The first web portal or big web project I ever worked on was ZDNet. It was mid- to late 90s and they were in a dogfight with C|Net for audience. The key care-abouts were what they called the the 3Cs: Content, Commerce and Community.
Content was what ZDNet owned, having come out of the print publishing area. Commerce was all about hooking up buyers and sellers rather than selling on the site and Community was more about aggregating a class of reader than about creating interaction among those readers.
This was all before social networking and social media took off. These ZDNet guys and girls were inventing community and social on the fly. Community is still a big wielder of weight on the web. It’s mobile and location based, and, and, and, but it is still ripe fruit.
Many builders of community look at the offline world for inspiration: book clubs, quilters, home brewers, support groups. People who used to meet in houses or libraries – willing to commune over a topic. But what’s exciting and entrepreneurial today, though, is bringing together communities of like-minds interested in topics not found in the offline world. Quora would be a good place to mine for these. Moreover, it might be a good place to start these communities. Ning attempted to cash in here, but it was cumbersome and had to be orchestrated. Quora already has the settlers. Mick Jagger might say “It’s just a click away.” Peace!