Social Media

My 1987 Whole Earth Review article “Virtual Communities” is acknowledged to be the publication that put the term “virtual community” into the public lexicon, and Wikipedia recognizes that my quote in Time magazine in 1996 put the term “the social web” into the public lexicon. Nowadays, there seem to be tens of thousands of “social media gurus” or “social media ninjas.” My free advice on “the art of hosting good conversations online” (1998) seems to still be useful. Over the years, I’ve continued to write about the media that continue to fascinate me as a participant, observer, and instigator.

Electric Minds (1996)

Electric Minds deserves its own category. The archives of the original site, minus the threaded conversations, still exist. In 1995-96, I contracted entrepreneurs’ disease. Convinced that the web needed to become more social, rather than strictly a publishing medium, I was also convinced that people’s online conversations, if facilitated properly, could be refined into publishable content. The idea was to combine what is now known as “user-generated content” with what are now known as “social media.” We would publish editorially curated articles and columns about technology and digital culture, people would have conversations about that material, and the conversations could be selected and reworked by our editors. Contributors to conversations that were converted into published articles would share in the revenues. Time magazine named us one of the ten best websites of 1996, but we depended on humans to sell advertising (this was three years before Google existed), and we were out of business by 1997. It was a huge education for me. First, I learned that being ten years too early with user generated content and social media was financially disastrous. Second, I learned that you CAN give a venture capitalist a plan on a single sheet of paper and they will give you millions of dollars, but they want tens of millions in return (in fact, I learned that it’s better to ask for tens of millions for that reason), and if you don’t return their investment quickly enough, they can kick the legs out from under your venture, sell your office equipment, and put you out of business. I didn’t do another startup. I learned that the art of management in digital enterprises is beyond me: You can get a finance person, a designer, a software engineer, a marketing person together and agree on something, and war will break out between them an hour later because each of these specialties have different definitions for common English terms. People who can orchestrate these specialties are talented. I learned that many intellectuals who have not had to meet a payroll (or fail to meet a payroll) have an uninformed contempt for commerce, conflating mom and pop operations with multinational corporations. (Electric Minds marketing video, circa 1986)

Compendium of Podcasts Featuring Howard

Articles By Howard

How to plan and present an online conference (March, 2020)

The spread of coronavirus has caused the cancellation of multi-thousand-person conferences. The world of online, many-to-many communication media — audio and video, forums, blogs, mail lists, collaborative documents, slideshows, whiteboards — is like a supersaturated solution and the pandemic is the seed crystal for a state change: Even without a pandemic, the carbon footprint of transporting thousands of people thousands of miles for a two or three day meeting demands action. The time has come to at least severely reduce the number of large international face to face conferences. The good news is that the available tools are robust and either free or inexpensive. However, a successful online conference doesn’t just happen — everybody knows how to partake in keynotes, workshops, hallway conversations at face to face gatherings. The skills of presenting and participating in an online version are nowhere near as widely spread. Conveners need to document, frame, and support training into how to use the new medium, as well as plan and present the keynotes and workshops at the heart of the conference. Skilled facilitators of online discourse are a must. Fortunately, there are plenty of people with the right skills.

What the WELL’s Rise and Fall Tell Us About Online Community The Atlantic (July 6, 2012)

A meditation on community online, occasioned by the news that the WELL is for sale.

Twitter Literacy (I refuse to make up a Twittery name for it) SFGate (May, 2009)

Frustrated by the superficial way most people perceive Twitter, I wrote this to explain why and how it can be useful.

Crap Detection 101 SFGate (June, 2009)

“The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge – the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part – the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it’s up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes.”

Smartmobbing Democracy Personal Democracy Media (2009)

“In the next few years, peer-to-peer, self-organized, citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real political influence, be successfully contained by those whose power they threaten, or recede as a Utopian myth of days gone by.”

Writing, Reading, and Social Media Literacy Harvard Business Review Blog Network (2008)

“It’s time for social media literacy to enter mainstream education.

