The virtual community is, in reality, at best a bunch of people disagreeing and regularly indulging in shark-like small group attacks. The WELL, of which Howard speaks so much, hounded one of its early members - Blair - to his death by suicide, a matter described, but not really examined with much thoroughness. Yes, he touches on flaming, but does not examine a deeper pattern of common harrasment, particularly of outliers. How Howard himself participated in this type of online gang harassment activity, not understanding the man, Blair, and discounting his claims out of hand is a quite interesting story. He touches on this, and gives an account, which would be acceptable in a personal autobiography. But to leave it where he does in a book purporting to be a seminal piece on virtual community is truly remarkably remiss. Since the record is all there, or was, it could have been given serious consideration.
The conflicting interests, and the commonly irresponsible behavior of people online - viciousness, gratuitous, undeserved nastiness, intellectual dishonesty - looking for targets to vent on is not explored as it should be. This is quite common outside of the world of flaming.
This book is a gloss piece, advertising for something that doesn't really exist as he claims. Howard, while a pleasant guy personally, does not show himself a deep thinker, and may not be much of an observer either. Nor is the author ready, willing or able to take on anything that is likely to upset the herd of which he has become something of a starring member. The story of virtual community is not such a very nice one in many ways.
The underside of the story of virtual community is a story of psychological denial, denial about a great deal. It is a story of in-groups and out-groups, and a good deal more, something which requires an anhtropologists eye, and someone with more nerve.
Go ahead and read this book. But understand that the book itself is evidence of the degree of denial which pervades the "virtual community".