Virtual communities have been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been spend a lot of time participating on the blog and wiki of the CBC Radio show, Spark, a show about how people use technology. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading Global Neighborhood’s series on virtual communities. And it’s made me realize a few things.
I’ve always seen IM tools, social networks and even this blog as communication tools. Tools to get my point of view out there and as a way for the people back home to get in touch with me. As an expat — even in a vibrant place like Shanghai — you can still feel isolated on the odd occasion even though you have a ton of friends. There are only a little over 4,000 Canadians in the city after all, so the chances of you meeting up with another Canadian outside of going to a Canadian China Business Council or a Canadian Consulate of Shanghai event are pretty unlikely.
But after this week of really playing around with these tools to talk to people other than my family or my Facebook contacts, I’ve really been able to see myself participating more with in a community. And there are benefits to that which are greater than meeting new people. I’ve gotten ideas from people that I have been able to apply to my work and was asked to record a comment for CBC’s Spark, which I did this morning. And the best part is that I have been able to thanks people for their help and their ideas and talk back to them. It’s fun and I feel like a richer person for doing so.
I also see a lot of future benefits both for companies who want to communicate and hear from their customers (one of the major marketing uses of Web 2.0 tools right now) but also I see applications for this stuff in diplomacy and government services — the sharing of ideas and information faster so that it leads to great efficiency and a better quality of service.
Most important to me though, is that I just find this fun. I have a learning fetish and will read pretty much anything that I can get my hands on. I’ll also speak to people about it too. And virtual communities give me a great way to do that.