Monthly Archive for October, 2008

New Open Source Conference Coming to Portland

Were you sad and dismayed to hear that OSCON was moving out of Portland? Are you looking for more open source events to attend? Would you like an open source conference organized by the community? Want one more tech event to attend in July? Need an excuse (any excuse) to visit lovely Portland, Oregon in July? Do you like to help organize events for fun in your spare time?

If you answered yes to any of my obnoxious questions above, I have a great solution for you: The Open Source Bridge event.

pdx group tag cloud

Selena does a great job of sharing how the idea to do this event was born, the purpose of the event, the details, and how you can get involved:

Open Source Bridge will bring together the diverse tech communities of the greater Portland area and showcase our unique and thriving open source environment.

Open Source Bridge
will have curated, discussion-focused conference sessions, mini-conferences for critical topics and will include unconference sessions.

We will show how well Portland does open source and share our best practices for development, community and connectedness with the rest of the world.

Lots of ideas are buzzing around in our heads, and we’d love to talk about them with you! If you’d like to contribute to the effort, stop by the town hall event October 30, 2008 at Cubespace. We’ll have another meeting November 6th, and it will be announced on Calagator.

At the town hall, you’ll have a chance to meet the members of the core organizing committee, and pick up a responsibility or two. We’ll be breaking off into teams for each of the major areas requiring organization, and distributing the work across many people. We will create a mailing list after this first meeting for those who just want to hear about what we’re up to, or participate in some other way.

(Quote from Selena Deckelmann)

I encourage you to attend the Town Hall to share your ideas with the team and to talk about how you can get more involved in the event. The key to community driven events is that they require a lot of work from volunteers both during the planning stages and on site during the event! If you want this event to be successful, I encourage you to pitch in to help.

Town Hall

Images above are also from Selena Deckelmann.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

State of the Online Community 2008

Bill Johnston recently gave a presentation about the State of the Online Community 2008: Key Findings from the Online Community Research Network, and I encourage you to take a look at it. As you can tell from the title, the slides contain highlights and important information from his research over the past year. Here are a few of my personal favorites among his key findings:

  • Most organizations do not have a comprehensive online community strategy.
  • Marketing typically owns the community (I have some thoughts on this).
  • Community manager roles are still evolving.
  • Many communities are not meeting expectations.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Dr. Seuss and Online Communities

I recently gave my “What Would Dr. Seuss Say about Online Communities” Ignite-style presentation at the Love@First Website event here in Portland. I think this was a better presentation than the one that I gave back in February at Ignite Portland. It’s always easier to give a presentation the second time after you see what does and does not work.

The kind people over at iSite embedded the recorded audio from my talk into a SlideShare presentation, so turn up the volume and click play in the embedded presentation below to hear me give my Ignite talk while the 20 slides fly by every 15 seconds.

L@Fw2008 Dawn Foster
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: foster dawn)

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

New 2008 Social Technographics data reveals rapid growth in adoption

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Event notes: Future of the Social Web Roundtable

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How to Give a Successful Ignite Presentation :: User First Web

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Intel Software Network Dashboard

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Job Hazards of the Community Manager

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Simple Efficiency Tweaks to Get More Done in Social Media | Social Media Explorer


Rewarding Community Members

I spend quite a bit of time talking with clients about incentives and rewards for participation in their community, especially when they are launching new communities. I offer quite a few cautions against offering monetary incentives, because in my past experience, they tend not to be effective. This is especially true for communities where the members are technologists, since people working in the technology industry are already well compensated in most cases.

However, I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the psychology behind it until I read a particularly interesting short post by Richard Millington. He suggests sending them a fruit basket:

Imagine I sent you a fruit basket for writing a brilliant comment.

How would you react? Happy?

You might mention it to others. You would write more brilliant comments. You would feel appreciated, it’s a great feeling.

What if I paid $20 into your PayPal account?

It’s just become work.

How much will you charge next time? Will you work less if you don’t get paid? Will others now want to be paid?

Money makes communities implode. So send flowers, fruit baskets, chocolates and invitations to special events. Surprise gifts bring out the best in people, money brings out the worst.

(Quoted from FeverBee)

The point here isn’t that a fruit basket is the right reward for excellent community participation, but a little bit of creativity goes a long way toward finding interesting ways to reward participants while staying away from monetary rewards. What kind of small gifts can you send people just to say thank you for doing something nice in the community? What is something exclusive that you can offer someone as a reward that they can’t get elsewhere? I know one person who often wears a t-shirt that is only given to people with commit status for this particular open source project. He’s proud of having special status within the community. You should think of ways that you can reward people with special status in your community that will make them proud of having achieved it. A special t-shirt or other ways for them to display this special status can help reinforce this reward.

It is worth spending some time thinking about creative rewards for community members. What rewards have you had the best luck with in the past? Have you ever had a company reward you in an interesting way for your participation?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

PortlandTechTwitter – AboutUs Wiki Page

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Productivity 2.0: How the New Rules of Work Are Changing the Game | Zen Habits


Social Media Measurement: Dashboards vs GPS

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Writing a Session Proposal for a Conference | Connie Bensen

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FeverBee: Your Members Really Want Fruit Baskets

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And The Top Mobile Social Networks Are… – ReadWriteWeb

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Shizzow Blog · Yay! Shizzow has SMS

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Importance of Place and Context in Online Communities

I realized something very interesting about my computer usage patterns a few days ago. For most tasks, I use the GUI environment on my Mac, since I mostly live in my web browser, IM, Twitter apps, and RSS reader. However, my background as a sys admin takes over whenever I am doing certain tasks, despite the fact that I haven’t been a sys admin since the mid 1990s. I found that I shift to the command line automatically for any tasks that I associate with Unix. For example, to edit any configuration file, I’ll go to the terminal window and use vi without even considering editing it using the various text editors that I would use to edit almost any other file on my hard drive. I realized that context plays a very significant role in my computer usage.

