Shepherding Community-generated Content


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Customer communities: some companies have been nurturing them for years through support forums; some companies are just discovering how to cultivate community through social media. A few companies are beginning to explore how to tap the knowledge and power of customer communities to enhance their information offerings. Meanwhile, open source software projects have been generating products, documentation, and real-world value based on community efforts for a few decades. This session will explore some of the lessons about community and community-generated content that have emerged from open source projects, and how they can apply to more traditional companies and products. We’ll look at:

* Reasons to invite community-generated content
* What to expect from community-generated content (and what not to)
* Ways to encourage more productive and meaningful contributions

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  • Photo by HoboElvis, of “Philosophers’ Rock” by Glenna Goodacre, depicting professors J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedicheck, and Walter Prescott Webb next to Barton Springs Pool in Austin TX.I’ll be using what I call the “pseudo-Socratic method”, in which I ask you for what you think about a topic, and then tell you what I think about it. I don’t mean this as a way of playing “gotcha”, but rather as a way to draw out your ideas, without forestalling them with my own. I hope this will keep things more interesting on all sides, while still satisfying those who came here expecting to hear me spouting expertise.
  • What are you looking to get out of this session?Who’s already working with communities and CGC? What problems are you facing?If you’re not, what are hoping to do or learn?
  • Give me examples or definitions, whichever you prefer. We can extrapolate to definitions, based on examples.Examples: Comments on blogsComments on web-based docsSupport forumsWiki-based knowledgebases, wiki-based documentation – This is the one I’ll tend to refer to most, since it’s where I live.I’ll tell you a couple of things that CGC is NOT:
  • Anne Gentle makes a distinction in her book, Conversation and Community, between community-generated content and user-generated content.User-generated content: all about me, single voice (facebook, flickr, twitter?)Community-generated content: collaborative, helps us reach our common goal
  • CGC is not “crowd-sourcing”.You can get a crowd to do the thriller dance, or have a pillow fight, or kiss someone of the same gender while the Pope drives by. But you cannot get an anonymous crowd to create community content.“Crowds aren’t smart. Communities of peers are.” Matt Thompson, is good if you have a large amount of small tasks, that people can work on pretty much independently.For larger tasks, especially where people need to collaborate, you need a community of individuals who have relationships with each other, not a crowd.This forces us to take a step back, and ask, “What is a community?”
  • Wikipedia has separate entries for different types of communities, based on what brings them together. These include communities of:Circumstance: bound by circumstances, usually beyond their control (e.g., cancer survivors)Place: shared geographic locationPosition: shared station in life Interest: shared common interest (e.g., “I like product X”)Purpose: people trying to achieve similar goals (e.g., car-buying)Action: united by a shared goal (e.g., create an online encyclopedia)Practice: people who choose to collaborate over a period of time (often applied to professions or traditional crafts)Most communities around commercial products or services are communities of interest, which have fairly weak ties. Those ties become stronger if you manage to transform the community into one of action, practice or purpose. For example, draw your community into your organizational mission or vision.
  • This applies to content as well as to software.CGC helps create community by giving a group a shared goal. Getting useful content is a side-benefit.
  • If you build it, they might not come.Building a community is hard. Reaching critical mass is hard.
  • Do not be surprise or disappointed by this. If get a handful of people actively contributing, that can be a huge success.
  • Number one is Personal Growth: wanting to learn something.Community is a bigger factor for documentors of free software, possibly because it’s explicitly discussed in free software contexts.A bigger factor for documentors of proprietary software is “thrills”: seeing your comments appear on a worldwide forum, as well as watching others succeed with your help and praise you for it.
  • Outdated or incorrect informationPoor organizationPoor formatting and layoutBad grammar and spelling
  • The spammerThe black-hat hackerThe troll and the grieferThe well-intentioned but wrong
  • Vigilant content reviewGood, easy-to-find guidelines and templatesPatienceConstant community engagement
  • What are some strategies that lead to successful communities and CGC?
  • Welcome new members to the community.Notice and appreciate early contributions.Have tasks identified that are easy for new members to do.
  • Let people use the ones that are comfortable for them. This means you have to monitor all of them.Make sure there are channels for both content discussion and relationship building.Asynchronous: mailing listsSynchronous: chatPhone and video add a greater degree of connection.Never underestimate the power of face to face meetings (that’s why we’re all here).
  • An amazing thing happens when you thank someone for contributing: They feel appreciated, and they want to do it again. Express gratitude early and often. It’s almost impossible to overdo gratitude.
  • Find out what your community members’ personal growth goals, and see how you can help them reach those goals.As people demonstrate trustworthiness, give them greater privileges and responsibility.Involve community members in decisions in a meaningful way.
  • It’s important to have explicit recognition for contributions, and a way of externalizing the value of an individual within a community.This has been discussed under another name here at this conference, but I want to caution you to take that with a grain of salt.
  • “Gamification” generally refers to adding game-like elements, such as achievement points and badges. This is one way, but certainly not the only way, of providing recognition and reputation. And done poorly, gamification can undermine community. Don’t let extrinsic rewards destroy intrinsic motivation. For example, if you pay kids to do their homework, they are then less motivated to do it when they’re not getting paid. Do not think that gamification is something you can layer on top of a community. That’s like thinking that you can add usability or accessibility to a product as an afterthought.In all these cases, you need to think about it from the beginning.
  • Game designer Jane McGonigal promotes the idea of “gamefulness”.You can strive to achieve a gameful community, regardless of whether you employ gamification.
  • A community that has a very carefully designed system for recognition and reputation is Stack Overflow, which is a support forum for programmers.Members ask questions and other members answer them. Members can not only rate each the quality of each others’ answers, but also rate whether the question is a good question. The original asker can pick one answer that best addresses their questions.Members gain reputation points based on the ratings given their questions and answers. A member can also put a bounty on a question, indicating how many points a good answer is worth to them.
  • Here’s the profile of a user with a huge reputation. He has been given moderator status, even though he’s not a staff member, because of his high level of regard within the community.
  • CGC is mostly about the community; content is a side-benefit.CGC gives communities something to do.People contribute for varied reasons: personal growth, gratitude, and thrills are high for those contributing to proprietary products.Make sure that communication channels exist for both content discussion and relationship building.
  • Shepherding Community-generated Content

