A community boundary is what separates insiders from outsiders. It’s more complicated than just registration. As a rule of thumb, the less visible the boundary is to outsiders, the more effective it is.
There are talent boundaries (expert photographers), experience boundaries (festival attendees), emotion boundaries (hating George Bush) and many, many, more.
But boundaries shift fast.
When a community grows too big, smaller groups emerge who set a new boundary. It might be as simple as those who have been members for over a year. If you’re new, you can’t join the club.
There are hundreds of great community professionals writing blogs, but only a few churning out amazing content as well as Dawn, Connie, Martin, Angela and Matt. They raised the boundary. If you want to be part of their small, amazing, community, you’re going to have to match their output (and it’s not easy).
Often a boundary will suddenly vanish. Communities that rise in opposition to an issue, or are formed when under attack, can see their boundary vanish in seconds. The Obama community has gone quiet.
Boundaries are always shifting. If they’re becoming tougher, you’re going to have an increasingly smaller group less enthusiastic about outsiders. If they don’t sustain enough activity, you lose the community altogether. Dedicate your time to provoking conversations and initiating activities.
If boundaries are becoming weaker, that sense of community begins dissipating. Run activities that bring members together. Highlight outsiders. Celebrate members that cross the boundary.