Learning to use online forums, be they social network services like MySpace and Facebook, blogs, or wikis is not a sexily contemporary add-on to the curriculum – it’s an essential part of the literacy today’s youth require for the world they inhabit. “

Mobile Media and Political Collective Action, Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies (May, 2008)

This chapter was contributed to a volume published by The MIT Press, about the use of mobile phones and SMS in organizing political collective action worldwide.

Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement  Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, MIT Press Journals (2007)

“Teaching young people how to use digital media to convey their public voices could connect youthful interest in identity exploration and social interaction with direct experiences of civic engagement.”

Howard Rheingold and Eric Kluitenberg, Mindful Disconnection: Counterpowering the Panopticon from the Inside Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte (2007)

“In this article, media experts Howard Rheingold and Eric Kluitenberg ask us to consider if unquestioned connectivity – the drive to connect everything to everything, and everyone to everyone by means of electronic media – is necessarily a good thing.”

Keeping it real about virtual living  Newsmakers CNET (2007)

“Recently, Rheingold stopped by CNET’s Second Life bureau for a conversation in the crowded theater there. He talked about his current work, his teaching, his thoughts on the future of online communities and much more.”

The tools for cultural production and distribution are in the pockets of 14 year olds Edge World Question Center (2007)

“Recent polls indicate that a majority of today’s youth — the ‘digital natives’ for whom laptops and wireless Internet connections are part of the environment, like electricity and running water — have created as well as consumed online content. I think this bodes well for the possibility that they will take the repair of the world into their own hands, instead of turning away from civic issues, or turning to nihilistic destruction.”

New Media Literacy In Education: Learning Media Use While Developing Critical Thinking Skills Robin Good’s MasterNewMedia (2007)

“The following two-part essay is the basic script for a keynote presentation that Howard Rheingold delivered a couple of weeks ago to It introduces the foundations for understanding media literacy role in today’s education and its critical importance in providing the intellectual assets required to face today’s highly complex information-based realities.”

Howard Rheingold on participatory media, public voice, civic engagement Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning Blog (2006)

“Teaching young people how to use digital media to convey their public voices could link youthful interest in identity exploration and social interaction with direct experiences of civic engagement.”

Web 2.0 Meets SmartMobs: Howard Rheingold Views On Web 2.0 – Exclusive Interview Robin Good’s MasterNewMedia (2006)

“In this text-only transcription of a video conference conversation we held a few days ago, Howard holds no diplomatic veil on over the trends and the increasingly scary obstacles that the Web 2.0 phenomenon may bring about.”

The father of virtual communities BBC News (2006)

Spencer Kelly interviewed me about online social networking for the BBC News Programme Click.

On the Pod with Howard Rheingold No Illusions Podcast (2005)

Australian podcast of an interview with me.

‘American Journalism in Digestive Tract of Disinfotainment’ OhmyNews International (2004)

“This is a graduation speech Howard Rheingold gave to the class of 2004 of the Department of Communication at Stanford University on June 12.”

Digital Communities Award Jury Statement (2004)

“Wikipedia and The World Starts With Me, the two winners of the first Golden Nicas awarded for the new Digital Communities category, exemplify the complementary aspects of virtual discourse and face-to-face action implied by the name of the category.”

“A Major Change in the Political Equation” Bloomberg Businessweek Online (2004)

“Howard Rheingold predicted the rise of online advocacy groups. Now, he talks about how they’re affecting Election 2004”

Howard Rheingold on Collective Action, Social Networks and Smart Mobs CIO Magazine (2003)

“If today’s PC and Net users aren’t vigilant, the future might not be as user-centric as the past. It all depends on what kinds of laws and restrictions will be burned into next-generation hardware and operating systems.”

Interview with Howard Rheingold (2002)

“The Internet pioneer looks at the effect of disruptive technologies on society, culture and the entertainment industry”

Topic 91: Howard Rheingold – The Virtual Community, second edition The Well (2000)

“Howard is being interviewed by Katie Hafner, a New York Times writer who is a long-time fan of Howard’s writing and thinking.”

