Nurture Community

Nurture Community (was Host and Introductions and Culture) --- ?RonGoldman 11 Feb 2002

. . . GroupDiscussions involve more than just the exchange of messages, they are also about creating community.

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"A community is a group of people with a shared interest, purpose, or goal, who get to know each other better over time." [Amy Jo Kim, "Community Building on the Web"] But getting to know a group of people when all of your interactions are via computer can be difficult.

For a lot of people moving to a new town where you don't know anyone can be a lonely experience. Even attending a party with people you do not know can be difficult; there are people to talk to, but you don't know them or their interests. At a good party there is a host who will introduce you to different folks and maybe even point out common interests you share.

The online world also benefits from people acting as hosts that greet newcomers, help orient them, introduce them to other members of the community, and generally keep things running smoothly. The host, and other community elders, help establish the tone for the community, providing an example of how people should act.

The underlying technology can also help to orient newcomers to an ongoing community. For example, on IRC chat there is the "whois" command to find out a person's name and email address. Some chat systems let people specify other information to be included with their "whois" information such as the URL for their home web page, a list of their interests, or whatever they want other people to know about them. Some web-based discussion groups, such as Yahoo! Groups, let people see a list of all of the group's members that includes links to their personal profiles pages.

Some mailing lists have a culture that encourages people to introduce themselves the first time they post to the list. Those messages are often saved, so newcomers can always search the archives to find out more about other, more visible members.

Each community has its own unique culture with its own phrases, in jokes, rituals, and customs. Some of this can be recorded in files or web pages that newcomers can then read to learn about the community.


Provide support for the community aspects of a discussion in addition to the basics of its communications. Recognize the different roles people play in a community and design the various computer applications to better support people in those roles.

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Archives (KeepArchives) provide a ways to provide a memory for the community and to enable newcomers to understand its history. FrequentlyAskedQuestions) are very useful to help orient newcomers. Keeping the discussion running smoothly can sometimes require QualityControl---Moderation).


Last edited December 24, 2002
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