On Building Online Communities

Building Online CommunitiesThere were two things that made the web attractive to me from the moment I learned about the word 'Internet' over 10 years ago: Communication and Connectivity. Everything else that came with my involvement online were secondary.

So, I suppose it seems only fitting that I've come full circle since taking on the role of Vice President for Community at b5media. The concepts of communication and connectivity are vital to building and maintaining community.

From the time I've taken on an online life back in 1997, I've been thinking of ways to maximise communities on the web --- both practice and tools. Apart from running websites (and later on, weblogs), I've used early community-building tools like Geocities, Yahoo Groups / eGroups, Ezyboards, Delphi Forums... I've tapped in to chat programmes (yes, I've done ICQ, mIRC, etc) and newsgroups... And now, all these Web 2.0 tools like Ning, MySpace, YouTube, Friendster, and Twitter, among thousands of others.

And, while I probably explored a lot of these tools and services, I know I've got a lot to learn still. And, my recent professional role lead me to revisit the basics of online community building and maintenance. Hence, I decided to start a new category in this blog. To help me document whatever I learn and experience. And, hopefully, be able to tap in to other people's experiences and ideas too in the process.

Anyway, during my research about online communities, I've come across an old (now unavailable) book called Community Building on the Web by Amy Jo Kim. I'm hoping to get a copy of it at some stage. It seems like a really useful reference, even though it is a bit dated web-wise. The strategies and principles still seem applicable in today's online world:

9 Design Strategies:
(1) Define and articulate your PURPOSE
(2) Build flexible, extensible gathering PLACES
(3) Create meaningful and evolving member PROFILES
(4) Design for a range of ROLES
(5) Develop a strong LEADERSHIP program
(6) Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE
(7) Promote cyclic EVENTS
(8) Integrate the RITUALS of community life
(9) Facilitate member-run SUBGROUPS

3 Design Principles:
(1) Design for growth and change
(2) Create and maintain feedback loops
(3) Empower your members over time

I'm hoping to explore these ideas bit by bit in the future, especially in relation to my work at b5, and perhaps any related side projects that I have. If you've got thoughts, comments, or feedback about these things, let's talk.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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