Communities and Communication

I’ve been looking for some good articles on the dynamics of developer communities. From a people perspective, I mean. The technology itself (OpenSolaris, of course) is sometimes (read: always) intimidating for me due to its complexity and my unfortunate lack of a Ph.D. (which entirely too many people have around here, by the way). As a result, I’ve been focusing more on how people interact and (hopefully) helping to enable communication within our nascent community. So, my nerves were soothed recently when I tripped over Chromatic’s “Building Online Communities.” Lots of really nice stuff in this piece that I can literally use as a guideline in my job.

From the opening paragraph:

The Internet exists to improve communication. Communities can grow anywhere communication occurs.

Truisms or not, those statements have tremendous implications. Their adherents see a commercial Web site less as a brochure and more as an opportunity to communicate with customers. They consider those who run a television fan site not as copyright infringers but as a community of fans. They think in terms of conversations and relationships. Cultivate a community, and you’ll attract eyeballs and ears willing to read and to listen to your message. Encourage discussion, and you’ll attract people willing to share their own messages.

Relationships. Conversations. Ok, cool. I can get that. I don’t feel so dumb now.

From the conclusion:

Even if you have graduate degrees in sociology and psychology, the dynamics of human communities will still surprise you. Be very clear about your goals and the rules. Manage your expectations about user participation and groups wisely. Allow a little chaos. Use your common sense and best judgment. If there’s an audience for your conversation, you’ll find a community.

That “allow a little chaos” snuggled nicely within this last paragraph really made me laugh. I’ll have to keep this in mind as OpenSolaris emerges. A little chaos, eh? How much is a little? 🙂

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