Howard Rheingold, one of my early influences when it comes to online communities (way back in the olden days of BBS and dial-up modems), is now writing a blog for the web version of a very mainstream old media outlet, the San Francisco Chronicle.

In it he plans to “raise issues about 21st century literacies, life online, and — to be true to blogger eclecticism — whatever I feel moved to write about”.

And Rheingold is eminently qualified to speak about living online. He’s one of the few around today who can honestly say “been there, done that”.

The Virtual Community, his book from 1993, is still an excellent read if you’re curious about the origins of all this social networking stuff.

Ten years later, he updated the evolution of those virtual communities in Smart Mobs, which described the burgeoning impact of wireless networks on society.

Rheingold is a very wise, although somewhat underheard, voice of wisdom and experience in these days of chaotically expanding online social networks. And someone worth following.