Thursday, July 5, 2007

Building an Online Community

I'm currently working to get wiki up and running at work. It is intended to be a technically focused wiki on what we call "enterprise" products. It's been really interesting and challenging. We are still in a fairly early stage, but we are growing quickly -

Anyway - In the end we are trying to do what lots of other people/groups have done before - Build an online community. I think that the issue is getting to that critical mass point - where a community of people will begin to build and maintain the majority of the site.

To me this is similiar to fax machines - stay with me for just a moment more and I will explain.

A wiki is basically a collection of information. The very first entry or page in a wiki may be great information - but it isn't really very useful without any other information to put it into context. As more information is added to the wiki, the usefulness of the site becomes greater and greater. More people find it and add more info and the value increases.

The first fax machine was a great idea, but very useless all by itself. When there were two fax machines, they were now capable of send documents back and forth. This still was not very useful in the scheme of things. As additional faxes were added, the value of the first fax continued to increase. Finally it reached the point where basically everybody had access to a fax and documents could be sent via fax to anybody (well anybody that could get to their local 7-11).

So I realize that the analogy is a bit stretched - but I like it none the less.

In terms of building a community Slashdot actually has a really interesting entry on their site about how moderation evolved that basically tells part of the story of how their community has evolved -

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