Virtual Communities

Right, the virtual community is now live, kinda. You can find it at Be warned: it isn’t pretty.


But prettiness can come later.

So, the point of this site is to create a community platform using different social media services. The point being that I already have a blog, and a flickr account, so why would I want to bother logging into another one in order to contribute? Through the wonder of widgets and RSS, Virtual Communities tries to create this online utopia.

Let’s go through the various media and talk about how each can be contributed to.

1. Photos

There is a Flickr group called Virtual Communities. All you need to do is join the group, and then add some photos to it. The content is displayed on the VC homepage through a Flickr ‘badge’ which displays the latest 5 images. The ones there now are just some random ones I chucked up to test things out.

Check – is this the right way? Could we just use a particular tag, thus making it even easier?

2. Video

This uses a VodPod pod called (guess what?) Virtual Communities. This works best as you can add video from a number of providers to it, and it produces a nice widget. All you need to do is join the Pod, and start adding video to it.

3. Events

An Upcoming widget for the Virtual Communities group displays upcoming relevent events. Of which there are currently none. This was added after the screenshot above was taken, by the way.

4. Blogs

This is an RSS feed which aggregates a number of blogs (those of Messrs Wilcox, Dickson, Mitchell and, er, me). This is done through the rather mega FeedJumbler. This combined feed is then spat onto the page with MagpieRSS.

Check: Do we want all blog posts? Or could we use a category or tag based RSS feed? Both WordPress (hosted and non-hosted versions) and TypePad are both capable of this…

Also – would it be better to display cotent from blogposts, and give them a bigger and more central lump of the screen?

5. Links

MagpieRSS once again comes to the rescue, this time chucking the latest bookmarks that have been saved with the tag ‘virtualcommunities’.

Check: this probably needs to be changed to a more specific tag that people aren’t likely to use by accident…unless the accidental is actually more fun?

6. Slides

There is a group on SlideShare called Virtual Communities. Oh yes! Anything added to it is republished on the VC homepage with a rather marvellous widget. Anyone can join the group and any presentation can be added to the group.

Next Steps

It obviously needs a redesign, and a decent stylesheet putting together. But it works, I think. It needs a central combined RSS feed, but FeedJumbler can do that. Maybe another combined feed to track comments on all the different services would be cool too (if possible!).

Other services that could be included are something like a shared account, which can be added as a widget for sharing uploaded files. There isn’t a wiki, and I am not sure how one could be incorporated into this model, other than through tagging wiki pages in What about audio?

If this is a model that people are interested in, I’m quite happy to package up the various scripts it uses and make it available. Another option might be to host other communities of this type at (say) The bandwidth on my side wouldn’t be much as the services are the things taking the hits.

Creating some kind of web based framework around the whole thing, allowing people to create communities and add stuff to them using a web interface would be really cool, but waaaay beyond my capabilities.

Please do provide feedback, especially those involved in the earlier discussion – is this the sort of thing you were thinking about?

3 thoughts on “Virtual Communities”

  1. Dave,

    an interesting concept. Does this officially constitute a “mashup”, or do we consider mashups to be done at a coding level? I like the idea of simply bringing together all these resources. I’ve seen (and used) another servuices that does this sort of thing, but darned if I can find it now. I’ll let you know if I do.

  2. Not sure if it’s a mashup – I guess not because each service is kept quite separate. Would be good to see the site you are thinking of – I can’t believe no one has thought of this before…

  3. Good work Dave 🙂

    Keep it up!

    A few scrambled thoughts –

    1. is it a community, or an aggregation or interests?

    2. it makes me think of ‘facilitation’ and how to facilitate communities in this new world of aggregation – also in relation to the Ashton Court site we talked about – where online facilitation is adapting to all this – in part a technical decision made at root (widget) level as to what to include and not, and who to allow access to all those distribute groups that make the ‘community’ up…

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