Communities are basically the Google+ version of a forum or group; they’re a place where people of similar interests can gather and talk about that common interest.
You might wonder how that’s different than circles. After all, don’t they already let you sort people into categories by interest? Well, yes, they do, but those are categorizations that YOU impose on THEM, and the other person may not even know you’ve put them in that category.
A community is different. If you were to go to Google+ and add me to your Writing circle, you’re going see everything I share publicly in that circle, whether you want to or not. There’s no way for you to filter out my non-writing posts. On the other hand, if we’re both members of a writing community, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll only be sharing writing posts in that community, or else I may get kicked out by the owner and/or moderators. They’ve also considered the spam issue, and they flag suspicious messages that are posted. They’re held with a visual indicator, awaiting approval or deletion by moderators or the community owner.
In having created several communities of my own at this point and spent the better part of an evening playing around with them, they do add a lot to the Google+ experience. Though this is definitely a feature along the lines of “Now we’ve got this thing that we were missing and we’re not missing it anymore,” not an exciting new advance in social networks that will leave people wondering why nobody had ever thought of it before.
If you’re spending a lot of time on Google+, you’ll want to get a handle on what communities bring to the table pretty quick. With that in mind, I’m preparing another post on the subject, explaining exactly how they work as a user, and what you’ll experience if you decide the time is right to create a community of your own.
We certainly haven’t wasted any time on the community front. Our own John Poz created the Geeks community and a Photoshop community for Photoshop geeks, and I have two myself, The Writers Community and a Fiction Improbable community centered around my personal sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk and horror writing endeavours.
Have you joined any communities yet? Maybe you’ve created one? Let us know in the comments!
It has come to my attention that some people are running into problems using Communities. They’re unable to join them, and can’t see posts properly in some cases. I had this experience early on myself. It turned out that a Google Chrome extension was the culprit. If you have installed the “G+ Extend” extension, disable it, and Communities should work properly. I am planning a followup post to this one that goes over Communities in great detail, and I’ll have more about this in that.
Also be aware that as this is a brand new major feature, you won’t be able to take advantage of it on mobile app versions of G+ until the apps are updated.