When I talk about “context” throughout the rest of this post, I’m referring to the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation.

Bear with me, I am going somewhere relevant with this discussion after one more minor diversion. I was talking to Amber Case a few weeks ago about the role that context plays in human memory. We tend to recall past memories more accurately if we are in the place where we first heard them or in a similar context. I started thinking about the role of context in my strange computer usage patterns. In a context that I associate with Unix or sys admin tasks, I revert to the command line without a second thought even for tasks that could be done as easily using a GUI tool.

I started wondering and thinking about the role that context plays in our social behavior as we interact in online communities and social networks. These online communities and social networks are the location or place equivalents of the local pub, coffee shop, library, or university, but in a specific online context. They are the places where we hang out (virtually) with friends, colleagues, family, and even strangers with common interests. We use our online communities and social networks to learn new things, gather information, and keep up with news about the other people in our lives. These are the new places that become the context for our interaction with people online.

I have noticed that I tend to behave and interact in very different ways depending on the community or social network that I am using. My interactions on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are very different. I use Twitter for conversations and sharing information with people; Facebook for finding non-work information about my friends, and LinkedIn for find work-related information. Realistically, I could send people messages using any of those social networks, but I tend to use Twitter to send messages to people and engage people in conversations; however, I have friends who would say that they primarily use Facebook to engage in conversations. I suspect that all of this comes back to context. We each associate certain activities with our personal context for that situation.

OK, so this is an interesting abstract topic, but what does all of this really mean? For anyone tasked with building online communities for your organization, you need to focus on creating a sense of place, like the neighborhood coffee shop, where people want to hang out and chat with other people who have common interests. Spend some time thinking about how to create an environment focused on discussions and connections between people. Provide other relevant information for your community members, but keep the community as focused as possible on the people and discussions that facilitate connections and interactions between those people. Let your community members develop a sense of place in your community and with it a meaningful context for their interactions within your community.

I would be very interested to hear from other people in the comments about the role of place and context in your interactions with online communities and social networks.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Legion of Tech, Art, Waffles, and Alcohol on Oct 23rd

Our final Legion of Tech Happy Hour Meetup for 2008 will be held on October 23rd and has been described as: “Sweet waffles, savory waffles, beer, wine, art & geeks all converging in a glorious orgy of awesome.”

Thursday October 23, 2008 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Jace Gace
2045 SE Belmont
Portland, OR

You can RSVP for this event on Upcoming and get more information about the event on the Legion of Tech blog.

Gail Ann Williams on Community from Love@First Website

I’m spending the morning at iSite’s Love@First Website Conference here in Portland.

I was impressed with Gail Ann Williams’ presentation about building online community. She was an early participant at The WELL and is currently the Director of Communities at

Here are my raw notes from Gail’s presentation. In other words these are my notes about her words (not my words), so hopefully, I managed to get most of it right with only a few typos.

What do we mean by community anyway?

  • Interactions and relationships: people who know each other very closely and are in your network along with the people who are loosely connected to each other. These connections are the most powerful part of community.
  • Complexity: people are members of multiple overlapping communities.
  • Continuity over time (which used to mean geographic proximity): our sense of place comes from the continuity and culture that is built over time. As the community evolves, they really become stakeholders in the community and feel like they own the community as much as the company and the developers own it.

What are your goals?

Always go back to the goals of the community. What are you trying to do and what do you want to accomplish? Salon found that allowing comments on articles started to build another community for Salon outside of the forums. These new members were interested in a community around the writers, but weren’t interested in the forums and were really a separate community that couldn’t be integrated with the other communities at Salon.

Set expectations

Being clear, upfront, and honest with your users, especially when you are making a big change, can help community members understand the reasons behind the change. They will also be more likely to support the change if they understand the reasons and have some time to vent about it.

Understand newcomer dynamics

Welcome newcomers in a friendly way, but don’t be overbearing and creepy about it. Existing community members tend to develop an insider / outsider mentality, which makes it very difficult for new people to engage in an enjoyable way. Community managers and other members need to be available to remind existing users that they were once new and that new people can become valuable members of the community and eventually become friends.

Spammers, Trolls, etc.

It really takes a lot of time to manage these annoying people. You can put some things in place to reduce spam and trolls (email verification, real names, etc.), but ultimately, real people need to jump in and moderate. Employees can clean it up, especially if you can get users to report the issues. Even when people don’t use it very often, the report abuse button might act as a deterrent to potential spammers who know that it will get reported quickly. Spam becomes a bigger issue on low volume sites, since the spam is more visible. Trolls are an interesting issue. They can be just trolls, but sometimes it can be a result of deeper personal / mental issues.

Collecting info at registration

Amazon has a good model. You can leave reviews with minimal information, but you can also be validated to get the real name designation. In general, ask for the information that you need to function as a community along with some information about why the information is needed. Add just enough of a barrier to reduce the spam, but not so much that people won’t want to join.

I only captured a few of the best points during the presentation, but it was great to hear from someone who has been continually participating and managing communities since the very early days of the Internet.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

FeverBee: The Dos and Don’ts of Outreach

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How Much Do Top Tier Bloggers and Social Media Consultants Get Paid? We Asked Them! – ReadWriteWeb

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Twitter Status – IM: Not coming soon

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WhereCamp PDX Reminder « Dyepot, Teapot

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Memorandum Colors: X-Ray Glasses for Political Bias in Blogs – ReadWriteWeb

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5 Ways to Sell Social Media to Your Boss – ReadWriteWeb