For the last few months my colleague, Ujwal Arkalgud, and I have been researching the communities of Digg and Reddit to determine the role that culture plays in online communities. We went into the research unsure of what we would learn, and came out with some pretty amazing and useful findings. First, we found that culture absolutely plays a role in the building and proliferation of online communities. More specifically, there are specific counter-cultural elements pertaining to design, social interaction and structure that are essential for every online community. We have seen these elements manifest themselves in older communities like the WELL and Tribe.net as well as the leading communities today like Digg and Reddit.
Second, we found that the further an online community moves away from these core counter-cultural characteristics, the weaker the community becomes. As communities approach the 'break point' they begin to take the form of groups, content distribution and syndication networks.
Based on these findings, we were able to pin-point 6 key counter-cultural elements necessary for an online community to be successful, and use them to develop specific recommendations for building or activating an online community.
Check out our research report for the full lists, findings and full research.