Panelists at a session today on "The Value of Communities" discussed the relative importance of both virtual and physical communities. As I entered the auditorium Don Dixon, Senior Lecturer, University of West England (standing left of the lectern), and Past Editor of Knowledgeboard newsletter Ed Mitchell (at the mic.) were addressing the room.
Mitchell was stressing the importance of "contactivity." "Most of us at this conference are here to network," he observed.
The two suggested that the way to be successful in building virtual communities is to remember the importance of face-to-face meetings. A Wiki, for example, might not work until there is trust and common understanding among the participants. One might use a Wiki to flesh out a topic for discussion, but it may take a physcial meeting before the virtual conversation can get rolling.
The key, said Dixon, is "to get online and offline facilitators together to share their expertise."