Managing a Sustainable Online Community

A friend posted a line to this post on how to manage a sustainable online community which is one of the greener ways to leverage cloud services in a data center.

And these are good things to think about if you want to get involved in social data center networks.

HOW TO: Manage a Sustainable Online Community

Community Network ImageRob Howard is the CTO/founder of enterprise collaboration software company Telligent.

A 2008 Gartner study on social software noted that “about 70 percent of the community typically fails to coalesce.” While the measurement and the statistics behind this statement raise questions, there is an element of truth.

The popularity of the post is high.


I've read the article a few times to think about to leverage the ideas, and completely missed the author's name, Rob Howard.

Rob Howard, Founder and CTO

Rob Howard is the vision behind Telligent's product development and innovation and is known throughout the industry as an authority in community and collaboration software. As Telligent's Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Howard oversees product development and the company's technology roadmap. A true pioneer, Howard contributed to the development and adoption of Microsoft's Web platform technologies, where he helped create and grow the innovative ASP.NET community. In 2004, he continued his vision for customer engagement when he founded Telligent, which was first-to-market with integrated online community software. Howard also understood early on the value of community analytics, and Telligent was first-to-market with an application to address this need.

I worked with Rob at Microsoft and it is great to see he has a successful company focusing on collaboration.  Now that I have a connection with the author I am reading the post with a different perspective.

Rob makes three excellent mistakes in online communities.

There are detrimental effects of over-hyping the technology and then committing the three cardinal sins of running a community:

  • If you build it they will come. This is probably the best known online community fallacy. The premise is that if I roll out a given technology set (blogs, forums, wikis, etc.), users will automatically appear and congregate, forming a robust community. This can be attributed to the lure of “social software” that companies repeatedly bite at, as opposed to seeking to extend or create value for their customers.
  • Once I’ve launched it, I’m done. Many communities launch successfully, only to fade out and disappear. This is due in large part to a failure to assign ownership of the community and to have a strategy that lasts past “launch.”
  • Bigger is better. The assumption here is that the overall size of a community is indicative of its success. This is challenging for most community managers and businesses to understand, as it is contrary to what they’ve usually been told.

And discusses the relationship of the size of a group and benefit to end users.

Community life cycles are often portrayed as simple linear progressions, with the goal of “maintenance” once maturity is reached. However, I have found that a community has unique characteristics that conflict with many of the preconceived notions of success. While the value of the community to its creators increases as membership increases, the value to individual members may diminish. Disregard for, or lack of understanding of these behaviors can lead to the failure of a community.

Analogies have been made to high schools and sub groups that exist.

It should be noted that I am not advocating that communities be limited by membership size. Rather, capabilities should exist within a larger community to support smaller, internal groups that can form around narrow areas of interest. This is validated by both Twitter and FacebookFacebook, which have in recent months both introduced capabilities to narrow the scope of conversations: Lists, privacy controls, and so on.