The notion that has haunted me since I first heard it a few months ago is Facebook founder Dave Zuckerberg's observation that you can't really create communities; what you need to do is find a way to serve a community that already exists. The way to do, he says, is with "elegant organization."
This seems hugely promising for us. Communities do indeed already exist around many of the events and issues we deal with all the time – geographic interests, social interests, political interests. We can create elegant ways to serve people who want the latest verified, unfiltered news from Baghdad; who want to find local place to read their poetry in public; who want to join other fans in painting their faces blue and white (or green and gold, or whatever your local team colors are).
Zuckerberg went on to explain that communities already exist and the question these [news] magnates should ask instead is how they can help them to do what they want to do. Zuckerberg’s prescription was “elegant organisation”. That is what he brought to Harvard’s community when he started Facebook, then to more colleges, high schools and companies (including half the BBC, which has 10,000 friends, says its director of global news Richard Sambrook). And now it is open to the rest of us.
Howard Owens has thoughts about the intersection of Facebook and news on his blog, too; find them here, and here.
And BTW, the best way to explore this is to go join Facebook. Search for "Howard Weaver" and send me a request. I promise you'll have at least one friend :)