A few interesting things this week …
Monthly Archive for November, 2008
Many of my past posts have talked about the benefits of having a community for a company or organization. However, I have not spent enough time talking about the benefit to the participants in the community. It has to go both ways. A community will only be successful if the participants and the sponsoring organization both find value in participating regularly in the community.
A couple of recent interactions with people prompted me to write this post.
Last week, a reader of my blog, who works with a community in the travel industry asked me this question:
What’s your idea about the other side of the coin? Why should customers participate in online communities created by companies? What benefits do they get?
I also had a conversation on Monday with someone in the health care space who was struggling with whether or not to build an online community for their new site when other, similar communities already exist. Part of our discussion centered around why people would participate in their community and what value would the members receive that they were not already getting from other communities in their industry.
There are no easy answers to this question, and like many questions about community management, the answer depends on the situation; however, it boils down to a question of motivation. What motivates people to participate in your community?
The tricky part is that people are motivated in many different ways with complex interactions between motivations. For example, I might participate in a social media community as part of my work as a consultant because I think it will have long-term financial gain for me; however, I might be friends with many of the other participants and also participate for social reasons and because I have fun doing it while also feeling like I’m learning something.
Usually one of these motivations is the primary reason that a person comes into a community as a first time user. As a community manager or the organization sponsoring the community, you should focus on a couple of reasons that people might be motivated to participate and make them clear when you promote the community. Getting people motivated to visit the community for the first time is half of the battle.
It is also important to look at why people participate in your community and see how you can help get people more motivated to continue participating in the community over a significant period of time.
- Can you make it more fun? more social?
- What can you do to help people develop their skills and learn something new?
- How can you recognize the status of top contributors?
- Can you tap into their passion for a topic?
What motivates people to participate in your community? What do you do to help make sure that people stay motivated to participate?
Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:
If you have been wanting to create Yahoo Pipes, but weren’t quite sure where to start when faced with the blank page on a new Yahoo Pipe, I created a very simple demo to get you started. This Yahoo Pipes demo will help you get started with Yahoo Pipes and show you what you need to know to create a basic Pipe. We use filtering for this example, since Yahoo Pipes is great at taking feeds and filtering to display only the posts that match (or exclude) certain keywords. The demo covers taking multiple feeds as inputs, filtering on keywords, sorting, and using the debugger to analyze the elements of your source feeds and your output. After watching this demo, you should be able to create a basic Yahoo Pipe and use it to filter to include or exclude items that match certain keywords.
Yahoo Pipes Training
I also wanted to take this opportunity to announce that I will begin conducting Yahoo Pipes training for organizations. These 2 hour classes will cover the basics of building Yahoo Pipes and provide some custom content if needed to help meet the specific needs of your organization.
You can view a copy of the 2 Minute Demo Pipe Source.
- Fetch Feed. Enter your source feeds here. These are the feeds that have the information you want to filter.
- Filter. Filter the source feeds to include only posts that match certain keywords.
- Sort. Sort by date (descending) to make sure that the output from your various source feeds appears in sorted order.
- Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.
Related Fast Wonder Blog posts
Last night, we moved the Fast Wonder Blog to a new host, Dreamhost to be specific. Everything looks pretty good so far, but if you notice anything strange or buggy with the site, please let me know here in the comments.
I’m participating in the Great Portland Interview Project, and I was recently interviewed by Grant Kruger. According to the rules of the project, I’m posting the results of the interview here for your reading pleasure. Grant even slipped in a few extra questions, including an obscure question about Sausage the goat. The questions came from Grant, but the answers are mine.
- Tell us the short version of who you are and what you are up to.
- First time I met you you were part of the team running BarCamp and you volunteer elsewhere. Volunteers get paid in two ways, ego and thanks. Have you been paid? (more than a yes or no answer).
- Are you an Open Source evangelist, or a pragmatic Open Source lover?
- What about the PDX tech community do you love most?
- What about the PDX tech community do you think needs the most improvement?
- The Open Source Bridge project is well underway, but remains a fairly modest proposal. What do you think we are capable of here in PDX and what can we realistically attain within the next five years or so?
- I see you enjoy reading SF&F. Have you ever been to OryCon, a local SF&F convention with 1,500 to 2,000 attendees, run entirely by volunteers. Or one like it. If yes, what was it like, and if no, why not?
- On OryCon and other conferences like it: As a conference it is more complex than most professional tech conferences and many of their attendees are techies who attend both kinds. As an all-volunteer-run event, they may have many tricks to teach us, and we them. Should different gift-economies work together more, sharing ideas and concepts?
- Outside of professional and community-building spheres, what is your greatest personal achievement?
- Again, away from work, what are a few personal goals, e.g. travel, write a book, etc?
- I see you are a vegan. Is this for health reasons, ethical reasons, habit, etc?
- Do you like to get back to nature, and if yes, where do you like to go when you need to recharge.
- Tell us a little more about Sausage the goat.
I am a Consultant, Community Manager, Event Organizer, Blogger, Podcaster, Vegan, and Technology Enthusiast. I help companies build online communities and social media strategies through Fast Wonder Consulting. I am also the community manager for a small, bootstrapped startup called Shizzow, which is a social service that we built with the goal of making it as easy as possible to find and hang out with your friends in the real world. I am also the co-founder and chair of Legion of Tech, which holds free events in Portland for the technology community. I spend a fair amount of time blogging on Fast Wonder, Shizzow, various Legion of Tech blogs, and occasionally elsewhere. The first venture (Fast Wonder Consulting) is how I earn my living, while the other pursuits are things I do for fun because I am passionate about the Portland technology community and love to do what I can to make Portland a better place for technology enthusiasts.
