Sunday, January 11, 2009

Building a successful online community

From the Creating Passionate Users blog comes Building a successful online community

The article in the above link claims that the way to build a successful online community is to "be nice". Being nice is OK but I don't think that communities should be founded upon such terms. I object to such a standard, first, because it is not possible to objectively evaluate what it is to be "nice" and, second, because it does in fact suppress many various forms and modes of communication, the very forms and modes which are possible to evaluate objectively.

The author also likens the blog to a dinner party. I don't agree. You attend a dinner party by invitation. Also it isn't necessary to broadcast a dinner party to the world. I don't see the use of any metaphors when it comes to the web. It's hard to tell whether I am at a party or a football game or on the set of someone's favorite TV show, there are so many metaphors.

That particular blog is moderated. I left a comment on the post that said that I disagree. The comment never made it to the page. Therefore, I would take all other comments that agree with the author very lightly. As I understand, the author of the blog has used web communication tools and machines to attack the public. My policy in administering any communication machine such as a blog or forum is quite simple:

The public has the right of way.

I believe that this is the must sensible approach. An open circuit is for making contact with the public. Any activity that the public contributes is acceptable on an open circuit. If posters attend the discussion and demonstrate ability to use temporal and ordinal form, they may be invited into a closed circuit blog. There is no need for me to attack the public.

The responsibility for maintaining a given mode falls to those who wish to produce the given mode. If they outright refuse to utilize the respective form that governs the mode, they must accept the outcome. The responsibility for the dramatic mode prevailing on open circuits is due to the expository poster's own failing to adhere to expository discussion form.

The social web is on the decline because of the "nice" people that have ruled it. Contrary to reports that you may read in the news, while the fact is that the social web is increasing worldwide (due to it's dawning in the "Third World"), this belies the reality that where the social web has already taken root (in the "First World") people are leaving in droves.

Why? Because the "organization" of it is a no-growth plan. The idea that a "community" as a commodity, a person's own private property, a place where you are a permanent guest, a situation in which bans, blocks and deletes are used to control the communication - all of this amounts to no-growth.

Real communities do not behave like that. You don't fling the doors open and then start dictating and tossing people out. You ultimately lose people. That only makes sense. You ban people, you lose people. For every banning you lose more than one person. I am currently boycotting any and all "communities" that are going this route. There are methods that work. This is not one.

So what's the best plan for the long haul? That's what this blog is all about. The best way to build a community is to build groups. Groups of individuals who are willing to work. A group practices temporal and ordinal form. That's what makes it a group. It's not a group just because there are a bunch of people who joined.

You join a clique by being nice. Cliques are based upon personality. Cliques engage in asynchronous conversation.

You join a group by first attending the group and demonstrating that you are willing and able to practice temporal and ordinal forms. The members themselves have practiced these forms and understand how to objectively evaluate them. If you have attended two or three meetings and shown that you understand temporal and ordinal form, you may be elected into the group.

Groups are capable of coordinated discussion, deliberation and decision making. An online community should be fully equipped to deliberate through a complete democratic decision making process which produces an online action. Such online actions would be the election of it's membership, the election of it's officers who are authorized by the community to administer and the objective evaluation of performance in mode and form.

Through disciplined practice, members of a group becomes adept at fulfilling their rights and responsibilities:

The right to speak
The right to hear and be heard
The responsibility to respond
The responsibility to listen

We use ordinal form to ensure that these rights and responsibilities are promoted for all.

For example, in a group we may evaluate a circle form based upon whether the members took their proper turns. The form of ABC ABC... is very easy to objectively evaluate. It is much easier to evaluate whether a poster is in or out of the designated mode or form than it is to determine whether they or you or someone else is "being nice".

Basically, constitutional form must come to the web because it empowers each individual to participate in coherent groups which are the foundation of real community.

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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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