It’s rare for me to buy more than three copies of a book, and Amy Jo Kim’s seminal Community Building On The Web is one such book. It’s so good that, over the last seven years or so, I have repeatedly bought it and given it away. Which was fine when the book was actually in print, but started getting a tad expensive when I had to go into the secondary market for it.
While the book continues to be “out of print” in a traditional sense, I’m glad to see that Peachpit now make a PDF download available, albeit at a price.
If you haven’t done so already, read the book. It’s an absolute must. Don’t listen to me. Listen to people who have a real story to tell about online communities…..
Howard “Smart Mobs” Rheingold: If you’re thinking of building an online community, read this book
Kevin “Wired” Kelly: This is the book I hand out to anyone serious about building online communities
Jon “Slashdot” Katz: In addition to being useful, this book is a mirror into the culture and future — even the anthropology — of online communities
What does all this have to do with Facebook? Well, I wanted to get you hooked into the way I was thinking when I first came across Facebook. I didn’t think of it as a “social networking” site. I saw it as an online community, one that had been built by people who understood the precepts and guidelines of people like Amy Jo Kim. [I had the chance to meet Amy Jo at Supernova a few years ago, and it was a real delight. She really knows her stuff. I believe she's gone "mobile" now, so I expect to hear great things about what she has to share about mobile communities next.]
The book itself consists of an introduction and 9 sections:
- Introduction: Calling All Community Builders
- Purpose: The Heart of Your Community
- Places: Bringing People Together
- Profiles: Getting to Know Your Members
- Roles: From Newcomer to Oldtimer
- Leadership: The Buck Stops Here
- Etiquette: Rules to Live By
- Events: Meetings, Performances and Competitions
- Rituals: Handshakes, Holidays and Rites of Passage
- Subgroups: Committees, Clubs and Clans
Now you can see how I felt when I first came across Facebook. In fact, if you look at what Jon Katz said all those years ago, it is eerily prescient: …. a mirror into the culture and future — even the anthropology —Â of online communities
Enough preamble. Facebook is not a “social networking” site. It is a community of communities. Now this is potentially of immense value in an enterprise, if we use it sensibly. Let me outline a few potential uses:
Collaborative filtering to allow the sharing of patterns: people who read AÂ also read B; people who met A also met B; even people whose career moves were A also had B. As partially discussed earlier, we can gain a lot from the collaborative filtering process and its pattern outputs. They can be used for staff induction and role-based training. For succession planning. For career development. For informing and briefing deputies and interim backfills; for dealing with unplanned absences. A whole plethora of instances where learning is made possible, learning about context and domain and objective and modus operandi.
Rating processes that actually mean something: rating the usefulness of an e-mail reply; of advice given; of a person’s skillset or competence; of suitability for membership of a specific professional community; of the fit-for-purpose-ness of a particular product or service. Rating processes that are continuous rather than discrete and irregular snapshots; rating processes that are open and transparent rather than cloak-and-dagger stab-in-the-back; rating processes that are across the enterprise and beyond it, to include partners and customers. True 360 degrees.
Recommendation processes that are both push as well as pull. Unsolicited advice. A response to a query. The creation of active and kept-up-to-date and valuable FAQ sites. [It has always been my belief that an FAQ site is only as good as its update frequency and usage population].
From tacit knowledge to tacit problem-solving:Â If I take the recommendation process one step further, I can visualise an environment where Person A responds to a question by Person B, where that advice (and its context) is flashed across my News Feed, where I read it. And in the process of reading it, I solve a problem I didn’t even know I had.
Wisdom-of-crowds and Prediction Markets: Checking the health of strategic enterprise programmes, projects, even transformation initiatives. Being able to get short-sharp votes on key subjects, just to take the pulse of the institution. Testing morale. Validating quality of communications and their usefulness. Even assessing the likelihood of project success or failure, whether measured in time, cost or quality.
Hiring: The availability of decent profile information, active references, and modus operandi means that we can bring community processes to bear even on candidate selection and hiring.
I’ll leave it there for now, and hope that I’ve done enough to elicit constructive comments.