Discussion Report 9 Anne Babcock - How to create a real virtual sense of community?

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Title of Session

How to create a real virtual online community?




Anne, Daniela, Jane, Sabrina, Kate, Toby, Catherine, Vijaya (please add your name here if you were missed!)

Key Discussion Points

We established after some discussion that an online community, is a group of people who meet online around a common interest, purpose, practice (Etc) and engage with each other using a varied set of online tools depending on the context. Tools could include: wikis discussion boards/e-forums chats D-groups Skype Blogs Email Sharepoint websites and more...

We started off using Daniela's example of having to create an online enviro for ministers and other politicians to share information. We got into much detail but eventually moved away from this to discuss/establish (?) the key principles around what make an online community and more importantly what makes a meaningful online community.

Key components of a meaningful or effective online community include:

1. Purpose - know your purpose, clearly define it and know why you are a community/why you are looking for community.

       *Related to this may be knowing/identifying the common needs, interest or practice of the group

2. Incentives - the people that make up this community need to have a reason to belong and participate within this group. Key questions a 'community maker' should ask themselves, why would someone want to be part of this group, what will they get out of it? how does it meet their needs?

       *Incentives could also be as simple as recognising when someone by name when they 
        make a contribution, competitions, awards ceremonies, prizes

3. Tools - know your tools. What are the best tool(s) (as listed above) to acheive your group purpose?

4. Facilitation - A facilitator needs to be dedicated and ACTIVE in supporting and following-up with 'community' members in order to spur things on.

       *We were conscious of over facilitating and under facilitating.  Either extreme  
        would be a problem.    

Critical mass of community members is also important. I hope everyone felt they got to ask their questions and was able to contribute their wisdom. Someone quoted the ratio that 80% of online community members are generally lurkers, while 20% are active contributors.

Does anyone else have anything to add?