'Community' is the result of individuals banding together in a common activity. These activities are unlimited: sandbagging to save a flood-threatened town, participating on a sports team, working as a citizens group for civic improvements ...or writing on a website.
New members (OK, most of them) come to Epinions with similar game plans: to share their opinions by writing reviews. All member/writers utilize the same basic format: Pros, Cons, a Bottom Line, a star-rating, and their thoughts and words.
The Epinions review is the method for any member to define their personal level of participation on the site. To some the community side is less important, to others more important. Some look to balance the level of their writing on the site and the amount of time spent interacting with others. Some like to write, some like to read and rate, some like the social interaction possible on the site. The spectrum is endless and only determined by the desire and actions of any given member.
Some immediately (or eventually) become more deeply intertwined with the site than others. Perhaps they write more often, rate more often, comment more often. Perhaps they frequently interact with other members on the message boards or via e-mails. Each member defines their own level of involvement, either deliberately or by simply 'going with the flow'.
Over the years, the corporate side of Epinions has facilitated the next step of 'community-building' on the site by hosting 'Meet-n-Greets' for community members to interact both with the corporate staff of the Epinions website and their fellow members.
Recently such an event was held in Chicago. These 'Meet-n-Greet' events obviously cater to those members who are strongly interested in the community, in meeting both the individuals who run the 'business' side of the site and fellow members who pepper the site with their words, their rates, and their comments.
I had always told myself that if an official 'meet-n-greet' were held in my area of the country I would make every effort to attend. I knew the chance to meet, in the 'flesh and blood' so many fellow users that I know and trust would simply be too rich to miss.
Let me just say I was not disappointed. The ability to put a face, a voice, just a bit of a persona with a mental image we have of our fellow users is invaluable. Amazingly many of the users were just as I imagined they might be. I really felt that I would be lucky to call them friends in the real world as well as friends on a silly website.
Anyway, I am immensely pleased, beyond expectations, to have met each of them; to have shared just a bit of myself with them and to take from them just a bit of reassurance that not everyone you meet on the internet is really an ax murderer.
P.S. My wife and I would like to thank scmrak and pestyside for hosting us for the weekend and being our 'mini-tour guides' for our foray into the big city. Your friendship is valued and appreciated.
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