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  1. Introduction
  2. Nine design strategies of successful communities
  3. Three underlying principles
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Nine design strategies of successful communities

Community Building on the Web is organized around nine timeless design strategies that characterize successful, sustainable communities. Taken together, these strategies summarize an architectural, systems-oriented approach to community building that I call “Social Scaffolding.”

  • Define and articulate your PURPOSE

  • Communities come to life when they fulfill an ongoing need in people’s lives. To create a successful community, you’ll need to first understand why you’re building it and who you’re building it for; and then express your vision in the design, technology and policies of your community.

  • Build flexible, extensible gathering PLACES

  • A community can begin to take root wherever people gather for a shared purpose and start talking among themselves. Once you’ve defined your purpose, you’ll want to build a flexible, small-scale infrastructure of gathering places, which you and your members will work together to evolve.

  • Create meaningful and evolving member PROFILES

  • You can get to know your members--and help them get to know each other--by developing robust, evolving, and up-to-date member profiles. If handled with integrity, these profiles can help you build trust, foster relationships, and deliver personalized services, while infusing your community with a sense of history and context.

  • Design for a range of ROLES

  • Addressing the needs of newcomers without alienating the regulars is an ongoing balancing act. As your community grows, it will become increasingly important to provide guidance to newcomers while offering leadership, ownership, and commerce opportunities to more experienced members.

  • Develop a strong LEADERSHIP program

  • Community leaders are the fuel in your engine: they greet visitors, encourage newbies, teach classes, answer questions, and deal with troublemakers who might destroy the fun for everyone else. An effective leadership program requires careful planning and ongoing management, but the results can be well worth the investment.

  • Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE

  • Every community has its share of internal squabbling; if handled well, conflict can be invigorating. But disagreements often spin out of control and tear a community apart. To avoid this, it’s crucial to develop some ground rules for participation and set up systems that allow you to enforce and evolve your community standards.

  • Promote cyclic EVENTS

  • Communities come together around regular events: sitting down to dinner, going to church on Sunday, attending a monthly meeting or an annual offsite. To develop a loyal following and foster deeper relationships among your members, you’ll want to establish regular online events and help your members develop and run their own events.

  • Integrate the RITUALS of community life

  • All communities use rituals to acknowledge their members and celebrate important social transitions. By celebrating holidays, marking seasonal changes, and acknowledging personal transitions and rites of passage, you’ll be laying the foundation for a true online culture.

  • Facilitate member-run SUBGROUPS

  • If your goal is to grow a large-scale community, you’ll want to provide technologies to help your members create and run subgroups. It’s a substantial undertaking, but this powerful feature can drive lasting member loyalty and help to distinguish you community from its competition.

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