Online Communities

What is an online community?

Wikipedia: “An online community is a virtual community that exists online and whose members enable its existence through taking part in membership ritual.” (link to Wikipedia article)

Meredith Farkas: “An online community is simply a group of people who gather online for a specific purpose.” (Farkas, 2007, p86).

Just like an offline community and online community needs a leader or someone to moderate what goes on with in the community. A moderator has many tasks and a great responsibility to the community.

Online Community: Best Practices

  1. Recognize your role as a moderator but also recognize the role of your members, do not try to control everything. “…allow people to connect with each other and speak their minds, it helps build trust and foster an environment where people are wiling to both own and share their work together” (Farkas, 2007, p105)
  2. Have guidelines and understand that not everyone will agree with them but they need to be followed.Often members join a community because of the guidelines set in place, similar to why someone chooses a particular school, if you allow them to be violated you will loose members and reputation.
  3. Hinder lurkers. Encourage visitors to become members. “By requiring users to take
    an affirmative action (that requires some minimal effort on their part), it weeds out the casual
    troublemaker from an interested user.” (Grohol, 2006)
  4. Communicate effectively by being clear, direct and frequent. Guidelines need to be communicated direct and clear, community updates need to be informational, and become a ‘human’ to the community, members like to hear from the ‘higher ups’. 

Communities to join:

  • Wikipedia is a free, collaboratively edited, and multilingual Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation
  • FreeCycle a community the derives off everything being free. Members can request items or offer items. Main rule: It must be free. 
  • Urbanspoon a community that enocurages members to leave reviews on restaurants they have eaten at. 
  • FourSquare a community that encourages members to check in to places they visit and leave tips or comment for other visitors. Incentives often are special coupons or offers when you check in. I once received 15% off my dinner bill just for checking into the restaurant on FourSquare. This community is predominantly mobile based.


Farkas, M. G. (2007). Social Software in Libraries: Building collaboration, communication and community online.  Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.


Collaboration work a barrier

Wikis, blogs, IM chats, and cloud drives, all types of collaboration tools. When I think about implementing  new tool first thing that comes to mind (after my “OMG this is going to make things so much easier”) is what old crab is not going to use this? We all work with them – don’t deny it.

This is a collaboration barrier, and not the only one. Other barriers include:

  • Conflict between department schedules, budgets, goals, and interest
  • Learning to balance the roles between the “hired role” and the “collaboration role”
  • Giving the collaboration value- “what will I get out of it?”

How do you solve the barriers? A couple of suggestions pulled from, Hutch Carpenters post “Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is As Culture Does” and Morten T. Hansen’s “When Internal Collaboration is Bad for Your Company” .

1. Eliminate the option to use something different (Carpenter, 2009).
 Carpenter recommends when implementing a new collaboration tool to eliminate the option to use something different. If you want to start using IM chats, instead of responding to emails send them a message via chat and no other way.

2. When introducing the software or change provide a sense of the future with the change. Show them what it will be like if they make the change.

3. Create incentives. It is difficult to change or desire to change and put in extra effort to use something new unless their is an acceptable answer to “what do I get out of it”. Hansen encourages determining the rate of return before jumping in. Is it going to be worth it both financially and efficiently.

For every barrier there is a solution.