Building an Online Community, Article 1

This is the first in a series of articles about how to build a new kind of socio-economic virtual community using “natural ethics” as policy and structure. The financial benefit to belonging in the community I propose is equally shared by all participating members. The community is run by the community, not by any commercial interest, although the infrastructure may be built and run by a commercial interest. This last point is important, for if one understands the basis of viral marketing and community building, it is the users who are the building blocks of social networks.

First, let’s examine the commercial and social activity on the internet. What has changed in the last few years?

• internet hacking has increased
• email spamming has reached epidemic levels
• people have developed a strong aversion to advertising on the web
• people have a wide choice of places to go, and things to participate in
• free is not enough, it has to be something that they can benefit from right away
• many users are afraid to download anything on the web
• the democratization of media — users love being able to create and post content
• users need to see the benefits to them for anything they do
• people tend to trust the opinion of other users over advertisements
• overload — users are distracted by the plethora of places to go and things to do
• stickiness / loyalty is increasingly difficult to build

The trend seems to be towards an increasing democratization of media, away from corporate and central control. Communities or networks of like-minded individuals form in any space where people may express their voice. Online communities are the name of the day.

What forms can a community of enthusiasts take?

THE DRIVE BY WINDOW — friend to friend, business associate to associate
• people are added one by one
• slow process

THE LOCAL COFFEE SHOP — a simple place for users to meet; like a support group
• draws only from people interested in one thing
• members only stay as long as they benefit: getting a question answered
• people are not encouraged to stay for any other reason

THE PLANNED COMMUNITY — a commercial company provides an infrastructure for a community (ex. Wikipedia)
• draws from a larger group of people with varying individual interests, grouped because of a larger common interest
• infrastructure provides easy of use
• more interests, more reason to stay
• more chance for members to be recognized by the community for input
• more trust inside the community for adoption of the products presented within the community
• infrastructure can make the adoption of the products easy or even part of the structure

More about how to make a planned community work:
• make a way to claim belonging to an “in” group: a cool logo
• make a way for the groups to benefit from bridging to other groups (with permission)
• allow for closed groups and open groups
• visual map the networks and the connections a user makes in a nav system, based upon user preferences — my constellation system
• get the customers to educate the new users — assign them special status with stars from the users for good replies / service

The planned community has the best chance for building a virtual neighborhood with the most benefit to all. Subsequent articles will explore the kind of community that I have in mind, one that uses “natural ethics” to protect and serve all its members.

It seems to me that given an environment where all are respected and where all benefit, these are the kind of ethics that would naturally evolve:

“Natural Ethics” principles for Community Building (from The Gaia Paradigm)

– inclusion instead of exclusion
– partnership / cooperation
– enough for all
– responsible action
– tolerance for others
– credit for ideas / work within the community
– economic benefit for ideas / work
– democratic voice

–> more to come

— copyright 2007 Aliyah Marr

Other articles on Building Virtual Communities:

<– Article 1 :::: Article 2 :::: Article 3 –>


4 Replies to “Building an Online Community, Article 1”

  1. wow! i love what u are about…

    this is exactly where i’m coming from and i LOVE thinking out of the box, so u can see we already have like minds in this area.

    part of my dream is to have the community where i am eventually going to live to be a REAL community.



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