Poor Richard's Building Online Communities by Margaret Levine Young and John Levine

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, PhD, send e-mail
Published by: Top Floor Publishing, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $29.95

Authors Margaret Levine Young and John Levine, well known for several excellent and informative computer instruction books, have gotten together to produce one of the latest in the Poor Richard's series. Online communities, currently a hot topic in the online world, are the subjects of this latest offering. The book covers the tried and true methods of building an online community as well as offering a smidgen of advice and personal experiences. Overall the book lays down a good foundation. Where it falls short is in covering the current innovations and the glitzier aspects of the online world. We'll delve into this topic later, but first an overview of what PR's Building Online Communities does cover.

Poor Richard's Building Online Communities follows the same effective format of the other Poor Richard's books providing you with easy to understand explanations and affordable solutions. This book's focus is on helping you to build a community of the grass roots variety. The topics covered are fairly broad, but in each instance the focus is on what is the tool, how is it used, and how can you apply it towards the task of developing an online community.

The technologies focused on are Mailing Lists, Usenet Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, and Web-Based Communities. Like the other books in this series they assume you have very little knowledge of these technologies and their use. Given this premise, it provides an effective introduction to each tool and its application. In addition, each explanation is peppered with the necessary amount of technical information needed to accomplish the job.

After covering the technologies the book focuses on growing and managing your online community and true-life experiences. The first topic is well covered, providing all the essential etiquette and rational advice needed to handle most online situations. The second area provides some brief summaries of real life situations. These narratives provide an effective teaching tool on how the knowledge presented can be put into play.

This book is no slouch, but there are a few areas that I would have liked to seen beefed up. The first is in the area of real life stories. This topic was sparsely covered in 30 pages. Communities are more than a set of tools and a greater number of experiences with more detail would have been a welcome addition. The second area is in the tools covered. The ones chosen are the primary tools used, but a section on upcoming technologies such as voice chats, video, 3D, buddy lists, etc., would have been a welcome addition. Last, if you are a Poor Richard's aficionado and have read their mailing lists and online marketing and promotion guides you should be forewarned that many of the topics covered in this book are quite similar to ones covered in previous books. To be fair that is simply the nature of the topics, but never the less it is an important factor to consider.

Overall Poor Richard's Online Communities provides a friendly and common sense approach to online communities. All the major tools used for building an online community are covered. The book takes the time to discuss what a community is (and is not) and then presents each tool, how to use it and how it applies to building a community. The most important part, growing and managing your community and true-life stories is saved to the end. If you apply the tools presented and pay heed to the last two sections, your chances for developing a successful online community will improve considerably.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com





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