There's a fascinating discussion going on at Making Light about Wikipedia. I've participated in a couple minor edits there and made some comments on articles under discussion for deletion - I'm certainly not a Wikipedia regular. However, I'd like to see the problems get worked out there. I find myself wondering, after reading the comments on ML, is it possible that part of the problem is that we're still a generation or two away from being completely comfortable and conversant with being members of virtual communities?
I wish I had the luxury of time to take and explore this fully. I would love to do nothing but read and research and interview until I had a better grip on the nebulous thoughts I have about what virtual community life really means. It's a huge part of my life - at work as well. For example, my main partner at work is in Amsterdam - we mostly get our work done via email and conference calls. Meetings are done online and there are a host of online collaboration tools we use, as well.
Right now my best friends are online friends. Offline, I pretty much only meet people at work. With those people, outside of work we have little in common, so they don't reach out to socialize with me and I honestly can't think of a way to reach out to them, either. Add to it the distances most people have to commute to work these days, (at least where I live). So, even if I met someone at work with whom I shared a number of interests, I don't live in their neigborhood, which makes sustaining friendships challenging for both parties - somebody is going to have to drive quite some distance to get together to make it work. I guess I could join local clubs or take classes and "get out more" but I'm rather impatient with the amount of time it takes to establish meaningful connections that way.
With my online friends we have met due to common interests and enjoy talking about the same things and our interactions aren't constrained by time or geography. I can start a conversation on a thread at AW or here in my blog or in the comments of their blogs and if they're not available right now, well, sooner or later they'll reply. I know I'm not alone in this - given the growing numbers of online communities - from forums, to MySpace, to Second Life, to MMPORPGs, these are all groups of people with common interests, finding each other and establishing friendships and connections, many (most?) without any interaction outside of the virtual world.
So what impact will a growing virtual world have on the future - on my children just entering the adult world, and on their children? That fascinates the heck out of me. Like my great-grandmother who was born before the turn of the 20th century and saw enormous change - from horse and wagon as the primary mode of transportation to watching a man land on the Moon - it's an interesting time to be alive, watching the growth of the virtual world.