[unrev-II] Thoughts on the human side of community building

From: N. C a r r o l l (ncarroll@inreach.com)
Date: Sat Jan 20 2001 - 16:40:01 PST

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    >From Steve Ingram, in England, some notes on the complexities of
    community building.

    Why I posted this: Remember bulletin boards and sysops? Remember the
    difference between that semi-civilized world, and the chaos of Alt
    Usenet groups? I see an increasing tendency to think that software can
    do it all. It ain't so. Communities still need people adept at directing
    development, people, and information flow. And those people may not be
    able to do their work if the software is finished and frozen too early.

    Steve's stuff:

    "Anyway for what it's worth I’ve dreamed up these guidelines for the B2B
    sector in general.

     Human Resource

     · Communities are about people and their participation. Involve
    customer members in the development process.

     · Take time to ensure the recruitment process identifies and selects
    the right people. Be specific on what is required and be confident that
    the people recruited can deliver. The problems that delay cause at
    launch will be far outweighed by incorrect recruitment in the long term.

     · Work on a partnering style approach, not contractual. Don’t rely on
    specifications for these restrict flexibility and openness. In a true
    partnership all parties share the responsibility.

     Customer Focus & Participation Issues

     · Research the intended market carefully. Specifically look at the
    cultural aspects of the intended target audience. Be confident that
    there is a need and desire to want to participate in the venture that is

     · Ensure there is a compelling reason why members should spend time and
    effort on line within the community. The specific value added
    proposition and purpose should be clearly defined on the site and the
    specific benefits should be actively promoted to encourage trial,
    participation and usage.

     · Community building should be viewed as a cost to the business and
    part of a long-term strategic plan to form beneficial online
    relationships with customers. Sufficient finance needs to be available
    to support the infrastructure of the community and maintain the momentum
    toward gaining a critical mass of members. Adequate provision needs to
    be made for promotional activity. Lack of awareness in the early stages,
    post launch, will leave the site with limited activity resulting in a
    negative spiral of reducing participation as members become
    disillusioned with the overall perception of the community.

     · Commercial activity is generally accepted within the B2B environment
    and will probably be required to ensure the site is sustainable. However
    members will demand competitor choice and the sales area will need to be
    unbiased and open in this respect. Failure to comply will result in a
    loss of trust and members. Companies will therefore need to consider
    carefully whether they are able to support such a venture.

     Back Office & Administrative Processes

     · Launch the site with the minimum functionality and processes that you
    can get away with. Prioritise a phased development schedule that evolves
    and benefits from the feedback of members; ensure that the development
    team remain totally flexible until the true business requirement is

     · Identify and define the specific measurement objectives and purpose
    of the site; not only from the community perspective but also the
    financial sponsors, ensure you have the sponsors agreement and support.
    Agree the ‘key performance indicators’ at an early stage, and install
    technological and subjective measures that can clearly demonstrate

     · Install as much technology as possible to automate the measurement
    process, but ensure that the maximum functionality is utilised from the
    software, this will require ‘IT’ programming and input from the

     Technology Requirements & Issues

     · Plan to develop the project in a series of phased manageable sections
    of work, agree the time period and prioritise the workload accordingly.
    Launch with the minimum that you can get away with to enable customer
    feedback prior to the start of phase two developments.

     · Allow sufficient time for thorough testing and re-programming, if in
    doubt do not allow ‘deadlines’ to adversely influence reasoned
    judgement, failure to perform and breeches of security are far more

     · Clearly define the data management strategy and objectives at the
    start of the project. Expected outputs need to be made clear so as to
    enable and facilitate the design of the programming in order to deliver
    the required information post launch.

     · Build a web-enabled database, taking snapshots to analyse and report
    upon. This will simplify the datacapture process and reduce the resource
    requirement as members update their own details. This transparency of
    information ensures that members are not anonymous, anonymity works
    against the spirit of community.

     · Determine whether it is critical to be found in the search engines;
    if it is, ensure that the site is designed to be attractive to the
    search engines, and that the key search information can be regularly
    updated by the organiser’s team.


     · Resist the temptation to provide common functionality based on what
    is available elsewhere; it will be difficult to fill or provide enough
    content to give the impression of an active community. A community built
    upon a valid proposition will become self-generating; by focusing on the
    specific needs of the community it will naturally highlight the
    functionality that is required as it grows.

     · Ensure that adequate provision is made during the planning process
    for the inclusion of some form of two way communication platform for
    members, but do not launch a visual on-line service until you are
    confident that it will be utilised. Focus initially on the content that
    draws members to ensure a sufficient number exist and want to be active
    before attempting to get them to communicate with each other."



    Nicholas Carroll Email: ncarroll@inreach.com Alternate: ncarroll@iname.com ______________________________________________________

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