Communities of practice and instant gratification

This week’s readings have centered on communities of practice.  Although I was not previously familiar with the term, this is something that I utilize and benefit from constantly.  It was interesting to read about an idea that has become so embedded in my life without me realizing it.  Years ago, I searched for information on specific topics in an effort to perform research, but today, I Google nearly everything.  The items that I Google are often extremely random question that I am seeking a quick and immediate answer to.  For example, in the past 24 hours, I have Googled the following questions seeking instant gratification:

How do you cook tofu?

How fast do cyclists go in Tour De France?

What movie has the song “tiny dancer” in it?

The answers to all three of these questions were delivered to me by a community of practice.  The first search directed me to the website Savvy Vegetarian.  The site supports vegetarian & vegan diets and is comprised of a community randing from life-long veg to those just thinking about it.  The site’s goal is to provide/promote “easy recipes, simple cooking, health eating, green living.”  The second and third search directed me to Yahoo! Answers, a forum where people ask and answer each other’s questions and readers rank the answers based on validity.  Although the Savvy Vegetarian and Yahoo! Answers have a different scope, they are similar in that they are based on the open sharing of knowledge.  Individuals with different skillsets collaborate in order to inform novices and share learnings relative to their topic of expertise.

As more and more communities of practice find their home online, more and more individuals have access and are able to get involved and benefit from them.  This is particularly interesting in regards to communities that are seeking the development of new technology and innovation because the online space has the ability to drastically decrease the time between problem designation and solution development.   As a result, my question to the class would be, what industry can/has benefit(ed) the most from online communities of practice?

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