It's fun to see all the Nancy Whites when you use google images. Very different people, all called Nancy White. But I guess this is the right picture of the Nancy White who wrote an interesting piece on the Knowledge Tree called blogs and community- launching a new paradigm for online community?
In it she distinguishes 3 types of blogging communities:
1. The single blog/blogger centric community with the power vested in the central blogger.
2. The Central connecting topic community which is a community that arises between blogs linked by a common passion or topic.
3. The boundaried communities like myspaces or multiply where members register and join and are offered the chance to create a blog.
I'm particularly happy with the distinction between 1 and 2 versus 3, because I think that it is a completely different use of the medium blog, to use it within a boundaried community. A blog in itself is a very simplistic software with not too special features, but it is the use that people make of it that makes a difference. I have the impression boundaried communities blog are more often used for friendship blogs than professional blogs, and may be more within the paradigm of the bulletin board systems. As distinguished from the 'blogosphere' with it own culture of linking and hyperlinking. But, as Nancy states, the three forms are to show the extremes, and in reality there are hybrid forms.
What she does not talk about in this article, but what really interests me, is the story the other way around; how do existing communities of practice stimulate blogging and how does blogging or blogs change the community of practice? I think it is true that communities may be formed around blogs, but I think there is often a step before the blogging community where people have connected through other ways (conferences, face-to-face events, online courses, etc). How do blogs enhance the permeability of the community of practice? In this video Nancy White talks about blogs as perfect tools for crossing boundaries between communities. For instance, the people in Ghana with whom I work may read my blog, as may the people in CPsquare, colleagues from IICD, etc.