Online communities are virtual gathering places where members interact with other members and administrators of that community through the Internet. As technology has progressed, online communities have evolved to now include features such as surveying, crowd sourcing, voting on or prioritizing concepts or ideas, and participating in live chat sessions.
Many online communities are considered peer-to-peer communities, characterized as a virtual space created by users for the purpose of communicating with other users regarding a specific interest. There are also examples of online communities that have been developed by the private sector as platforms for gathering customer insights into brand and marketing strategies. Many private-sector companies utilize online communities as brand and product research laboratories, leveraging the flexibility of the online community to quickly and efficiently communicate with customers.
More recently, local and state and federal government agencies have recognized that online communities are effective mediums to gather feedback from their constituents on public policy issues, and they have begun using them for that purpose.
This report focuses primarily on online communities that can provide decision makers with insight to help them evaluate the feasibility of developing just such an online community for State of Texas decision makers.