Building Community

At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week I attended the session “Community Building: Good, Bad, and Ugly.” More than anything else, it reminded me of the “Building Community” session hosted by Laura Scott of pingVision that I attended a year ago at the OSCMS 2007 conference in Sunnyvale last April. I went to Laura’s session with no expectations (there was nothing else in that time slot I wanted to attend) and was really pleased to find the discussion relevant with tangible, actionable ideas I understood and could use. I’ve been meaning to post my notes from that session for a year and now I’m finally motived. So, here they are!

In addition to these notes, video of the OSCMS session is available. I am the second person to Laura’s right.

If people have more to add and express interest in the comments, I’ll turn this page into a wiki.

What makes a community?

  • People
  • Conversations
  • Volunteers
  • Long, deep threads
  • Recognition for contributors
  • Guidelines
  • Identity
  • Diversity
  • Relevance
  • Passion
  • Maintenance (by the site owners)
  • Courteousness
  • Shared actions
  • Moderation
  • Structure
  • Q&A, support forums

Why do people go to a community site?

  • Sense of community/belonging
  • Content
  • Shared bond
  • Help
  • Diversion
  • Friends
  • Ego
  • Achieve common tasks
  • Belonging

How do you build this technically?

  • Don’t over-moderate most passionate users. Allow non-destructive flamewars.
  • Rewards for participation (increased authority/recognition).
  • Greet newcomers.
  • Meet in person.
  • Offer a short-term benefit to joining.
  • Ask: What value am I providing?
  • “Heroin content” &mdash: what people will come back for.
  • Continuous activity
  • Relate people based on their attributes.
  • “Curation.” Identify important past content to bring in new users and bring them up to speed.
  • Offer feeds on interesting topics.
  • Mentors for new users.
  • New member orientation.
  • Women’s Only group: less intimidating.
  • Feedback loop: survey users to see how things are going.
  • Aging membership: cull inactive users.
  • Archive content; related to curating.
  • Long shelf-life for content. Keep it available as the long tail. SEO.
  • Provide leadership positions, but term limits can be important.
  • Transparency in moderation, leadership, and selection of leaders.
  • Manage/leverage hierarchy.
  • Limit # of posts per day per person per topic: make people censor themselves into relevancy.
  • Keep software up to date.