Fresh Air Interview with Howard Rheingold (1993)

“Writer Howard Rheingold. In his newest book, “The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier” (Addison- Wesley) he argues that although computer mediated communication has made it possible for people to have access to almost anything, it is dangerous as well. Rheingold says individuals must keep using the internet as a way to express their views or they will loose the ability to do so, as the government and large corporations become more aware of the technology’s capabilities.

Articles About Howard

Podcasts featuring Howard (through February, 2021)

Interview about future forecasting, art-making, social media (July, 2018)

Podcast interview about online community, community management (October, 2016)

Summary of Keynote to Medicine-X, (September 23, 2015)

Open Media Video Interview About Network Awareness (2014)

Interview with Howard Rheingold, Sul21 (Brazil, Portuguese), November 10, 2013

Henry Jenkins interview (Part One)Confessions of an ACA/fan, August 13, 2012

Henry Jenkins interview (Part Two)Confessions of an ACA/fan, August 15, 2012

How to Get Netsmart and Use Mindfulness to Thrive Online, Elisha Goldstein, August 16, 2012

Four faces of social networking BBC News dot.Rory (2010)

“The past, the present, and the future of social networking – the four people I met on my last day in San Francisco making a series for Radio 4 all had fascinating insights into where the phenomenon had come from and where it was heading.”

Social Media Practices and Pedagogy – Social Media Classroom (February 2009)

Claire Fontaine, a student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program wrote this paper  (PDF) about the social media classroom, social media literacies, and pedagogy.

Philadelphia hit by major “smart mob” attack WHYY (2009)

“More than a hundred cellphone-packing vandals swarmed parts of South Philadelphia over the weekend in what can only be described as a major smart mob attack. The term “smart mob” was coined by futurist Howard Rheingold who uses it to describe how a geographically dispersed people can be drawn together at any moment to perform a collective action.”

Twitter 101: Social Media’s Move to College Classrooms (2009)

“Howard Rheingold, who has taught at UC Berkeley in the recent past as well as at Stanford University, is widely credited with inventing the term ‘virtual community.’ He has written numerous books on the subject. In the course outline for the Virtual Communities/Social Media class he taught this spring, he summarizes the expected learning outcomes.”

Embracing the Twitter Classroom Huffington Post (May 18, 2009)

“Bringing social media into classrooms is “challenging the 1000-yr-old paradigm that you have to learn from a master and the only way to do that is to go to lecture and take notes,” said Howard Rheingold, who teaches at UC Berkeley’s School of Communication and Stanford University. He has also developed the Social Media Classroom, a set of tools for professors to incorporate Internet-based collaboration into their classes.”

Green Wave Briefs No. 1 Slideshare (2009)

“The purpose of the analysis provided is to shed light on exactly how and why people not only distributed, but also acted on, in the words of Howard Rheingold, ‘first-hand reports, shocking images and videos that got out to the world in near real-time via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.’ As Rheingold accurately suggests, the uniquely constituted and voluminous stream of information sharing and related social action related to Iran’s election aftermath is, an ‘historical precedent.’”

Social media The Boston Globe (2009)

“Howard Rheingold, who teaches social media at Stanford and UC Berkeley and who published ‘The Virtual Community’ in 1993 and ‘Smart Mobs’ in 2002, echoed that view. ‘We are seeing very strongly that people are using social media to extend their classroom or their neighborhood or their face-to-face relations beyond what they might normally be,’ Rheingold says. ‘It’s a means of staying in touch with people that you do know in the face-to-face world.’”

New technology helps report Iranian protests ABCLocal, San Francisco News (2009)

“‘I’ve never seen coverage like this — Tiananmen Square, what did we really see, a few pictures form it? Now we are really seeing videos from the dorms as they’re being attacked, mobs protecting a BBC cameraman on the street,’ said Howard Rheingold.”

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, blogs toward… j/k, everyone. New Media Literacies Blog (2009)

“I’ve been thinking all through the holidays about Howard Rheingold’s differentiation between a ‘public’ and an ‘audience’ ….”

Social Media Practices & Pedagogy The Graduate Center, City University of New York (2009)

“The Social Media Classroom (SMC) program began as an application submitted by virtual community pioneer Howard Rheingold to the HASTAC Digital Media Learning Competition co-sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.”

