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Community Networks and Websites? 155

brendano writes "I've been doing some research into the fascinating world of community networks and websites -- online places that can inform and connect people of a real-life community. They typically provide news, discussion forums, and email for local residents. There are some quite successful ones (such as the nonprofit Seattle Community Network or the Blacksburg Electronic Village), but also also ghost town-like failures that show how hard it is to get a community network/website rolling. In addition, many struggle with questions of how to get funding; whether they can be for-profit while serving the community, or be non-profit with enough money to keep going. Unlike the wireless community networks we hear about so much, these types of community networks go beyond just internet access and try to provide access to the community itself. Some, even, are being done to help build up disenfranchised communities, such as one in a housing project, or the three of HP's Digital Village project (one of whose projects I'm researching for.) I was wondering if members of the Slashdot community know of more examples of community networks, and what people think of these projects. Can real-life communities succeed in the online environment as well? How so?"
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Community Networks and Websites?

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  • CMU web community (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bert690 ( 540293 ) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:27PM (#3467935)
    I work on the YouServ [] (formerly uServ) project and right now we're experimenting with setting it up at Carnegie Mellon University [] to see what kind of (if any) web community might evolve around this network.

    Unlike standard file sharing networks, your identity (by way of your university e-mail address) is clearly tied with your content, so the theory :-) is that should discourage blatant piracy and encourage sharing of "commnity oriented" content. Unfortunately we launched it right before summer break so users are slow in coming, but we hope interesting things (other than rampant piracy :) will happen...

    IMO this is a much better example of "community web" since each user has as much control as any other member of the community as to what content is published. Of course this is also rather anarchistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • by sbrsb ( 233569 ) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:31PM (#3467945) Homepage
    Here are assorted Web sites [] of members of the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet) []. And there's a complete directory of the Network's 650+ member organizations at a href=">http://www Most of those centers would love to get more volunteers with good tech skills since their budgets are usually pretty tight. Some are full-fledged community networks, others mainly provide skills-building opportunities for people in the neighborhood. -S.
  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:29AM (#3468085)
    I live in a predominantly rural area, and we have a community network [] that does a pretty good job of providing an internet-based tie for the community. The network is run by a non-profit organization and is funded primarily by selling internet access and web hosting to local individuals and businesses.

    Among the community services that are funded by this are providing free internet access in libraries, schools and senior centers, which would otherwise not be available in typical rural communities, providing free web space for other local non-profit organizations, providing local real-time election results, refurbishing donated PCs for use by other non-profits, and providing links to local businesses.

    Our community network has been very successful. Because of being non-profit, they can offer competitive internet access rates and high quality local service. They have attracted many local users who have migrated over from larger ISPs such as Earthlink as their rates have gone up and their service has gone down. Selling low cost internet access as a non-profit and providing good service seems to be a good way to fund a community network, at least it has worked for us.
  • by xof ( 518138 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @07:15AM (#3468771)
    I did not read all the comments yet, but I did not found the word wiki in them... This is a powerful technology for building something together. It is sometimes difficult to keep the structure sound but some are used with success in wireless community networks seattlewireless [] is one, wireless-fr [] is another one (in french). General info about wikis can be found on Google directory/Wiki [] A lot of implementations now exist (I prefer phpwiki), the original one is on [] Some of them, like TuxScreen [] allow you to protect modifs with a login.
  • by netclift ( 158504 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @08:43AM (#3468918) Homepage
    Mailing lists for local communities give your the best results at the low cost/effort IF you are primarily interested in promoting discussion and information exchange.

    Check out the 800 person forum in Minneapolis , the 300 person forum in St. Paul , and 250 person forum in the small city of Winona, Minnesota

    Related articles:
    A Wired Agora - Minneapolis the Internet, Citizen Participation and Squirrels -

    Winona Online Democracy Startup .html
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2002 @03:20PM (#3471770)
    The Association For Community Networking maintains an active list of projects worldwide.

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