Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Communities ...

Here is an interesting post about communities ... about how to run communities ... Rob Howard has written a rather interesting piece about this. There are a few points here which i wanted to write about ...

Firstly, there is the point about generating value. This is an interesting part. Actually, this is the chicken-and-egg situation which i have written about before. With communities, people wont adopt till they find value, and communities wont generate value till people adopt. And it is this cycle which needs to be addressed by organizational intervention. Of course, different ways would be used in different scenarios, but one way could be to identify community evangelists, or managers, if you will, who can spread the word ... generate awareness about communities, and the value these communities can generate for people who join in. Of course, this would need to be supplemented by some sort of rewards program which the organization would need to bring in.

Of course, this idea of value also brings to the point that when people join a community, they are, more often than not, looking at getting, rather than giving ... and hence, the organization may need to invest expertise into building some content, some expertise sharing, to attract people to sort of follow the experts. This could be one way of getting out of the cycle. Of course, this still doesnt address the basic problem. If the only reason people join the community is to read the comments of these experts, the community would stagnate over a period of time ... how lang can one or two experts sustain a community? Not long enough, one would think. Which means, that over a period of time, there would need to be some means of inviting more and more people to write, to share, and give, rather than passive receivers. Some form of value for contributors to the community must be developed. Here again, different things work for different people, which means that a rewards mechanism which reaches out to a maximum number of folks would be helpful. Recognition, perhaps? Or, maybe, brownie points? Or, maybe this kind of mechanism for advertising the contributions of people?

The most important point Rob raises is about the value of the community. Since the community is going to oeprate in a articular context, it is a little easier to identify where the community should have reached, or what the community should have delivered after a period of time, and this should be more than simply number of posts, number of replies, etc. (which, by the way, is the way a lot of organizations i have interacted with measure ...). Having said this, there must be some form of balance between the achievement of the community, and the contribution of individuals. The temptation to hide individuals beneath the umbrella of the community is high, but it must not be given in to. Otherwise, over a period of time, you end up driving away people from the community.

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