Attack unravels the social Web (2009)

“‘It’s when your lights go out that you realize how dependent you are on the electrical grid. Now that we’ve experienced the lights going out at Twitter and Facebook, many people are beginning to face our dependency on online social network services,’ said Howard Rheingold, who helped invent social media in the mid-’80s and teaches social networking for both Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.”

 Say Everything – Chapter One, Putting Everything Out There [Justin Hall] (2009)

“When the Hotwired crew gathered for an introductory Thai dinner, Hall found himself seated next to the editor of the site, Howard Rheingold, the veteran of the venerable WELL online forum and author of The Virtual Community. Rheingold turned to the teenager next to him and asked, ‘What brings you to Hotwired?’”

Twitter, la crise iranienne et les mobilisations citoyennes Le Monde (2009)

“Toutes les foules ne se ressemblent pas. Ainsi, dans les mondes musulmans, les émeutes contre les caricatures danoises de Mahomet ont cédé la place à ce que Howard Rheingold a appelé les ‘foules intelligentes’. A Téhéran, elles contestent les résultats de l’élection présidentielle. Le concept de ‘smart mob’ a été développé au début des années 2000 par ce professeur de l’université Stanford, dans Foules intelligentes : la prochaine révolution sociale (M2 Editions, 2005).”

[“All crowds are not alike. Thus, in the Muslim worlds, the riots against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed have given way to what Howard Rheingold has called the ‘smart mobs’. In Tehran, they dispute the results of the presidential election. The concept of ‘smart mob’ was developed in the early 2000s by Stanford University professor, in Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (M2 Editions, 2005).”]

Better BFFs Philadelphia Inquirer (2008)

“Howard Rheingold said the things that are missing from online communications – lack of judgmental facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture – can feel like an advantage to some people.”

On Howard Rheingold’s “Smart Mobs” and Nintendo’s SMS press announcement  Infinite Lives (2008)

“I wouldn’t have called Smart Mobs: the Next Social Revolution a must-read back in 2002: although it seemed, at the time, valuable and interesting, its subject matter was not yet totally applicable or crucial. How the times have changed.”

It’s Who You Know (Or Don’t) Stanford Magazine (2008)

“‘Social networking is an intrinsically human activity that goes a long way back and is closely tied to what we consider progress and civilization—as well as nastier things like organized warfare,’ says Howard Rheingold”

Students Unleash A Pillow Fight On Manhattan The Wall Street Journal (2008)

“‘The Internet and mobile phones now make it possible for anybody to organize collective action,’ says Howard Rheingold”

Facilitación en Comunidades o Redes sociales online: Howard Rheingold El caparazón (December 30, 2008)

Facilitación en Comunidades o Redes sociales online: Howard Rheingold [Facilitation in Online Communities or Social Networks: Howard Rheingold] — summary of talk at Open University of Catalunya, Barcelona, December 2008 (Espanol)

Social, work lives collide on networking websites USA Today (January 18, 2008)

“Howard Rheingold, a blogger and author of books about online communities, recently sent all his Facebook friends a message reminding them that he doesn’t actually know everyone on his list.”

OMG! Txt msgs r 15 yrs old 🙂 (December 8, 2007)

“Since the first mobile text message was sent 15 years ago this week, it has fomented a cultural revolution in how people communicate.”

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution IdeaConnection (December 3, 2007)

“[Howard Rheingold] has a very interesting website, but more on that later in my conclusion. He recently provided me with some thoughts about the Smart Mob phenomenon”

Flash mob 2.0: Urban playground movement invites participation SFGate (November 10, 2007)

“‘This all speaks to the quintessentially human desire to gather and do something that benefits everyone in the group,’ said Howard Rheingold, author of ‘Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution’ (2002).”

‘Smart mob’ technology spurs student activism eSchool News (October 19, 2007)

“Coined in 2001 by futurist Howard Rheingold, the term ‘smart mob’ refers to a group demonstration or collective action fueled by information and communication technologies.”

