Online Communities

So…there are message boards, Livejournal communities, Yahoo Groups, Usenet, and most recently the wave of social networking sites such as Friendster or Orkut. Did I miss anything?

Anyway, the question is: What’s the difference between them? It appears to me that they’re basically just all outlets for people to talk to each other, and maybe make friends, either online or IRL if they choose. How many different types of communities do you participate in? And why? (By why, I mean other than the different subject matter that each community may cover – e.g., gaming, parenting, overclocking, whatever – I’m more curious about the differences in atmosphere in each type of community and their, well, “goals in life?”)

Oh, let’s see. I participate in several IRC areas… mostly pertaining to my roleplaying hobby. I’ve been known to appear on - the chat program network attached to Blizzard’s games. I read, but do not participate on the messageboards at this time. I very rarely post on the messageboards at, the movie news site. Oh, and a handful of Mucks/MUDs. And the D&D mailing list.

I think that’s everything. So… movies and roleplaying games… and this.

Urk, I thought about my OP for a minute, and now think this is probably better served by a somewhat more concrete example I’m not interested in, say, Friendster vs. Orkut, because they’re both social networking communities. I’m interested in the differences between Friendster and a message board such as the SDMB.

I do the SDMB, of course, and also LiveJournal. (My user name is postmoderngirl, almost all of my entries are public, but are in no way guaranteed to be exciting, interesting, or useful.) The difference to me is simply size and scope. I don’t feel at all bad about posting complete blather in my journal, because it’s my journal, and anyone who’s got me on their friends list friended me voluntarily. OTOH, I rarely start threads on the SDMB because they’re held up to a much higher degree of scrutiny, and there’s a pressure (at least to me) to make them interesting, or have them fall to the second page in a couple hours.

Also, I have 120 friends on my friends list. I’ve met most of my LJ friends in person, I know the names of their kids, SOs, pets, what they had for breakfast, and when they had sex. I don’t have a problem sending them my address if they are making a mixed CD and are offering to send it to people. I know them a lot lot lot better than I do most Dopers (although almost all of my LJ friends are Dopers too). It’s a much smaller, closer community - I even feel I know people who are not of my friends list, by virtue of their comments to the journals of mutual friends. There are a few hundred Dopers with LiveJournals, and it’s like a mini-version of the SDMB. If there’s any truth to the rumor that there are cliques of Dopers, it’s because of LiveJournal. It really is a great community and has enabled me to become real friends with a lot of intelligent people whom I might have otherwise had only a little contact with on the SDMB or at a Dopefest. Because it’s smaller, it is probably overly prone to gossiping. There have been some meltdowns in the SDMB-related communities on LiveJournal that match the worst the boards themselves have to offer. Check out the anonymous communities for examples.