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issue 05/01/2000

- Arts
- Books
- Games
- Links
- News
- Software

vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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related titles:

Tools for Thought
by Howard Rheingold

Hosting Web Communities
by Cliff Figallo

Poor Richard's Building Online Communities
by M.L. Young

by Stacy Horn

The Emperor's Virtual Clothes
by Dinty W. Moore

Virtual Culture
by Steve Jones

Cybersociety 2.0
by Steve Jones

Network & Netplay
by Fay Sudweeks

community building on the web
buy this book at

Community Building on the Web
by Amy Jo Kim

- reviewed by Dan Richards

Amy Jo Kim's long-awaited book, Community Building on the Web arrived on my desk recently. I build virtual communities, so I'm always drinking in any information that comes down the pipe. The one big plus that's apparent in the initial few pages of the book, is that this work functions as a starting point for those with no prior community-building experience. It's not that the book doesn't deliver much richer and advanced information -it does. But what it doesn't take for granted is the large audience out there who want and really need to start from square one.

Even before the book actually starts, the Roman-numeraled introduction delivers Nine Design Strategies. #1 is Define and Articulate Your Purpose. That's enough to slow some people in their tracks and make them actually think about what they want to accomplish. Three Underlying Principles are then introduced. For anyone involved in community building, the introduction is worth the price of the book.

The first chapter draws on and expands the information presented in the introduction. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is used to present concepts to assure the community member's basic needs are met before offering "higher-level" features. A vital but often overlooked grounding-tool.

I thought it was interesting that Amy Jo's Ph.D. title is not displayed. What I like about this book, is that it's void of academic and sociological, highbrow rhetoric. Instead, it delivers page after page of nuts n' bolts information on how to actually design, build and manage web communities. Before the building ever starts, a lot of thinking has to take place -and this book will get the motors running. If the desire is still there after working through the "pull-no-punches" first chapter, then there's good reason to further explore community building.

One thing the author really has going for her, with her ten years of community-building experience, is that she's worked in a lot of virtual environments -and that is clearly reflected in the contents. MUD's, game environments, freeware, The Palace and even eBay, are all well-covered, with examples of each platform's strengths and weaknesses.

The meat of the book delivers a well-rounded arsenal on community leadership, membership roles and rites of passage, etiquette, community growth stages, and even Event Planning 101.

The one aspect that might be missed by some, are more actual case-history examples. In some ways, I actually found this refreshing, because there are more than enough web-community books and articles that cover case histories in lucid detail. There has been a shortage of solid, one-stop maps with countless easily-referred-to tools for getting the job done. This book adds to the supply. Involvement in building virtual communities, sooner or later, leads to Cliff Figallo's Hosting Web Communities, and of course, Howard Rheingold's classic The Virtual Community. (A new, updated edition of Rheingold's book will be released in 2000 by MIT Press.)

There are certainly more web community books [see the related titles included with this article], but if there is a book to pick up first, Community Building on the Web, by Amy Jo Kim, is the one.

b i o :
Dan Richards is the Associate Editor of Mindjack. He welcomes your comments on this review. As a virtual community builder, Dan is a member and active contributor on Brainstorms and the WELL. An Associate at Howard Rheingold Associates. He is co-founder and manager of the D-Word Documentary Filmmaker's Community, and is currently the Director of Community Development at the "Online Health & Fitness Network",, in New York City


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