Month: June 2014

What Happens When Communities Grow Larger?

June 12, 2014Comments Off on What Happens When Communities Grow Larger?

Dave highlights this post by Rob Seaton. Rob believes communities decay as they grow larger. I've included his summary below. 

  • The development of trust and kindness between two people depends on the probability that they will interact in the future.
  • When communities grow to a certain size, people no longer expect to interact in the future, and thus are more likely to defect – to be petty, mean, aggressive, and to put little effort into their contributions.

I disagree with both points.

As communities grow larger, the sense of community dissipates. This leads to lower levels of participation unless sub-groups are nurtured. However, sub-groups are rarely nurtured well within communities. 

As communities grow larger, they attract people outside of the core interest. Those without connections to existing members. These people are more likely to be deviant. You also attract those with antagonistic personalities. If you have a community with 1000 members, 10 are likely to be antagonistic.

This minority exhibits behavior which attracts undue attention because it deviates the most from the norm. This doesn't reflect the behaviour of the entire community. The personalities of people in a community rarely change, but the people in them do. 

You can counter this decay by properly socializing newcomers into the community, facilitating sub-groups, and rapidly removing the antagonists from the community. 

Unintended Consequences Of Incentives

June 11, 2014Comments Off on Unintended Consequences Of Incentives

StackExchange writes about the perils involved in reputation and collaborative wiki creation.

It’s hard to ask people to put a lot of effort into creating something together when the asker is going to keep all the credit and all the reputation. I don’t care about rep and attribution when I’m self-motivated to improve a post I come across, but it feels different when someone outright asks me to pitch in while intending to keep all the fake internet points for themselves!

That’s where Community Wiki came in – it killed those friction points by eliminating rep generation from those posts and lowering the bar on who could edit them. Which made it much easier for people who wanted to create collaborative, ensemble works – true community owned and edited resources.

But, much like dynamite, this well-intentioned invention was quickly weaponized into an instrument of destruction. Our big mistake: thinking we could systematically detect when such collaboration was happening, and automatically convert those posts to Community Wiki. It sounded awesome – “we’ll help you collaborate even more! When we see enough editors, we’ll save you the trouble of making it community wiki yourself and do it for you…”

If there was no reputation system, members would be happy to contribute to a wiki article. But they will be damned if a) other people get the reputation points from their work or b) they los all reputation points by inviting more people to collaborate. 

The outcome of incentives is tough to predict.

Any action that tinkers with incentives can have perverse consequences. 

Which Discussions Are Most Interesting?

June 10, 2014Comments Off on Which Discussions Are Most Interesting?

“there was nothing in the community that was interesting to me”

This why most people don't participate. 

So what’s interesting to me? There seem to be three universal discussions. 

1) Discussions about me. Discussions about ourselves, our company, our jobs, the work we're doing, the things we do, or the things we want to be/have done. 

2) Discussions about what I know. Discussions about topics I feel I'm an expert on and topics I feel passionately about. These are the discussions I can contribute to. The greater the level of our expertise in a topic, the more we're likely to participate. 

3) Discussions about who I know. Discussions about those we consider our peers. Discussions about our peers, their work, and their successes/failures are likely to be very interesting to ourselves. 

If members aren't interested in your existing discussions, make the discussions about them, what they know, or who they know. 

Ask them who they are, what they know, and who they know. 

Changing The Behaviour Of A Community

June 9, 2014Comments Off on Changing The Behaviour Of A Community

The bigger a community gets, the more disruptive members you will have.

That's the law of averages. Some people will be disruptive. You can remove this behaviour, but not control it. 

Comic Book Resources archived their old community, posted this announcement, introduced stricter rules, and relaunched this community.

Three things. First, removing content doesn't change the people. If you want to change the behaviour of members, use subtle influences.

Highlight the number of bad posts that have been removed, time since a bad post, number of people helping remove the bad posts. Highlight the behaviour you want members to emulate. 

Second, if you're going to make a big announcement, make it big and boldNobody reads communiy announcements. It appears in inbox and gets deleted immediately. 

prefer Wikipedia's blackout approach. No forums for 2 weeks. Just host a single message with a date for the relaunch.  

Third, the challenge isn't preventing this behaviour from happening – but removing it before it becomes widely noticed. That means technological or human filters. You need a system where trained members can highlight material that must be removed

Offsite Activity

June 6, 2014Comments Off on Offsite Activity

This is a common question:

"My members won't interact on the site.They interact via e-mail but refuse to use our super expensive, brand new, feature-filled, community site."