    1. Shepherding Community- generated Content Janet Swisher, Mozilla @jmswisher on Twitter
    2. Discussion is encouraged
    3. AgendaBackground Foreground• What is community- • Realistic expectations generated content? • Why do people• What CGC is NOT contribute?• Types of community • Avoiding pitfalls & villains• Why support CGC? • Paths to success • Recognition & reputation
    4. Tell me about yourself
    6. What is community-generated content?
    7. What CGC is NOT
    8. What CGC is NOTPhoto by blmurch
    9. What is community?“It is not merely the group that generatescommunity, but the interactions within it.”―Jono Bacon, The Art of Community
    10. Types of communityPlace Circu Interes (e.g., mstan Actionneighbor- t (shared hoods) ce (products goal) Positio (e.g., Purpos , cancer n Practic hobbies) survivors) e (e.g., e teenagers) (similar (shared goals) expertise & methods)
    11. Which comes first?1. Build community.2. Get community to generate content.3. ???4. Profit
    12. Which comes first?“The Apache Software Foundation … believes thatits first order of business is creating healthy softwaredevelopment communities focussed on solvingcommon problems; good software is simply anemergent result.”―Brian Behlendorf, former president of the ApacheSoftware Foundation
    13. ListenShare Connect
    15. Realistic expectationsPhoto by JoshBerglund19
    16. Who will contribute?  90%: “lurk” but never contribute  9%: do a little  1%: do a lot Jakob Nielsen, Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to ContributeImage by verbeeldingskr8
    17. Why do people contribute?
    18. Why do people contribute? documentation-results-of-a-survey.html
    19. Pitfalls
    20. Villains
    21. Avoiding pitfalls and villains
    22. Paths to success
    23. Paths to success• Welcome Wagon• Tasks for newbies
    24. Paths to successMultiple communication channels
    25. Paths to successGratitude
    26. Paths to successMentor and empower
    27. Paths to successRecognition and reputation
    28. Beware of gamification pixie dust
    29. Being “Gameful”• Positive Emotion and engagement• Building positive Relationships• Meaning: connecting to a mission or goal greater than ourselves• Accomplishment: opportunity to do something that matters
    30. Recognition and reputation
    31. Recognition and reputation
    32. Take-awayshoto by renaissancechambara
    33. Resources• The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation, Jono Bacon• Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation, Anne Gentle• Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal