Joel on Software points to a great article by Clay Shirky on why a Group is its Own Worst Enemy. Joel points out that that he was rediscovering something about social software that Clay had documented 4 years ago. Similarly, I can’t believe I hadn’t found Clay’s article before.
The article captures the challenges of building online communities and the need to provide structures for those communities better than anything else I’ve read. There are a lot of articles that will describe the things you need to do to be successful in building online community, but this is the first article I’ve read that makes a compelling, rational argument for why groups of people are so likely to fail and how you can’t separate the technology from the social structure.
I can’t recommend this article enough. Great stuff for anyone trying to build community online.