Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What makes a great community?

Please join in trying to create a workable definition of what makes a great community. Post your thoughts and I'll gradually integrate them into the main body of this article (and of course your contributions will remain listed in the posts attached).

Your examples - with descriptions of what makes them so good - are also very welcome.

Here's some to get us going:

Great communities:

  • Put the community first, understand that the community is king.
  • Encourage self-forming, adhoc, non-directed groups of shared interest/purpose
  • Apply Elinor Ostrom’s eight design properties for stable Common Pool Resource systems (recognizing the crucial role of ratings/reputation) (http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/05/why-ratings-and-reputation-are-so-vital.html)
  • Activate co-creation of value (content, services, shared tools [widgets/apps] and products)
  • Enable constant real-time connection (synchronous communication).
  • Treat people as converged individuals – buyers/sellers/designers/engineers/creators/marketers/employees/employers
  • Make the technical barriers low.
  • Enable discovery/introduction of people with shared interests/purpose
  • Enable users/communities to set their own definitions of good, and how open or closed their network will be.
  • Enable users to get into flow rather than focus (ie manage the risk of information overload).
  • Put the individual user in control
  • Understands the distinction between audience and community: Audiences consume content, communities primarily communicate with one another. Communities communicate with one another, audiences don’t.
  • A community is a community because of the connections that form between its members.

Great examples:

Facebook is extremely easy to use, encourages (rewards) the use of true identities, offers levels of privacy in groups, networks and in peer-to-peer friendship groups. There is even a small element of ‘degrees’ of friendship. The newsfeed offers something of the flow needed to manage risk of information overload – and the realtime connectivity (especially when accessed and updated from your pervasive computer – your mobile!).

eBay offers a good example of converged user – buyer/seller/marketer/developer etc. And it applies Ostron’s design principles for Common Pool Resources.

Danah Boyd: (from Incantations for Muggles: The Role of Ubiquitous Web2.0 Technologies in Everyday lives) "If you want to understand the success of a social technology, you can't stare at the technology. You need to understand the social practices that make it flourish. Technologies succeed when they support what people already do, what they want to do, and what they're required to do. Technologies become ubiquitous when people stop thinking them as a technology and simply use them as a regular part of everyday life."

Over to you!


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?