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Comment I Beg to Differ (Score 1) 60

I'm not sure where I'd fit in Mr Katz's definition of "first generation" and "second generation" internet users. I started using the 'net back in 1997 (yup, after the "Great September"). But I don't spend my entire time on the web, looking at the pretty pictures and animated .gifs. Instead, I tend to spend most of my time online involved with a couple of Usenet newsgroups - which I've been involved with (as a reader at least) since I first stepped onto the 'net back in '97.

In both of these newsgroups, there is a strong sense of community (admittedly, in these days of the brave new Usenet, with trolls, flamers, and Usenet Performance Artists, this is a rarity). In both of these communities, I felt welcomed and valued as a community member. In at least one of these communities, I've been doing my level best to put something back in (always the mark of a successful community - if you've got people wanting to put things back, you must be doing something right), to add to the community.

In both cases, the community which started as a single newsgroup has spread to two or more. In at least one case, there's a small IRC network (two or three channels on two servers) which serves as an adjunct to the newsgroup. Rather than the IRC setup or the multiple groups dividing the community, it instead serves to gather it closer together. In both of these communities, it's worth noting that members of the community try to get together in "Real Life' (TM) as often as possible. In each case, the initial newsgroup is the core component, but there are lots of other ways of getting to know the people involved. While there is a strong component of online socialisation, there is just as strong a component of "offline" socialisation to complement this.

One of these two communities celebrates its tenth anniversary in about a year or so - and we're trying to organise a worldwide series of meetings for members of the community. Possibly they'll be linked by phone, or IRC. Possibly not - we've got a year to plan this, so we're going to do our best.

The days of the online community are not gone. There is still the possibility for communities to be forged, out of shared interest and shared friendship.

Meg Thornton.

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