As the results of Inquiring Rock Hunters suggest a more intensive exploration of communities of practice and online communities, I’ve done some literature survey on these. The findings when applied may help build a self-sustaining community with a steady or increasing number of members and interactions.
Examining the Life Cycle of a community, by observing the activities and the growth, helps in monitoring the community and adjust the approaches in order to keep it active. In each stage the members have different needs and it is necessary to employ different tools, technologies or management activities; it is believed that this approach leads to success more efficiently (Iriberri & Leroy, 2009).
The Life Cycle stages found in literature are potential, coalescing, maturing, stewardship and transformation (Wenger et al, 2002) but are also encountered with different names such as inception, creation, growth, maturity, death (Iriberri & Leroy, 2009) or with less stages, such as pre-birth, early life, maturity, death (Preece, 2000). The Life Cycle is not linear as the process can be iterative and adoptable to the needs of the members and the purpose of the community (Young, 2013). At the current point of this research, we will place emphasis on the first stage, the potential.
From the idea to the community
In the potential stage, the community is not quite a community yet, rather an idea. The community can be spontaneous or intentional, based on the way they are formed (Wenger et al., 2002). In the intentional communities (like the one we want to build), the key is to find an attractive topic that people are enthusiastic about and willing to share their opinion and their views (McWilliam, 2012). Important in this phase is the core-group of the first people who will take the lead and start forming the community (Iriberri & Leroy, 2009).
An important aspect of the community is the technology which will support it. The technology of an online community differs from other software, because of people interaction, and thus the sociability design and evaluation of the community is equally important to the usability aspect (Preece, 2001). Regarding the evaluation of the community interface, research shows that another important factor is the user experience (Rogers, Sharp & Preece, 2011), of which the quality is not addressed only by the objective goals, but also covers a range of emotions and felt experiences. Therefore, an attractive professional look is part of making it successful.
Recruitement of community members
Once the technology which supports the community is evaluated and ready to use, the next step is to invite people become members of the community. Resnick et al. (2012) in their work demonstrate the impersonal and interpersonal (word-of-mouth) recruitment. Impersonal recruitment is good for people who have no prior knowledge of the community. In the interpersonal recruitment, the first members may recruit new members from their social networks sending out invitations to potential members or by sharing community content. To this end, a useful design-decision may be the integration of the community with other sites, making the users registration easy and fast by using their existing user identifiers. To increase the willingness for one to join the community the benefits of the community should be promoted.
Iriberri, A., & Leroy, G. (2009). A life-cycle perspective on online community success. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 41(2), 11.
McWilliam, G. (2012). Building stronger brands through online communities. Sloan management review, 41(3).
Preece, J. (2000) Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability, Chichester, England, John Wiley & Sons.
Resnick, P., Konstan, J., Chen, Y., & Kraut, R. E. (2012). Starting New Online Communities. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design, 231.
Young, C. (2013). Community management that works: how to build and sustain a thriving online health community. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(6).
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.