Design Strategies of Successful Communities
IN TERMS OF THEIR SOCIAL DYNAMICS, physical and virtual communities are much the same. Both involve developing a web of relationships among people who have something meaningful in common, such as a beloved hobby, a life-altering illness, a political cause, or a professional relationship. In one sense, a Web community is simply a community that happens to exist online, rather than in the physical world.
I’ve been building online communities for ten years. Again and again, regardless of technology, I’ve found myself bumping up against the same basic issues in my work--issues like persistent identity, newcomer confusion, etiquette standards, leadership roles, and group dynamics.
About five years ago, I summarized these issues into a set of design guidelines that I use in my consulting practice. Through conversations with community leaders, both on and off the Web, I learned that all communities are ultimately based on timeless social dynamics that transcend the medium of connection. In other words, people are people, even in cyberspace.