The words in italics are mine. 

Why does it matter where people interact? It matters if they're interacting.

Build your community in the easiest place to build a community. By forcing people to use your community site, however expensive, you might prevent a community from forming.

If people only want to interact via e-mail then use e-mail. Create a simple mailing list. Let information be easily exchange on the mailing list. 

Better yet, use a platform that automatically syncs with e-mail so people can subscribe to a particular category and use that platform. Automatically enroll existing participants on the list with an option to unsubscribe. Summarize some of the best discussions and post them on the site for posterity. 

Soon you might just find people visiting the community because it serves as as useful resource.

As a bonus, off-site activity allows further development of the community. It allows real connections to form. It makes you less vulnerable to any platform problems. 

People want to use the simplest communication tools. Every extra click reduces the chances of activity happening. You can fight it or embrace it. If people are interacting somewhere, build the rest of the community around those interactions. 

Creating New Behaviors

June 5, 2014Comments Off on Creating New Behaviors

It should have happened the other way around.

First there should have been a significant increase in social capital.

We should have seen most trust developing between people.

Then all these new tools should have come along to take advantage of that trust

Instead, as Wired magazine notes below, technology is creating the trust. 

"We are hopping into strangers’ cars (Lyft, Sidecar, Uber), welcoming them into our spare rooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their houses (DogVacay, Rover), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly). We are letting them rent our cars (RelayRides, Getaround), our boats (Boatbound), our houses (HomeAway), and our power tools (Zilok)"

You don't need members to know, like, or trust each other when you begin (it helps if they do. mind). You just need to find that initial spark and keep it going. 

Community building isn't creating the technology, it's building these relationships. People build trust through experience and technology makes that experience possible. The technology makes it easier, but it's you that makes it happen. 

(Aside, the crazy thing about building a community is you don't know what sort of behaviors you're going to create and new rules you must introduce.)

Sign Up For CMX Summit in New York

June 4, 2014Comments Off on Sign Up For CMX Summit in New York

Next week I'll be speaking for the first time about how to develop highly addictive communities for your organisation. 

I'm going to go deep into the psychology behind successful communities.

What do the best communities do that we can learn from?

What psychology can we directly apply to our work? 

How do we make communities that are highly addictive to members? 

If you want to hear from me and a bunch of other terrific speakers, please sign up or the CMXSummit in New York (use the code FEVERBEE20) for a 20% discount.

Capturing And Storing Information Created By Your Community

June 3, 2014Comments Off on Capturing And Storing Information Created By Your Community

Your community is sharing lots of useful information. 

Much of it will be lost into the ether. 

What's the best way of documenting and storing information?

There are a few systems that work:

1) Archives. You can archive all material and ensure it's indefinitely searchable. This is what most people do by default. Unfortunately, it requires people to know exactly what to search for to find it. The search results could bring up multiple posts on the same topic, which do you trust? 

2) FAQ. The simplest option is to move the most searched for material into a simple FAQ which is easily visible to those interested in that topic. However, most of the material (especially the less popular, very specific, material) will be lost. 

3) eBooks. You can create regular eBooks on the core topics within the sector filled with the latest, best, advice shared by the community. You can have a quarterly guide to each sector filled with the best articles. This is easy to do, provides useful reading and reference material. Making the information easily findable to newcomers will become a challenge. 

4) Wikis. A better option is to create a wiki to store articles in a structured, regularly updated, format where anyone can look up the information they need. The challenge here is a) capturing the information and b) structuring information under relevant categories so members can easily find what they want. 

A few tactics we've seen work well to capture this information are

a) rank people by the quantity of articles created/updated.

b) have a 'promote/document' button next to every forum discussion any member can press to draw attention to people that it should be added to the wiki.

c) If a discussion receives {x} posts or {x} rating, it is automatically promoted to a wiki article

d) Only allow members who have established a good reputation to make contributions to the wiki. It's a reward for sharing information. 

5) Induction material. A final option is to proactively promote the community's solution in the induction material into that topic. Most organisations have induction material for newcomers – introducing them to the relevant best practices in the community drives people towards your community and benefits everyone. 

You will probably use a combination of the options above. Option 3 is our favourite, option 4 is the most effective, option 5 leads to long-lasting results in your field. 

Tiers Of Motivation For Participating in Online Communities

June 2, 2014Comments Off on Tiers Of Motivation For Participating in Online Communities

Let's begin with the first, the unique benefit.