“Smart mobs” are great, except in school? Think Time (October 19, 2007)

“Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term ‘smart mobs’ in a 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.”

Who’s the boss? The Sydney Morning Herald (October 16, 2007)

“Hidden away in its own corner of the internet, an online community called has thrived. For three years, the 40,000 subscribers in Australia and overseas happily chatted in forums exchanging tips and writing software to help one another build home entertainment PCs. Then, two weeks ago, they woke up to find their community had been sold”

The power of the few International Relations and Security Network (October 8, 2007)

“In fact, we are seeing what the sociologist Howard Rheingold calls a new means of social organization, with new communication channels and new codes. It is a relational planet, one that now has fewer or almost no intermediaries at every level.”

Sack the net nanny, talk to your kids The Sydney Morning Herald (September 25, 2007)

“Author and academic Howard Rheingold (pictured) says parents should educate rather than censor their children.”

Digital age spawns a new first-responder The Boston Globe (August 4, 2007)

“‘The technologies lower the barriers for collective action,’ said Howard Rheingold, author of ‘Smart Mobs,’ a book on how electronic devices spawn social networks. ‘People are able to do things together’”

Zombies haunt San Diego streets Union-Tribune, San Deigo (July 26, 2007)

“‘Just because they are using mobile phone technology to interconnect in a totally frivolous way doesn’t mean they can’t adopt it for something more serious,’ said Howard Rheingold”

Facebook: What’s In It For Journalists? Poynter (July 23, 2007)

“Howard Rheingold: ‘Social networks have been key to journalists forever — what journalist does not have a network of sources?’”

Can iPhone change the way we live? SFGate (June 26, 2007)

“Activists already have used cell phones to mobilize around a cause, such as sending text messages to rally supporters. But they could do even more with tools such as the iPhone, said Howard Rheingold, author of ‘Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution’ and who teaches at Stanford University.”

Online Activism: Media Stereotypes And The Rise Of Smart Mobs Robin Good’s MasterNewMedia (June 9, 2007)

“Howard Rheingold’s notion of the Smart Mob, empowered by technology and collective intelligence, has certainly manifested itself time and time again in recent years. The web is much less a one-way, top-down medium than television, radio or print-based mass media. As such, Internet activism in its many forms has started to flourish.”

Going Down in Flames SFGate (April 22, 2007)

“‘The rate of technology is overwhelming the slower process by which social norms form,’ explains Howard Rheingold, pioneer netizen and author of ‘The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier’ and other influential texts about technology and online life.”

Newsmaker: Keeping it real about virtual living CNET News (January 16, 2007)

“Among those who study and write about online communities, few people are as well-regarded as Howard Rheingold.”

Social Networks and Mobile Phones Make for a High-Growth Combination Telecommunications Industry News (January 2, 2007)

“Mobile social networks have been available in one form or another for several years now, but the sheer number of people participating has skyrocketed in the last few months, according to Howard Rheingold of TechNewsWorld.”

You (Plural) The Huffington Post (December 31, 2006)

“‘No global conspiracy could organize a worldwide march like that in a matter of days,’ says Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs. ‘It took millions of people who know how to use the Internet to get ten to fifteen million people on the streets of cities around the world. And it takes decentralized organizations using weblogs and e-mail and text-enabled cell phones to connect them.’”

Participatory Media and the Pedagogy of Civic ParticipationRobin Good’s MasterNewMedia (November 14, 2006)

Robin Good presents a blog post and sound files of my presentation to New Media Consortium.

Howard Rheingold about our mobile world Emerging Technology Trends (July 20, 2006)

“Howard Rheingold is the well-known author of Smart Mobs and many other books describing the evolution of our societies. … As one of the futurologists who can detect the emerging technology trends behind our daily lives, I wanted to know what Howard is thinking in 2006. And he was kind enough to agree for an interview which was conducted by e-mail in mid-June. Below are large excerpts from our exchange.”

Book Review: Smart Mobs Steve Sloan, SJSU Tech on a mission (March 24, 2006)

“This is an important book, especially for anybody interested in the future of mass communications, politics and/or our society. Rheingold talks about how portable devices, pervasive connectivity and increasingly powerful hand-held computing is leading to the creation of virtual communities tied together by their devices and not by their physical proximity.”

