Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cyber Communities

Lots of sociologists are already studying the formation of “virtual communities” on the world wide web, so I don’t wish to tread on anyone more qualified than I. However, as a novice webmaster I was surprised and tickled to discover that there was a “Brotherhood of Webmasters”—a sort of loose-knit and totally informal, but supportive, online community of webmasters.

When I first launched in July 2004, other webmasters wrote out of the blue to offer congratulations, suggestions, and practical advice. One webmaster downsized my graphics and posted them on his site for me to get! Another told me how to use affiliate programs to earn some revenue from visits, another suggested ways to use Google, another offered advice on keywords, another pointed out technical problems with my site.

Understand that these comments were unsolicited and offered out of a sense of comradeship—either because they liked the mission of the site, or because of some sense of brotherhood among webmasters. Now that I have learned a thing or two about running websites, I often return the favor by making suggestions to other webmasters.

In addition to this community of webmasters, there are ringmasters! These are individuals who voluntarily maintain webrings, linked rings of sites that share some common theme. My ringmaster is James Huggins, and he has a great site that explains webrings. There are also folks that maintain sites with free tutorials (I learned how to write my site from Dave Kristula), libraries of JavaScript code, website design tips, and open-source software. There is a lot of give and take, sharing of information and ideas, all of which makes the Internet a fun place to hang out!

I am not a fan of “chat rooms” and I don’t IM, although I see the attraction of the real-time talk. However, there are also online communities like and, where people post information about themselves and link up with friends, and friends of friends. Maybe this reflects my age, but this category of communities doesn’t appeal to me as much. They seem to be vastly popular with the 20-somethings, though. However you cut it, there is a lot of communicating going on!

Here’s a fun trick that a webmaster shared with me: You can talk to your favorite webmaster by typing messages into a Google search box. Allow me to demonstrate: say you wanted to tell Dave Kristula how much you appreciate his free HTML tutorial.

In the Google search box, type “ Dave you’re the best” then hit enter. Google will pull up the listing for, and when you click on it, your search terms (a.k.a. your message to Dave) will show up in his web statistics log. (So let’s all Google a message to Stephanie, webgoddess of!)

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