Some of these types include:
- a community of interest - focused around a topic or common interest that the group is enthusiastic about (e.g., most clubs, user groups, even some magazines)
- a community of practice - focused on learning and teaching a particular type of skill or practice (e.g., a team working to develop best practices, a professional journal or seminar)
- a community of work or activity (commonly referred to a project or a working group) - focused on completing a project or task
The behavior of the groups, the tools they need, the processes they use, etc. are different. Some groups may start out as one type and change into another. It really helps the group to identify what they want to accomplish.
The failure of most groups to develop or encourage a healthy, growing community stems from not setting up that initial direction.
For example, a project-based community need tools help manage the project and the product they are developing. This can be software, but it can apply to any kind of product really. Having tools to monitor activity, define schedules, and record achievements are all hallmarks of a good project management system. However, not all projects need complex PM
tools; in fact they can be quite intimidating or cause bureaucratic overload, which just leads to frustration.
A community of practice needs means for the members to get together and collect their ideas and experiences. Very often, you see this happening in Wikis and other group editing tools.
A community of interest exists to gather more energy and followers to a topic but may not be focused as much on developing knowledge, just sharing experiences. Thus, regular communications through some form of discussion tool is quite healthy.
This is not to say that any of these require only one specific tool to achieve their goal. Quite the converse. You will find that many communities will use the same type of tool for different purposes and many will need multiple tools to interact.
This is one of the reasons why when developing a community, you cannot base it on a single tool like a forum or a wiki, and similar why a single tool does not signify the extent of the community. So far, I have not seen no one perfect solution for all communities.
If you're a community of many other communities like we are at developerWorks, then you will likely have each of these different subtypes within yourself, and then you really need to expand the tools that allow your community members to interact.