Sunday, September 01, 2013

Tech Tuesday - How do you build community?

These are rough notes taken at the Tech Tuesday event I went to in August, a fantastic warm evening spent typing on deckchairs in the company of some great Manhattan minds.
The first speaker was from, a working hub on Broadway. We were told this was once Gordon Gecko's office, a sign of how the area is changing. He highlighted that it seems like no-one knows exactly how you build community. There's a bunch of ideas and bunch of people, but not always a clear path. Some ideas from him and other speakers follow:
> essentials of humanity
Choose buildings on a corner as you get light coming in from two directions plus two views
Provide for essential needs: coffee; fruitwater (a blend of fruit and water) creates conversations.
Eric from Reddit followed:
Communities are defined by the stories those in the communities tell each other. All you can do is be a catalyst.
Icons, colours, design features - all chosen by the people who create the community, they can create symbols that are meaningful to them.
Look for the stories people are telling each other and see you if can fold that back into the design of the space somehow
Offices often have high desk vacancy rates because people don't want to work in them.
People come together when they have a reason to do so, eg need for interaction and technology.
To be creative you need trust and ties to the people you work with - physical spaces help communities flourish.
We're very purposeful when we go on holiday, so why aren't we when we choose our workspace?
1. Think like an urban planner: spaces to socialise, congregate, eat, rest, sleep > think, concentrate, speak
2. Unchain the user- one desk per user is not necessary: sit, stand, lounge, no need to chain an employee to a desk to get productivity
3. Allow people to be themselves to connect and communicate
4. Let the inmates run the asylum - when people are comfortable they think better 5. Bring culture, colour, nature - research shows greater productivity with plants and flowers
6. Observe how people interact and act in your space
Communities start with their originators - they are living, breathing examples of what the commuity should be.
Language and memes from target communities help people feel at home. Founders have to interact with users, lead the way in rules and conventions, stay present as the community grows. Celebrate and elevate your users, make them feel loved and recognised - put the spotlight on them; the love will be returned to you and your community tenfold - identify the power users and spread their stories, they will become the nodes.
Promote good behaviour but deal with bad behaviour, set the right examples. Moderate bad behaviour when you see it. Put the community to work by spreading cultural values.
Early power users will evolve into veterans, they have a natural lifecycle. Inevitably they will migrate.
This is what is being termed "Eternal September" - don't freak out about it, just accept it.
Keep bringing in new blood and keep celebrating new power users.
Should we be building community? Harnessing / organising / affecting communities? When you build communities, you might ignore the communities that already exist, those with shared locations, work, buildings.
Showing up in a foreign country and building community doesn't work - you have to work with the culture, we don't need to build something new. We have to figure out how to talk to them and listen to them. Serve the community: not colonising but collaborating.
Ways to serve users:
- spotlight stories
- creating knowledge showcases: give knowledge back to the ecosystem - being open source so people can download the code, means people contribute to it as well
How do you create virtual communities? People have different mindsets, so combining cultures is difficult - communities based on small concepts, adding digital experience to physical experiences. We have a long way to go to make that work.
Make it really simple for users to consume but also create content.
99% are lurkers, 1% are power users. Community online should centre around a particular topic.
Content is being generated by users. Make it easy for them to upload and approve content. People don't need to think about how to uprate or downrate content on reddit; low friction action points eg likes, approval signals, fistbumps - creates feedback loops.
Design that looks comfortable, may be old fashioned but is welcoming to those who use it.
How do you bring together communities of two sides, eg buyers and sellers? Difficult because you're introducing a different dynamic, eg crowd will say they don't want to be sold to - they start with communities then bolt on a commercial model. You don't want to piss off your community because they're your lifeblood. When community members start to creat their own marketplace, it works better, eg swapping recipes. Experts emerge and it's easy for them to sell because everyone knows they're good. The community then starts the commerce loop, commerce function is built in. Tread lightly.

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