Building Online Communities Followup
My article on building online community spread pretty far; I followed referrer links back to see what people were saying. The feedback was valuable. (As a writer, it can be frustrating to realize that for every comment you receive directly a hundred people didn't take the time to respond.)
A significant portion of the referrers were from established communities. Many of these were message boards of the kind I had in mind for some sections. A few were well-established, and most were not as technically minded as my examples.
Of the link blurbs that provided a bit of analysis, there were two main camps. One said, "Here's an interesting article full of things I'd never realized." The other said, "Here's an article full of common sense, but not saying anything really new." I'm pretty pleased with that -- I've been participating in communities of this sort for over a decade, but I haven't been studying them seriously. What I wrote, I had to discover on my own. It doesn't surprise me that smart people have learned the same things.
It was also nice to read, more than once, "It says things I knew but could never put into words."
Several of the linking communities were in the midst of change. A few were trying to recover from difficult times. Some were trying to find new directions. Hopefully my article gave the people in charge some good advice.
It surprised me to realize how far this little article could spread. There are a lot of communities out there -- something I knew but didn't understand until I traced links back. Wow.
One reader took the time to send me a very valid critique (after posting a somewhat stronger criticism on his favored message board :). Wingnut from Canada pointed out that I'd completely overlooked MUDs and MOOs as online communities. He's right -- I have little experience there. My guidelines
for the curve of writers versus readers won't apply. It's much harder to lurk on an online game.
Wingnut also thought I concentrated too much on growth as a goal. That was the point of the article, but there are definitely other excellent goals. I should have made this clear: the number of users (or the happiness of your users) is by no means the only measure of success. If you have another idea, feel free to pursue it.
I'm very happy with the feedback. Thanks for the links and comments, everyone.
Do you have a good experience with online feedback? Let's talk about it.
One thing that is important to stress is the aspect of accountability withith a community, especially in communities where things happen (eg patches get regected, nodes get nuked, comments get moderated).
Have you built a list of your backlinks? I'd be very interested to see who else cares about building communities. --SebPaquet