In the land of eLearning,
most communities aren't.
Visit the threaded
discussion forums that pass for community on the Web and you often find
the streets empty. Community is more than installing software. No people,
Alliance's Marcia Conner identifies these hallmarks
of a strong online community:
- Strong connection
- Critical mass of
content from community members
- Integrated rich
content and transactions
- Choices alongside
unbiased consumer testimonials
- A sense of fun
There goes the neighborhood
by Janelle Brown, Salon
"Community" is quite possibly the most over-used
word in the Net industry. True community -- the ability to connect with
people who have similar interests -- may well be the key to the digital
world, but the term has been diluted and debased to describe even the
most tenuous connections, the most minimal interactivity. The presence
of a bulletin board with a few posts, or a chat room with some teens swapping
age/sex information, or a home page with an e-mail address, does not mean
that people are forming anything worthy of the name community
Art of Hosting Good Conversations
by Howard Rheingold. When I joined the early, free-wheeling WeLL
in the early 90s, Howard was hosting half a dozen conferences, each of
them a swarm of activity. This is the context for this article. Nonetheless,
many of these principles apply to moderating any on-line discussion. For
- A feeling of ownership.
Participants become evangelists.
- A place where everybody
builds social capital individually by improving each other's knowledge
- Enable people
to create a gift economy for knowledge-sharing.
- Make newcomers
feel welcomed, contributors valued, recreational hasslers ignored
- All online systems
tend to fail to cohere without careful intervention. But the intervention
has to be ground-up, not top-down.
- All online social
systems are challenged by human social foibles and technological bugs
that tend to split groups apart.
- Remember that both
civility and nastiness are contagious. (The WeLL was chock full of flame
- Bend over backwards
to be fair and civil when challenged. You are performing the public
drama of the foundation myth of the community.
- Have fun! Signal
that it's okay to experiment, okay to not take yourself and the whole
enterprise too seriously.
- Encourage people
to talk among themselves
Distributed Electronic Meetings
by Peter+Trudy Johnson-Lenz.
report that on-line conversations, particularly in distributed electronic
meetings where people participate at different times and from different
places, tend to be formal, distant, scattered, and disjointed. The qualities
of connection, coherence, integration, and real collaboration often
seem elusive over a network. Sometimes they're there, sometimes they're
But it doesn't have
to be this way. It is possible to have electronic meetings distributed
across space and time where people feel heard, contribute what they
think, feel, and want, and where real learning and collaboration take
place. All it takes is intention, planning, skill in using the medium,
and a willingness to risk bringing one's whole self to the process.
- Communicate electronically
with others as you would have them communicate with you.
- Discover and respect
diverse on-line communications and learning styles.
- Ask others how
they prefer to receive information and communications. For example,
some people prefer lots of interaction and short pieces of information,
while others like lots of details and getting everything at once and
then they take longer to digest and reflect. Some want to be involved
in many things on line and others want to focus on just a few.
- Be a full participant
& send as well as receive. It's always easier to be a spectator
than a player.
- Acknowledge explicitly
what you want to encourage. For example, if you ask for ideas, suggestions,
or critical feedback and get responses from others, acknowledge their
contributions explicitly, preferably by name, even if you disagree.
- If you want to
increase responsiveness, acknowledge and praise those who are.
- If you have a strong
reaction to something (either positive or negative), take time before
responding. Your words will live on much longer than your initial reaction
The Four-Fold Way
- Show up in all ways.
- Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
- Tell the truth without judgment or blame.
- Be open to outcomes but not attached to outcomes.
Innkeeping: Building Online Community
by John "Tex" Coate
- The currency is
human attention. Work with it. Discourage abuse of it.
- You are in the
- Welcome newcomers.
Help them find their place.
- Show by example.
Strive to influence and persuade.
- Have a big fuse.
Never let the bottom drop out.
- Use a light touch.
Don't be authoritarian.
- Affirm people.
Encourage them to open up.
- Expect ferment.
- Allow some tumbling.
- Don't give in to
tyranny by individual or group.
- Leave room in the
rules for judgment calls.
- Encourage personal
and professional overlap.
- Think "tolerance."
Skills for the Successful Web Instructor
by Valorie Beer