Tag Archives: online-community

How to Help a Community Grow

Building an online community and helping it to grow is not always an easy task. I’ve spent many years figuring out what works – and what doesn’t. Even when people are signing up, participating in some way and logging in regularly, does that actually mean you are a success? No, my friends, it doesn’t mean squat. That means a few people have found a value for themselves in using your space and resources. Are they working together towards a common goal? Is your community platform providing them with the tools they need in order to continue to flourish?

There always seems to be a small “moment” – the one that reminds me why it is I’m doing all of this. I received an email today that brought a huge smile to my face at a time when I needed it most. We all have those down times when we ask ourselves if we should continue to push ahead. I admit to having them myself. Then, I receive an email from someone like Jamie, and the passion and dedication are instantly renewed.

Hi Chris,

First of all I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

I discovered that I have been in your community just over a year (since the 2nd of December, 2009). Throughout the time I have spent in the community I have met a lot of great people and learned plenty of useful things.

The way that I first found your community was while on YouTube. I followed the link to your live stream and joined the IRC chat room. I felt very welcome in the community and started talking on the IRC channel a lot more. There I met a few people who I am good friends with and we have set up various IRC channels on the GeekShed network.

People that I have met on IRC have given me a opportunity to be a ‘better’ geek, such as now I write regular posts on a technology blog and I am actively working in a number of different development projects for IRC related software.

I would like to thank you a massive amount for setting up your community. Without it I would never of met some of the people that I have and I probably wouldn’t have ever learned PHP and become a developer. I have already written a lot of PHP based web applications that have proved to be useful to some people and hopefully I will get a career as a developer one day.

Keep up the amazing work!

Many thanks,

Jamie (AKA: Edgy)

What helps to renew your passion and drive? How do you keep pushing yourself forward when you feel as though perhaps you should do something completely different? Have you had a “moment” lately?

Thank you to Jamie and all of the members of our live site. You guys are what makes this worth doing day after day, week after week and year after year. Many thanks go out to the chat room moderation team, as well as to my uber-awesome assistant Kat – the Community Manager extraordinaire who keeps it all together.

Why Do We Build Community?

I wear many hats along my chosen career path: writer, live streamer, speaker and mentor. The best part of what I do, though, is to help build our community. Make no mistake, it is our community, not mine. I simply provide the various tools to bring all of you together.

Tonight, I was reminded why it is that I do this. Kat pointed out that it is now (today, October 1st) one year since we lost long-time community member Cory (Gimpi) Carrier. I have already seen many of you commenting in various places about Cory, how much you miss and love him. He was a driving force behind what we did back in the beginning… providing comic relief, different perspectives and fresh ideas. He left a large mark in our hearts and lives.

Kat and Cory were very close friends, and I know how much her heart is breaking again today. As she and I were talking earlier, she explained what he meant to her:

He was such a vibrant and important part of our community – and of my life. He taught me things about the way the world looks at others. He opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about things. He showed me what type of person I only wish I could be on the inside. And most of all… he became MY hero.

THIS is why I do what I do. Connecting people together to create change, connections and lasting friendships is what it’s all about. The bonds that can be made when people join together due to a common thread are amazing to watch as they grow and strengthen. I am humbled to be a part of it. Thank you – all of you – for being a part of our community.

Please take the time to visit our software center today.

LeWeb 2009: Building Communities

When Loic Le Meur asked me last year to come to Paris and speak at his LeWeb Conference, I admit to being honored beyond belief. LeWeb is one of the premiere conferences anywhere in the world, and it’s held in beautiful Paris. When I found out that Queen Rania Al Abdullah was also speaking, I broke out into a cold sweat. This was serious business, folks. The people who attend this event are hard-core. They are THE movers and shakers in our world. They are smart – passionate – dedicated. Loic is their leader, and I hoped only to make an impact on the crowd in some small way.

Loic asked me to speak about building communities, something which I have been doing online since 1992. This is where my passion lies. This is what I am dedicated to. I walked onto the stage with the hope that the things I have learned along the way would help someone in their journey. I became so filled with the enthusiasm around me that I walked off that stage with my head held high. I feel as though I gave one of the best presentations of my life… not because someone told me so, but because I know that I believed in everything I said.

When you are going to speak to an audience – no matter how large or small – don’t talk at them. Talk WITH them. Yes, you need to tell them whatever it is you know. Of course you’re going to try to win them over to your side. But you still have to actually have a conversation with them… much as you do when you are trying to build a community.

Community comes from inside of you. The tools and platforms available are simply that: tools and platforms. They are not the community. Bring people together and give them the tools to connect to each other and then watch as leaders emerge from within. Talk to them. Work with them. Learn about them and grow with them.

Remember that building a community is not about connecting people to you. It’s about connecting them to each other.

Will You Give Second Life a Second Chance?

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The other day, I slagged Second Life for having been overrun by porn and gambling enthusiasts. After I posted the video last week, several of you out there who live in the Second Life community were none too pleased with my assessment, including Phaylen Fairchild. Many of you were quick to point out that while porn and gambling are still found in your online world, they are not what rule the roost anymore. Fair enough, I suppose. I figured the least I could do was to log in and give it another shot for myself, just to see if my opinion could be swayed.

Bottom line? I still don’t get it. Yes, it’s a virtual world / community where you can create your experience – but performance and usability is still ass-nasty (no way around it). It’s just as much of a kluge to use as it was back in the day. I am using a high-end Mac Pro to play around, and it’s still sluggish and slow.

