This article has grown out of the running discussion that was had on BoingBoing not that long ago
It should come as no surprise that I am dismissive of the notion of online "community." The term is now used rather loosely in many instances with no regards for the tradition of that word. I'm not denying that no communication takes place, rather I am making a conjecture that this communication does not in and of itself reach the standards of such an intimate word as community.
Keep in mind I'm not addressing the separate notion of "social network" as this is a sort of later development. I am looking at the old and still very much alive system of the comment section.
In a way you can understand the notion of "community" as being borrowed from the older styles of discourse via academic periodicals. One academic writes a lengthy formulaic work that discusses some of the finer points of his discipline. In a few months time, the more provocative works might garnish a rebuttal or two, and in a sense the "discussion" might continue over the course of a year or many years.
Now, here we ask, does this periodical represent a community? The answer here is yes. As the periodical is more then likely peer reviewed and has a full time editing staff. So we can be sure that anyone who might not truly be a part of the community WILL NOT be able to effectively toss his ideas into that community via a sample of his writing. However, keep in mind, this is important for later, he/she is not prevented from reading this discussion. He may read and formulate on his own, but he is not a true member of the community and thus he is unable to commune with it, via the periodical.
Now in modern times with the advent of new forms of expression and communication this slow format has been accelerated. The near instantaniousness of communications however isn't the most important facet of this. What has been lost in this wave of technological change is that fact that the Internet comment section has always functioned in a periodical manner.
However, now, instead of having editorial boards and peer reviewers everyone is invited to comment as they will. This is done in spite of the fact many of these webpages are fashioned after the old notion that this online periodical is representative of a community when in fact the comments are open to the pseudonymous public.
My basic point is this, the two ideas are now at odds with one another; a physical periodical with its board of reviewers can maintain its position as a representation of A community, a webpage, on the other hand, with its lack of such regulations cannot in the end consider itself a community beyond its vetted and regular posters. They are the only community present on such a webpage.
The public nature of the web breaks down the older traditional notion of a community enshrined in words and curated by the an editor(s). In the end I think the reality is obvious, a web page's "community" is not contained within its comment section. As the pseudonymity does not allow for proper editing or vetting of such contributions and the orginal writers are so overloaded with comments that they may not respond in-kind. After all, we've all seen those forums, and websites that are just chocked full of useless drivel that you must dig through to find what you need, if you can.
So we must come to terms with the fact that the web in its rawest form is not capable of sustaining a community. Once this is understood all the frustration and misunderstanding all come to new light. It's so large we've been standing on it the whole time.