The world’s a cell-phone stage SFGate (February 27, 2006)

“‘I don’t think there is a precedent for something that has spread so quickly around the world to so many individuals; we’re talking about 2 billion phones around the world,’ said Howard Rheingold, digital journalism professor at Stanford and author of ‘Smart Mobs.’”

Open 11 Hybrid Space NAi Publishers (2006)

Open 11. Hybrid Space: How wireless media mobilize public space (A publication to which I contributed)

New political tool: text messaging The Christian Science Monitor (June 30, 2005)

“The Philippines in 2002 provided the first real test of the technology, says Howard Rheingold, author of ‘Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.’ Black-clad protesters, summoned together by a single line passed from phone to phone: ‘Go 2 EDSA [an acronym for a Manila street]. Wear Blck,’ eventually helped topple President Joseph Estrada.”

Collective power: ‘Smart mobs’ connect, share information on Net OJR: The Online Journalism Review (June 10, 2005)

“The trend is clear, at least for the participants in Germany’s Trend Day conference organized for the tenth year in Hamburg, on June 2: Internet and mobile phones are the keys to this inter-connected world; blogging is ‘digital word-of-mouth propaganda,’ the direct marketing and advertising of our day and of tomorrow; Web users become journalists with the advantage of services like Wikinews; and linking has become more important than products – that’s why ‘business itself should learn to google,’ said media analyst and author Howard Rheingold at the conference.”

Edge Interview with Howard Rheingold (July, 2002)

John Brockman interviewed me about Smart Mobs, which had been published the previous October.

West Coast Live Radio Interview (1994)

Videos of Howard

A good 20 minute conversation with Renee Hobbs about literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, network know-how (June, 2015)

NPR Interview about social network services challenging Facebook (October 5, 2014)

In which NPR’s Ari Shapiro calls me (not my wording!) a “Jedi Master” of social media.

Interview by Steve Hargadon for Classroom 2.0 (April 4, 2012)

Steve Hargadon is a great interviewer, and about 80 members of his active Classroom 2.0 community joined via text chat. The recording includes audio, video, slides, and text chat. You will be asked to allow the download and launch of a Java applet, then use the player controls to play the recording.

Presentation to New Media Consortium on Net Smart (March 22, 2012)

This recording includes the audio, video, slides, and backchannel chat from the first online presentation about Net Smart. The audio in the first 30 seconds is off, but fine after that.

BBC – The Virtual Revolution (October 9, 2009)

This is a sequence from Digital Revolution presenter Aleks Krotoski’s interview with Howard as part of programme one’s filming in the USA.

Smartmobs Revisited, Mobile Monday, Amsterdam (June 1, 2009)

“In 2002, Rheingold published Smart Mobs, exploring the potential for technology to augment collective intelligence. Now, 7 years later, Howard revisits for the first time the points he made in the book and checks what has and has not happened.”

 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum 2009: Howard Rheingold on “Smart Mobs” (June 4, 2009)

I was interviewed briefly (3 minutes) after talking to the Global Media Forum about media, cooperation, collective action, and smart mobs.

21st Century Literacies (July, 2009)

I spoke about 21st century literacies at the Reboot Britain event in London, July, 2009. (About 40 minutes)

Howard Rheingold on Essential Media Literacies, Cambridge, UK (July 18, 2009)

J.D. Lasica briefly interviews me (6 minutes) about the social media literacies I discussed earlier at Reboot Britain, and which became the subject of Net Smart.

Newsweek On Electric Minds (1997)

Newsweek quoted me on my idea that the Web would be used for social communication

 Ars Electronica — Linz Austria (1994 and 2004)

Ars Electronica has published video of two talks I made about virtual communities and the role of social media in the public sphere in 1994 and 2004.

BBC Horizon — The Electronic Frontier (1993)

This was uploaded from a VHS tape of one of the earliest television programs about what are now called social media

Computer Chronicles (1993)

I demonstrate the WELL and talk about virtual communities and their implications.