Lately, there’s a lot of talk, including short courses on “community development”. Who would have thought that forming and managing communities have become a very niche online profession? I guess, thanks to Facebook Fan Pages, companies are now compelled to find the secret sauce on what can make their community click.
Right now I’m reading Jono Bacon’s book “The Art of Community” (2nd edition, O’Reilly Media). What makes this book different is, the author came from the open-source and free software field. An area where people like myself may not be qualified or may even be too intimidated to take part of.
Nevertheless, take the example of WordPress: as the free software grew — which I have used extensively to build sites for clients, as well as gradually migrating my own personal site — I can easily say thank you to the communities who have contributed their time and knowledge tirelessly in making this essential Web software tool grow to what it is today.
In planning the community, in his book, Bacon talked about to-do items: like dividing your community into teams. In forums, where I got the chance to be in, I found division happening in topics where people decide to lurk more often, then later become active in it, where a lot of stories and experiences get shared. Bacon refers to this type of content as tales.
Nowadays, I observed that tales were those that show up a lot in Twitter messages, Facebook timeline, Google+ streams. Being focused in giving the same content doesn’t really add that much value in a community setting. Later on, Bacon mentioned another type of content, which he described as fables: illustrative and meant to convey an underlying message.
From there, I knew I have long graduated from being a taleteller to a fable-teller. Where each story told needed to have lasting effect, and along with it, some form of history.
In DigitalFilipino, communities and informal teams started through our free trainings and conferences. As they get to know each other on a personal level, relationships were eventually built, and continued communication happened frequently thereafter.
Where room for small talk was too little, as most members were busy with their work or businesses, time, however, was allotted for the big and important conversations to take place, where their ventures were usually concerned.
Although some have criticized this — pointing that the community being less social online than usual may seem to be a weakness — the author, nonetheless, emphasized that the secret sauce in a community is its leader. You simply can’t pretend to be who you are not. I guess that meant if I only communicate to impart the big stuff, rather than small talk, I subconsciously implied the same level of expectation from the members.
Contribution from the community was also encouraged where they can share their knowledge or expertise to the group. This was usually done through networking events, interviews, articles, talks, and conferences. This also served as an environmental ground to attract new members to be part of the community.
It also helped when the pioneers are still around to provide the much needed history and inspiration for the new ones. In DigitalFilipino’s case, these members who joined early on became honorary members five years later, and where given a recognition of gratitude for sticking it out with the group, sharing knowledge when the opportunity allows them to.
Collaboration for me, however, is the most important barometer of success. When I see club members who later on end up partnering in a business or working together on such projects that mutually benefit their interests, the feeling is certainly priceless.
Designing a community or tribe takes a lot of time and effort. But with passion and finding like-minded people who share it, I noticed that it grows, and you can take things from there. One day at a time.