Online Communities: Designing Usability and Supporting Sociability
If the phrase "planned community" makes you think of terrible homogenous suburbs, take another look at the Internet. Although there are unplanned aspects and emergent behaviors, every detail for the most part has been designed by people who thought that they knew what they were doing. Might we do better? Human-computer interactions expert Jenny Preece takes apart our preconceptions and suggests new ways to improve our virtual realities in <I>Online Communities: Designing Usability and Supporting Sociability</I>. Part sociological review, part design manual, the book is dry enough to appeal to techies and academics, but humanistic enough to touch the organizers and activists who will put her ideas further into action. Beginning with basic concepts of community and online activities, Preece moves on to survey research on the use of virtual spaces, and then focuses on techniques to design and build optimal cybervillages for given needs and people. By using plenty of examples and case studies from actual Web sites and other electronic communities, she sheds light on tools that work to make them sustainable. Whether the current generation of e-planners will heed her words--and whether they can create something livable out of the weird suburb/wilderness hybrid that we have now--will be the key to determining how 21st-century humans live, work, and communicate. <I>--Rob Lightner</I> The purpose of the book is to set up a framework for discussions on social and technical issues of online communities. Designing usability and supporting sociability lays a solid foundation on which online communities can grow and thrive. Intended for both students and computer professionals, the book addresses the development of new online communities as well as the improvement of existing ones. It is divided into two parts - Getting Acquainted with Online Communities and Developing Online Communities - along with a preface and a concluding chapter which explores the future of online communities. For sample chapters and other resources, please check out the web site for the book at www.ifsm.umbc.edu/onlinecommunities.