Emerging Knowledge-Sharing Methods for Online Communities


Jan 6, 2004
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Emerging Knowledge-Sharing Methods for Online Communities

Ancient Human Learning Technology
For thousands of years, human knowledge was handed down verbally, usually from a single person called a "teacher", to a group of people called "students". This was generally done with the aid of information that had been carved, written, or printed by another single person (called an "author"), onto stone tablets, wood blocks, animal skins, papyrus scrolls, or paper books.

The ancient Egyptians used this method to teach hieroglyphics to their children. And, it's how you probably learned 8th grade algebra. During this period of thousands of years, the most significant change in this learning process was the big switch from scrolls to books.

With the development of electronic storage of data over the past half-century, we've slowly abandoned our practice of keeping our information on pieces of rocks, plants, or animals. However, we've still primarily relied upon traditional one-way teacher-student methods for educating ourselves.

In the past decade or two, we made another interesting advancement in the teaching process. We began to use computers not just for storing and accessing information, but for developing and sharing knowledge. Group learning replaced traditional one-way methods of teaching. The online community was born.

In just 10 years, this concept evolved from scattered clusters of computer users to a powerful network of millions of people from all walks of life, sharing large amounts of information in a vast online communiverse. This information has proven itself so valuable, that online communities are now among the best available sources of knowledge on a vast and varied array of subjects.

Discussions in online communities generally contain a greater depth of information than books or other print media. And, the group learning methods practiced in online communities are superior to standard student-teacher relationships for cultivating knowledge. Most of all, online communities benefit from a constant stream of fresh information, pouring in simultaneously from a wide variety of sources.

If a large online community were to print out their archived threads, they would have thousands upon thousands of sheets of paper, stacked to the ceiling. Even if only the highest quality discussions were printed, it would still be the equivalent of many "books" of information.

When it comes to a shared interest or hobby, nothing gathers large amounts of information like an online community. In...

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