You join a community because you want access to a unique benefit. 

The unique benefit is typically one of: 

Unique benefit

  • Pleasure. You join the community to get immediate gratification from a specific activity.
  • Reduce pain. You join the community to reduce a pain you are affected by. Customer service communities thrive here. 
  • Hope. You join the community to change something in the world (or about yourself). This is activist. 
  • Reduce fear. You join a community to reduce the fear of something bad happening. 
  • Social accepted. You join a community to gain social acceptance from those whose opinions you care about.
  • Avoid social rejection. You join the community to avoid a sense of rejection from those that have already joined. Exclusivity works well on this principle.

If you're trying to persuade people to join a community, link your appeals to one of the above.

Good questions to ask the target members include:

  • What is your biggest fear?
  • What do you hope will change in the future?
  • Who do you consider your peers? And where do your peers gather?
  • What is your biggest {topic} challenge?
  • What do you like about your {topic}?

You can then use these exact answers in your outreach message to prospective members. 

Immediate Ego Gratification

However the reason why people join a community and the reason why people participate are very different. They participate to further satisfy their social needs. Initially, these are their ego needs.

Immediately upon joining the community, you want an ego boost. You want a quick win that will keep you hooked in the community. Gambling machines tend to use this trick. They provide quick wins to keep you hooked for the long-term.

The goal at this stage is to immediately engage someone in an activity and then provide positive feedback on that activity. This usually means we want:

  • Validation. You want to hear something positive about yourself. You want to hear the views you have of yourself repeated by others. 
  • To be uniqueness. You want to feel you have something unique you can contribute to the community. 

This means the very first contribution a member makes to a community should be something they can be praised for. This is why we like members to talk about what they're working on, their biggest achievements, their biggest failure, what they hope to achieve in the future.

This lets other members respond to them, validate them as people, and help them feel unique within that community. The more someone feels they have unique skills they can contribute to the community, the more likely they are to participate in the future. 

Positive Distinctiveness

Once we get to know the other people in the group and care about their opinions, we want them to hold positive opinions of ourselves.

This has two parts. First, we need to know and recognise the names of community members. We need to udnerstand te social order and be familiar with the top people within the community. Second, we need to understand the history of the community. We want to know our role within the community.

Therefore, we need to read lots of content and posts about members within that community. 

Social identity theory predicts that, depending upon the permeability of group boundaries (how easy it is to be accepted by the core groups), we would take an individual mobility, social creativity, or social competition strategy.

We see an equivalent of this within communities. Members tend to identify the approaches existing members have taken to achieve respect or popularity within the community and then adapt those approaches to acheive popularity for themselves. 

What we do see are participation strategies. 

  • Participate the most. This is most common. You try to over-post their way to positive distinctiveness. This becomes annoying relatively quickly. 
  • Be the expert in the community. This is most useful. You try to share the best expertise within that community and be seen as the expert. 
  • Be likable. This is the second most common, you try to be positive, happy, caring members of the community. You build friendships with the top members and ease your way into the group.
  • Other forms of uniqueness. There are no shortage of ways to be unique. Members can engage in many of these to find a path that allows them to build their standing within the community. 


It's only after you've established yourself as a genuine, core, member of the community do you begin to seek out real friends among that group. 

  • Meet and connect with people in real time. Note here we didn't say in person, but live real-time discussions on via channels other than the community. 
  • Build a core group of people you most identify with. Build your own peer group within the broader peer group. People who you feel most similar to. 
  • Have shared experience/symbols. Have a shared history/experiences/symbols that you can relate to. You engage in separate activities jsut with a smaller group of members. 

Habit Theory

Over time, visiting the community becomes a habit. It becomes one of the seven websites we visit every day to see what's new. It's up their with BBC News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, FeverBee, and GMail. 

We do it because it's programmed into our routines. By engaging in visitation activities frequently enough over a sustained period of time (between 3 weeks to 3 months, depending upon research), we visitation becomes habitualized. We just need to continue visiting during this time. 

Fear of Missing Out

Finally, you participate because you don't want to miss out.

Missing out would mean increased social angst due to the idea that other people are gaining knowledge, pleasure, or other benefits from community participation that you're not. 

You don't want to fall behind on information being shared, see other people make up ground on your own reputation, or watch your own reputation diminish as a result of not participating.  

The key element here is to be very clever about which stage of community participation your members are in and adapt your own efforts accordingly. 

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