- Define an online community
An online community ought to be all of that and more.
The JayCees are an established service community, designed for the purpose of providing leadership to the greater community. This organization has programs that give people training in leadership skills. Another very popular vehicle for developing speaking and organizing skills is Toastmasters International. These are great examples of traditional service organization or what we would call "community of practice" because they exists for the purpose of developing practical skills through training programs. And, because it's a community, the training is ongoing, it's always developing further, to learn more, to challenge the individuals, the community, and the greater community. This attribute of continuous growth set it apart from a classroom course.
One important aspect that we should not overlook about these service organizations is that complete control of the administration of the community is passed on to each new generation of members through a constitutional form. This allows the former administrators to grow the organization. This is not happening in web communities. Ownership of the platform has been elevated above the integrity of the community itself and is probably stifling growth. The traditionally organized service community may have a membership of 100's of thousands or millions of members spanning a worldwide geographical area, while a large message board community may only number in the few hundreds or thousands. What's the problem? More importantly, what's the solution? That's what sparks my interest.