Three underlying principles
Before you plunge ahead, I want to introduce to you three basic community design principles that underlie the ideas in this book.
The first one is: Design for growth and change (Figure 1). This might sound simple, but watch out, its harder than it looks. As a community designer, one of the most damaging mistakes you can make is to over-design your community up front and invest too heavily in a design paradigm or technology platform that cant easily be changed and updated. Successful, long-lasting communities almost always start off small, simple, and focused, and then grow organically over time--adding breadth, depth and complexity in response to the changing needs of the members and the changing conditions of the environment.
Design for growth and change
Closely related to this idea is the second principle: Create and maintain feedback loops (Figure 2). Successful community building is a constant balancing act between the efforts of management (thats you) to plan, organize, and run the space, and the ideas, suggestions, and needs of your members. To manage this co-evolution, youll need to keep your finger on the community pulse--and youll do this by creating and maintaining feedback loops between members and management. These loops will keep you in touch with what your members are saying and doing, and give you the information you need to evolve and update your features and platform.
Create and maintain feedback loops
This brings us to the third principle: Empower your members over time (Figure 3). Initially, its up to you to define your purpose, choose your feature set, and set a particular tone, but as your community grows and matures, your members can and should play a progressively larger role in building and maintaining the community culture. If you want to grow a large and thriving community, youll need to develop a progressive strategy for leveraging the ideas and efforts of your members.
Empower your members over time