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Public Sample of the
Online Ministries Community Blog

Mar 28

Community Building Requires Interaction

Posted by Bill Anderton

You will often hear me discussing the definition of community that I use the most: "a community is a group of organisms interacting in a shared environment."

connected_community2_400w.jpgSince this isn't my own definition, I can brag on it; it is a beautifully elegant and simple definition of this complex thing we call "community." The definition perfectly fits anything from a coral reef, a pride of lions, a rural village, an urban city to our own Special-Interest Community.

As it applies to our Connected Community and its component Special-Interest Communities, let's parse the definition in our context: "a group of organisms (that us; members of this Special-Interest Community) interacting (participating in discussions in forums, sharing news, participating in collaboration and on-line learning) in a shared environment (in our case, in the on-line shared webspace we call the Connected Community.)

This Special-Interest Community has been fully launched just several days and had a soft-launch among a small group of beta testers a couple of weeks before that. With the community platform functioning, we're now beginning a period of intense community building. For the next six months, we will be focusing a lot of attention on two particular aspects of our community building: (1) getting more "organism" into our environment; and (2) increasing the "interactions" within our environment.

Getting more organisms, more people interested in online ministries, into the community is actually the easy tasks of community building. Word will spread, people will join. Yes, you can help us spread the word and make the pace of this portion of our community building go faster, but it will happen.

The other portion of our community building will be the harder thing to do; that of increasing the interactions among the members of our community.

For this phase of our community building to be successful, we all are going to have to, well, interact. We have to share news and add threads and comments to our forums.

Although this is indeed as easy as it sounds; it is often difficult to get people started. There is a natural tendency in all of us to want to "lurk" in a new environment. Lurking is so common that we on-line community managers have a standard definition for it. A "lurker" is someone in a community who is a constant visitor/reader to forums but rarely if ever posts in them. By extension, a lurker is also someone who reads the news of others but never posts news themselves.

Lurking in a new space for a short time can actually be a good thing; it allows you to observe the community for a while in order to get into the swing of things before jumping into full interactions. However, at some point, you DO need to jump in and begin contributing in order to build the community through your direct interactions with others in the community. It's that "organisms-interacting" thing mentioned in the definition. Otherwise, we're not a community.

Participation in the community directly helps build the community while perpetual lurkers only benefit themselves, they don't help build the community only consume without contributing. While I don't want that to sound unduly harsh, I must acknowledge it is a simple fact. Please be assured that we're never going to castigate lurkers here; because lurking is a very common human trait particularly in a new community. Instead, what we want to achieve is to encourage people to change that type of behavior; to participate in community because they want to and because they see its benefits!

We're going to encourage you to participate in our community at every opportunity. At times, we even going to implore you to because the more people who participate, a.k.a. "interact," the more vibrant our community will become.

The normal cycle of interaction isn't a lot of work on your part. In a healthy community, some times people participate and some times they only lurk for a while. This is totally normal behavior. Everyone participates at some time but not necessarily all of the time. A healthy community has a balance between contributors and consumers. The base of contributors simply needs to be as broad as possible.

As we get the Connected Community started, it is very important that we have as many interactions within the community as possible early in this critical portion of its life cycle. These early interactions are the seeds that generate community building and more interactions down the road.

Participation is easy, simply pick a forum you're interested in and start adding comments to topics. Your comments don't have to be long; they simply needs to be some sort of interaction with other Disciples. You could even post questions in the topics. Better still, you could even start a new thread in one of the forum on a new topic you're interested in. Before you know it, you will be in discussion and that is indeed participation and interaction.

You'll be a community builder.

The more we interact, the more be become a community.

Category: (03-13) March 2013   Tag:

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