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Finding a Common Thread in the Online Haystack

Common threads often create a trust that is virtually unbreakable. Whether based on race, sex, alumni group, hometown or affliction, the more specific these ties are, the stronger the bonds between people often become.

In a sea of news sites casting wide nets to capture as many viewers as possible, as well as social networking sites attracting millions of users, a common thread becomes more powerful than you may think. They sway opinions, generate confidence and incite ambition.

Head-Turning Moves

Personally, any site that doesn’t make someone feel like a guppy in an ocean gets a thumbs-up from me. I can’t be the only one who feels like “User No. 1,138,229” when browsing MySpace pages. Plenty of Web surfers crave the feeling that online communities can provide — that “they’re just like me.”

This isn’t an earth-shattering observation, as commonalities have been the focuses of multiple social networks and news sites in the past. However, a few newbie sites are making some head-turning moves that I feel are downright brilliant and worthy of discussion.

A Sense of Community

  • Disaboom. This is a community for people who are living with or are impacted by disabilities or functional limitations. The site focuses on health, living and community issues, and includes videos, blogs and chat rooms.

    Disaboom, which launched in the fall of 2007 and left beta last week, is a startup to watch. Along with acquiring theLovebyrd.com dating site for people living with disabilities, Disaboom has apparently impressed Madison Avenue, as its partners list includes Ford, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Avis and RE/MAX.

  • WebTribes. This is another relatively new (founded in 2006) site for people who have certain challenges in common. Specifically, WebTribes offers community support for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, addiction, HIV and AIDS. The site inspires a sense of community by inviting visitors to join a tribe that focuses on each specific condition, and with “tribe vibes” — inspirational messages users send to each other.
  • The Root. The Washington Post Co.’s Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive launched this news site targeting the black community.

    The site, which includes blogs, video interviews and genealogical information, is the brainchild of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, and Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co.

    “The Root aims to be an unprecedented departure from traditional American journalism, raising the profile of black voices in mainstream media and engaging anyone interested in black culture around the world,” according to the company.

These three individual sites are a breath of fresh air for many who might otherwise find themselves lost in the wide Web.

Click here to e-mail Rachelle Crum.

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