Online communities are discussion groups that gather around a particular topic. They take many forms: mailing lists, newsgroups, Web forums, chat, and blogs. They may be moderated or un-moderated; local or worldwide; include amateurs, enthusiasts, professionals or just curious people; and cover virtually any topic, from splicing genes to home schooling.
These groups are rich sources for current information and networking. Blogs and Web forums generally publish updates on hot topics before printed or online newspapers. Further, online communities may contain experts who are able to lend guidance or insight on hard-to-research topics. Many reputable magazines are beginning to sponsor blogs written by resident experts. Browse your favorite online topical magazine to see if there is a sponsored blog documenting current events and hot topics.
While online communities can be a valuable source of information, use caution. Often, the credentials of bloggers or commentators is unknown, making the information that they provide somewhat suspect. Therefore, online communities are best used once you have established yourself as a member and have listened to the 'conversation' over time. Online communities are not reliable sources for quick data, involved research, or for getting started on a topic.
Blogs can be run for free and with relative ease, so almost anyone can have a blog. Some people use them as a soapbox for personal, religious, political, or social viewpoints. Others sponsor blogs in a professional capacity and strive to represent a variety of issues and points of view. Most blog sites are heavily influenced by the values of the author. Be sure to read blogs carefully in order to identify bias in the information you are gathering.
An email discussion list focus on Global Information Systems (GIS). The community area offers the option to be included on email lists and electronic newsletters.
Listserv and resources (web sites, book reviews. etc) of the cultural, social, and political movements of the Sixties. This online community is sponsored by the H-Net network.
Talking Points Memo
This is a liberal political blog.
The Daily Uprising
This is a conservative political blog.
A searchable directory listing of over 50,000 public listservs (mailing lists).
Google Blog Search
Find blogs and blog posts on your favorite subject.
Technorati is a near real time search engine focused primarily on blogs, but it also indexes many RSS feeds. Technorati currently tracks 50.5 million blogs.
Use Technorati to find a blog entry discussing politics. Experiment with the limiters (authority, language). Note the differences in the results.[Links open in new browser window.]
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