I have reflected a couple times on building communities of inventive kids. This post by Mark Szpakowski describes the kind of thing I believe could get kids hooked on learning and sharing:
I've been watching how my 9-year-old son is making use of the Lego Mindstorms community and associated sites: he's self-educating himself, making use of both books and online resources. The lego robotics forums let him see what builders all over the world are constructing, complete with digital photos of construction details. He refers to these in his own building projects, always with variations due to different parts, etc.
In the Mindstorms forums you can find dozens of kids exchanging tips and undertaking all kinds of cool projects. Makes me wish I'd had something like that when I was their age.
From my side of the bed, I can tell you this: in Mexico, blogs have helped balance who is published, who is considered a writer, what can be said, reviewed or what new agents appear.
That used to be a decision taken by a man in a Mexico City office. Now anybody can publish (even several times a day whatever she-he wants). And people get readers. An then readers turn into new writers. Some good ones have appeared—the left out by the State presses for “Young Literature”.
Value placed on articulateness. Gossip. Lying. Misleading. Verbal humour. Humorous insults. Poetic and rhetorical speech forms. Narrative and storytelling. Metaphor.
Binary distinctions, including male and female, black and white, natural and cultural, good and bad. Measures. Logical relations including "not", "and", "same", "equivalent", "opposite", general versus particular, part versus whole.
Status and prestige, both assigned (by kinship, age, sex) and achieved. Some degree of economic inequality.
Exchange of labor, goods and services,. Reciprocity, including retaliation. Gifts. Social Reasoning. Coalitions. Government, in the sense of binding collective decisions about public affairs. Leaders, almost always non-dictatorial, perhaps ephemeral. Laws, rights, and obligations, including laws against violence, rape and murder. Punishment. Conflict, which is deplored. Rape. Seeking of redress for wrongs. Mediation. In-group/out-group conflicts. Property. Inheritance of property. Sense of right and wrong. Envy.
Obviously, this is not a list of instincts or innate psychological propensities; it is a list of complex interactions between a universal human nature and the conditions of living in a human body on this planet.
By the way, Matt's blog, Interconnected, is excellent. Consistently delivering delightful food for thought to inquisitive minds. Pay a visit if you've never been there.
If you have bandwidth to spare and have a pixellation fetish, I recommend you have a look at the White Stripes' video for the energetic Fell in Love With a Girl (in Lego stop motion animation) and at Video Computer System (great stuff for all of you Atari 2600 nostalgics).
I got there via Ivar Hagendoorn's excellent music videos page. (Chris led me there.) Funny, Ivar seems to have almost exactly the same tastes as mine.
Joel Spolsky's very well-written piece titled "Building Communities with Software" provides insightful perspectives on what makes online communities work. Spolsky makes a good case for simplicity in design; he has paid attention to the tradeoffs inherent in many implementation details. The key idea:
In software, as in architecture, design decisions are just as important to the type of community that develops or fails to develop. When you make something easy, people do it more often. When you make something hard, people do it less often. In this way you can gently encourage people to behave in certain ways which determine the character and quality of the community.
More on building communities here, and in chromatic's piece here.