Nordic Track Book Club Review: Community Building on the Web

I grabbed Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities from my bookshelf last week on a lark and was very surprised how much I gained from it, particularly when considering it was published in 2000.  4-1/2 stars out of 5.

This topic is meaningful to me because the after-hour websites I built over the years have always been all about building community, and I believe that my blog functions like a community as well, since the primary goal of blogging to me is building relationships.  With that in mind I was able to take a lot of dated but good information from this book in reference to building a community around a blog.  

p21 Give some thought to coming up with a tagline, a sort of quick summary of what your community is all about…to attract your intended audience.  My blog feed is titled, simply, “Dave Burke’s Blog”, and my site containing a “Dave Burke: Live from Vermont” since I wanted my blog to be more a reflection of my life experience in Vermont than on .NET code.  I think more and more about consolidating with “Walking the Dog.”  Seriously.  I like walking my dogs about as much as I like doing most anything…

p22 Communicate your backstory.  Provide some history.  A person’s life didn’t start when they started blogging.

p25 Brand personality.

p28 A community is a group of people with a shared interest, purpose, or goal, who get to know each other better over time.  A community can’t exist without gathering places.  Provide a sense of place.  Constant demand of new gathering places.  Flexible and extensible structure.  Gathering places.  Cool. 

p54 Does the content suggest a theme?

p58 What makes a good taxonomy? One of the most common mistakes web designers make is to structure a site according to how the owners think about the content rather than what the users are looking for. 

p65 As the community grows and browsing becomes more cumbersone, visitors will come to rely more and more on the search function.

p67 Small number of active lively places…

p68 Paying attention to what your members DO, as well as what they say.

p72 You can also get help from your members when creating subdivisions of existing areas…  Record what is being searched.

p76 People come to your community for the content, but they will stay for the relationships–and your job is to help your members establish and develop those relationships.  Profiles can reflect both what your members say about themselves and also what they do within your community.

p107 Its important to know how long someone has been around and how active they are…

p116 Chapter areas: The Membership Life Cycle.  Welcome your visitors, instruct your novices, reward your regulars, empower your leaders, honor your elders.  Create a visitors center.

p131 People join web communities because there’s something they want to DO that requires membership.

p145 User roles: Support providers, hosts, greeters, cops, event coordinators…

p189 Private meeting place for leaders, like a break room in an office.

p278 When do you cease to be a tentative newcomer and start to feel that you’re part of a community? …Any meaningful transition has the potential to be ritualized.  Familiar, time-tested rituals can help your members develop a sense of belonging to a community experience.  Customized start page…  Acknowledge anniversaries, join dates, milestones…  Seasonal changes. 

p306 Video games using the lure of “the next level” to keep people motivated and involved.  Rewards.

p314 Group themes:  1) Groups should serve a clear purpose. 2) need gathering places 3) affiliation should be part of member profiles, 4) roles, 5) leadership, 6) etiquette, 7) cyclic events, 8) groups are strengthened by rituals of community life, 9) as they grow, groups may need to form internal subgroups.


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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.