On small communities:
Over the past few months I've joined a few of the tilde.club spin-offs. Of all the places to socialize on the web, the "tildeverse," as it's called, has been my favorite. A lot of things about a shared Unix server as your "community" appeals to me: it's occupied exclusively by others with similar interests (computers), it has much more human mentality, and all its communication tools are pure utility-- no social/viral/clickbait/monetizing/marketing rigmarole.
It's amazing what you can do when you get a group of people with similar interests together. Multiple personalities come together and ultimately build a cohesive amalgamation of what they care about. And there's something even more amazing about it: it's nothing new. A colleague old enough to know mentioned b1tchez.org, "the first female run hack box" from the 90's as an example. No one's writing flashy new chat clients there; they're using IRC and Unix tools that have been around for decades to provide a virtual sandbox for all its users. This means a few things:
- There's no central development. Someone puts up the server and keeps it running, but all the users are on time-tested protocols, programs, and utilities that enable interaction
- Users directly build the community. As a user, you are afforded the freedom to build what you want, whether it's a home page filled with gifs and music, or a guestbook or chat bot or script for generating web pages.
- There is a general urge to make the community a good one. Everyone operates under the expectation they won't bring the system down or abuse others. It's like the virtual version of your grandma's house, not the dive bar where everyone in town goes.
I think it's important to recognize the timelessness of bringing people together over a common interest. You may not reach "critical mass" this way, or become the next Facebook. But if you provide the perfect user-driven environment for passionate people to grow within, you will have something far more valuable than anything the big social networks can offer.