Building online communities

My friend (and fellow Be2camp member) Jim McHale of Memoori has just blogged some guidance from 2002 about building online communities:

  • Exist for a reason – a community has to promote a collective goal.
  • Users draw other users – Your most active users will draw more users than you ever will. Referrals might bring new members to the site but the community will make them return.
  • Users will surprise you – Issues and themes you find important may never really resonate with your users.
  • A sense of ownership – Regular users will develop a sense of community ownership which could manifest itself it positive and negative ways.
  • You will never please all users – Remember they are in the minority.
  • The first contribution – The easier it is to join a conversation, the more visitors will become contributors. Don’t put unnecessary barriers in the way.
  • The interface – Create an easy to use, intuitive user interface. Given the advances in Web technologies there are now no excuses (see my previous blog post).
  • Mischief – There will be arguments and trouble makers like any community. Plan for trouble. Set simple rules. Make them explicit. Apply them consistently. [Perhaps something for Building magazine to consider in relation to its discussion forums? See my Beware of the trolls post and follow-up.]
  • Discuss the community openly – Be honest and open about your plans as early as possible. You might be able to get feedback from the community to develop better ideas.

Martin Brown (Isite) and I are trying to facilitate the establishment of a new online community for AEC people focused on integrated collaborative working – basically combining and extending two existing offline networks established by Constructing Excellence – so I will bear this advice in mind when we all meet next week. It is also worth considering in relation to our Web 2.0 efforts with Be2camp and with the recently-formed AEC network (both on Ning) and to related efforts on LinkedIn and Facebook. Thanks, Jim, for that timely post.

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    • Jim McHale on 15 January 2009 at 10:47 pm

    “Martin Brown (Isite) and I are trying to facilitate the establishment of a new online community for AEC people focused on integrated collaborative working” – Good to hear about this Paul. Integrated online collaborative working is now standard in some industries so why not AEC? Just look at what the Open Source software community has achieved – Linux / Apache / Ruby on Rails – I could go on and on…

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