This is a very important question, I think. What are we, after all? I guess the best place to start is what we have here right now, which sl4ck0ff admirably summarizes. We have some news, some analysis of current and historical events, we have discussions on the above, and a place for individuals to be themselves (diaries).
What traditionally defines a community? Most commonly, it's geography. A community is a group of people who share roughly the same space, like a neighborhood, a town, or a country. We have that-- our "space" is the pages of this site.
So, right now, the site itself is some kind of combination of town hall, coffee house, and confessional. That's the "building" side of it-- basically, that's what is allowed by the place where we interact.
But there's more to a community. It's rare for a high-rise apartment complex to be a "community" these days. It's a group of people who share roughly the same space, but it's not a community unless they interact with each other.
So even more important than the building, IMO, is the people. We have a group of people who are interested in a lot of the same topics, even if we don't always agree on where we come down on them. We have a pretty wide range of people, which all bring their own perspective to hand. Even if they don't all comment as much as the high school boys ( ;-) ), we have people of all ages and genders, from dozens of countries, in all stages of life from education to retirement, who are willing to share their perspective on things with everyone else, or who are willing to open their eyes and try to see things from someone else's view.
I've been thinking about this question for a while now, but this story really helped me to clarify exactly what it is I'm thinking about. My thoughts have been along the lines of "where does the site go from here"? But the real question buried within that is "where does this community want to go"? What do we want to be when we grow up, basically? Should we remain completely focused on topical discussion, or is there more that we can collectively do? My feeling is that any community that doesn't grow and change is doomed to stagnate and die. I don't think we can keep on doing the same thing forever, or, to phrase it better, that we can keep doing *only* this forever.
Of course, what we are now will always be the central kernel of what K5 is as a community. You can't maintain a community without a central meeting place, and a way for everyone to interact. But, aside from a number of existing things that ought to be done better, the basic platform for that is pretty much done. We have been focused on building the community, to gain what we have now. So what do we want to do with ourselves?
Right now, things are pretty good. Please don't misunderstand this to be saying that we need to change right this instant. What I'm getting at is that we will need a direction in which to point ourselves. I think the initial founding idea of the site has been proven. Yes, a community can in fact determine what it wants to talk about, without strong control from an editorial cabal (TINK5C). Basically, there can be such a thing as a self-organizing online collective. What I want to know is, what should we prove next?
Would it be good to branch out into a wider range of topics, for people to share knowlege on what they're into, beyond the current scope of tech & culture? Maybe the section/topic structure should be opened to allow extension by anyone. I know that there are people who are interested in cooking, parenting, recreational firearms, paintball, computer game development, art, cosmology, politics... the list goes on. Would it be worthwhile to spread more into the topics that we don't necessarily all have an interest in?
Perhaps that is the next stage of life. I've defined the subject up until now, pretty loosely, but still. Maybe the next step is to allow the community to determine entirely what it wants the site to be about.
Yes, this is a kind of "Usenet: The Next Generation" idea. Usenet was an incredibly powerful concept, that didn't quite make it technologically. Much like I tried to recreate what was good about Slashdot, and fix what I thought was wrong with it, maybe we should set our sights on recreating what was good about usenet, and fixing what was bad.
Of course, this is just one idea. What do you want to do? Should we not change a thing? Should we go in some totally different direction? What do we want to be when we grow up?
Not the real rusty