Oliver is one of the people who reached out to me, offering to give me a tour of the newer version. My friend Beth Goza actually designed my avatar back when she worked for Linden Labs. Even with Oliver’s obvious enthusiasm for his world, I still just couldn’t get into it. The frame-rate was just – ick. The sound effects were something straight out of the 70s.

I do understand that the community offers disabled people opportunities they might not otherwise have. I get that many of you truly feel like you’re a part of a wonderful group of friends. However, that doesn’t excuse poor performance in my book, y’all. With all of the advancements in the gaming and online community world, why the hell does this one act as though we’re still stuck in 1995?

I applaud those of you who have stayed with Second Life for so many years. I am not in any way questioning you – nor your reasons for wanting to continue your traditions. My slams are against the platform and lack of performance, not the many dedicated users.

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Can Hanging Out Online Help You Lose Weight?

Thousands of dollars are spent every week by people desperately trying to lose weight. Tips, tricks and hints are found everywhere you look. Weight loss is something that millions of people obsess about, and it’s one of the hardest things in the world to achieve. We try every fad, gadget and food that we can get our hands on. Some literally starve themselves to oblivion. Others yo-yo up and down without ever hitting the goal they have set for themselves. We try so hard – in so many ways – to get into the pants size we dream of. Who knew all we had to do was log on to the Internet?

Investigators at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (KPCHR) designed a website to track the weight of about 350 of the 1,600 overweight or obese participants of a longer-term study. The site was designed to act like a weight-loss program which offers personal counseling and group meetings. The researchers feel that the mixture of accountability and sociability is what made it such a success. The study showed that the more often people logged into the site, the more likely they were to maintain weight loss.

This isn’t surprising to Nancy Makin. She lost more than a quarter of a ton after her sister purchased a computer for her birthday back in 2003. Nancy was afraid to go outdoors, due to the stares and rudeness she encountered when she tipped the scales at 703 pounds. After receiving the computer, she went online and found how easy it was to make friends when someone cannot see you. She began losing weight as she became integrated with an online community. She emphatically states that it wasn’t that she was no longer hungry. The key was the friendships she made, the fact she felt she belonged and the sense of community she came to love.

“The key is to find contentment and value in yourself by reaching out and doing something not for you, and the weight will come off as a side effect,” said Makin, who believes that community plays a larger role in weight loss for the morbidly obese, while accountability better helps those who are over weight.

I couldn’t agree more with the findings of this study. I’ve been building and catalyzing communities online for many years now. I’ve personally witnessed any number of physical – and emotional – changes in people over the years. Becoming a part of a thriving community – feeling as though you’re an important member of that society – can be the catalyst needed to change a person’s life.

What about you? How has your life changed for the better once you became part of an online community?

Creating Community Communication Silos

Every day, I seem to receive at least one email or invitation to a new “social network” of sorts – and just about every one of these networks are networks unto themselves. That is to say: they’re community silos, not community expanders.

This is frustrating – and I don’t see the trend changing anytime soon. As someone who has always had a community (or network) of friends, both real and virtual, the last thing I want or need to do is split them up. I don’t need another proprietary chat room – I don’t need another proprietary commenting system.

So, each of these “Web 2.0” efforts wants to be the next success story – right? Why, then, do they not understand that the “Holy Grail” of social networking is in eliminating the walls between social networks? It’s not just about doing yet another mashup – it’s about bridging existing gaps.

Chat (active interactive) and Comments (static interactive) seem to be communication devices that some people already have (but not everyone, admittedly). Still, for those of us who already have solutions in place – why make yet another silo for us? Why not break down that barrier and allow us to use the tools we already have in our stable?

Dunno. I’m not down on the whole idea of social networking – but I am down on the idea of creating yet another social network to get to the people who are already in my social network. Gawd, that phrase means absolutely nothing to me anymore (I’ve said and heard it enough times).

I understand the validity of creating rich, live chatting experiences – but not at the expense of abandoning (read: ignoring) my existing IRC channels at irc.wyldryde.org. IRC has been around forever – imperfect, but widely adopted. The only reason Twitter “works” for me is that it allows me to receive updates via my IM network of choice. Imperfect, but already running on my desktop.

If you decide to integrate some kind of live chat within your service, at least let people choose to use their own instead of yours. If security is an issue, then you shouldn’t be doing chat in the first place. Live chat, of any kind, is only as strong as the room’s active members and moderators.

Stop creating community (communication) silos, please? Please?

Monday Night Live

Last night, on our way home from dinner, I asked Ponzi if she’d come on cam to say hi to everybody who was tuned in. I told her there were probably 100 people in there and she said there probably wasn’t. We quickly discovered the chat room count sitting at 79, so she dismissed me and went about her nightly business. I told the chat room that Ponzi wouldn’t return unless we had at least 100 people in chat.

Minutes later, people were twittering away – asking their friends to join the fun. Then someone decided to post to Digg. In less than a half hour, our chat room swelled to over 400 people – actively asking questions. I was answering them in rapid-fire succession. Our server was taking quite a hit, but we kept going thanks to everybody (SubWolf, Sean, usrbingeek, LordKat, Bear, Kat, Freekie, IslandDave, SC_Thor, Ryan, Pierce (and I hope I’m not leaving anybody out).

We had a total blast – and someone suggested that Ponzi do a live cooking show, taking questions from the audience all the while. I think she’ll do it, but I don’t know when. The site is streaming 24/7 (and the community is buzzing, thanks to new friends from Facepunch. All in all, this is nothing more than an ongoing experiment – but it’s turning out to be quite successful (espeically for our existing sponsors, I can safely say).