuss here: "Is there any way to establish and maintain an online community with no fakes and vandals ruining it for everyone? Or is the problem just a reflection of society that we must live with? Your input—ironically, called for in this online forum—is appreciated."