Going Back Is Never An Option

January 12, 2017 Comments Off on Going Back Is Never An Option

A cautionary tale for all community professionals.

A group of World of Warcraft (WoW) gamers created a private server running an older version of the game because they didn’t like recent changes. They felt the changes made the game more competitive and less social.

Forgive the (6,000 word) spoiler…the group discovered it was they who had become more competitive and less social.

An interesting trend is most veterans in large online communities believe the group’s glory days were in the past. This was usually at a time when the group was smaller, there was greater familiarity and the quality of discussions was higher.

Most believe changes in the community platform since then have ruined that sense of familiarity and quality of discussions.

And they are usually wrong.

The problem is simple. Any successful small community (high familiarity, a strong sense of community, and high quality of discussions) attracts more people. More people reduces familiarity. Worse yet, newcomers ask more beginner-level (or repetitive) questions which reduce discussion quality.

At the same time, the community professional (you) has to keep upgrading and updating the platform as it grows to deal with a variety of issues. But members confuse cause with correlation.

Simple example. As the community grows you notice the discussion area is overwhelmed by too many discussions. No-one can keep track. You create multiple groups and categories. Yet, members now believe this has destroyed the sense of community and high-quality discussions they used to have. It’s not true of course, it’s just a natural evolution of community growth that requires some adjustment.

Now your members will ask you to go back to the way things used to be. This won’t bring back the glory days but it will bring back the original problem.

Unless you’ve made a rare catastrophic mistake, going back is never an option.

Instead, reach out to 20 or so members to outline your vision going forward. Explain the problems you’re facing and where you need to go. Be bold and forward-looking. You might just get their understanding…or even their support.

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