The first event that I ever organized in Portland was a Monthly BarCampMeetup event. It came out of the desire to get together with a group of cool people doing interesting things with technology in a very informal setting. I couldn’t find anything quite right when looking at the existing Portland events, so I decided to organize a new event. The other events that followed came out of similar desires for something that didn’t already exist in Portland (BarCamp, Ignite Portland, etc.) Basically we organized events that we wanted to attend. We eventually formed Legion of Tech to have an organization to manage the logistics and sponsorship dollars for the events.
My “payment” is that we now have some very cool events that I love to attend, and I’ve met amazing people and formed friendships that I never would have formed otherwise. I learn so much from these people at every event and every gathering. These friendships and knowledge are my payment in exchange for organizing and volunteering at events.
Can I be a pragmatic open source evangelist? I am a firm believer in using the right tool for the job and finding the solution that works best for you and for your situation. The evangelism part comes into play when I try to make sure that people at least consider the open source alternatives. I also try to get people to look at open source applications, not as cheap knock-offs of proprietary apps, but as great applications with their own merits and strengths. Firefox, for example, has innovated way ahead of Internet Explorer and other browsers, and OpenOffice has some great features that I prefer over Microsoft Office. People won’t always select the open source alternative, and I don’t always select an open source product. However, I try to use an open source solution wherever possible.
I love the openness. The Portland tech community as a whole is very accessible, and it is easy for new people to get involved in the Portland tech community. We try to make people feel welcome and included.
I would love to see the tech community be more unified and less fragmented. We get an amazing crowd of freelancers, independents, and really interesting people at the Legion of Tech events and other less formal events around town. However, we also have some other great groups of people who attend the SAO and OEN events, but we don’t see enough overlap and integration of the two audiences. I would love to see more people who normally attend SAO and OEN events coming out to the informal events, and I would like to see more events being held by the SAO and OEN that attracted a broader audience of independents and freelancers. We’re starting to do this with the ThrivePDX events, but we have a long way before we accomplish this integration.
Events in Portland tend to exceed our modest expectations for them. I remember thinking that if we could get 75 people at the first BarCampPortland, we would have a successful event: the final count was ~250. For the first Ignite, we thought we would have 150 people: we filled the W+K atrium with 300 people. We’ve had Ignite Portland events with over 750 people. It seems to be easier to plan small and expand as needed if the demand grows. I like the modest start to the Open Source Bridge event, and I think that in a couple of years, we could end up with something amazing that brings people into Portland from around the world with attendance in the thousands.
I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately, but I tend to read in phases. I even spent a couple of years where I read business and technology books, but little to no fiction at all. I love science fiction, and I am a huge Star Trek fan, but it is really more of a way for me to wind down and relax. Technology is something that I get passionate enough about that I want to work with people and attend events. Since science fiction is a way for me to relax, I’m not really motivated to attend SF&F conferences or events. I’m more motivated to lounge on the couch with a book or a Star Trek rerun.
Absolutely! I think we can learn quite a bit from each other, and I am a big fan of sharing ideas across disciplines to make both more successful. It would be interesting to talk to one of the lead organizers for OryCon to learn more about how they organize their volunteer run events and share what we have learned.
I have a really hard time separating my “personal” achievements from my “professional” ones, since technology for me isn’t really a job. It’s a passion, a hobby, and something I spend quite a bit of free time doing. I am fortunate that I can also make a living doing something that I enjoy. I am most proud of what we have built with Legion of Tech, which I do in my free time because I love it, and I would consider that my greatest personal achievement.
Outside of technology, I have a bunch of small achievements that I’m proud of: I make my own jewelry; I’ve managed to stay in pretty good shape for a 37 year old woman; I’ve never missed my nephew’s birthday (he’s 10 and lives in Ohio); and I make a damn good vegan apple crisp.
I would love to spend more time traveling for pleasure, especially in locations where I can lay on a warm beach in the shade and read books. I started fulfilling this goal with a trip to Cancun for Thanksgiving last year and trip to Maui with my mom in May. Before last year, my vacations involved big cities or trips to visit family in Ohio, and these two trips were my first beach vacations. I think maybe we’ll hit Jamaica next year.
Once I started thinking about what I was really eating, it was all over. I grew up on a farm, and I’ve participated in the entire process, so maybe I had a more intimate knowledge of the origins of my food. It was a gradual process based on when I started getting grossed out by certain foods. I stopped eating hot dogs and red meat in 1987 or 1988, went vegetarian in 1989, and I’ve been vegan since 1995. At this point, it is habit, and I don’t really spend any time thinking about it. I feel healthy and the doctor says that I am doing everything right, so I feel pretty comfortable with my choices. I’m also not a preachy vegan. We all make our choices about how we want to live our lives, and this is the right choice for me, but I’m not going to tell others how to live (or what to eat).
Absolutely not! I’m allergic to nature (OK, maybe not allergic, but I’m definitely not fond of roughing it). When I relax on a warm beach with a book, I expect to see someone walking around with a cocktail tray and tropical drinks.
I don’t think I’ve ever put the Sausage the goat story in print, so this will be a first. As I mentioned earlier, we grew up on a farm where we raised chickens, rabbits, goats and a few other animals. Most of our goats were milk goats, so we kept them around for a while, and they become more like pets. We’d milk them a couple times a day, they would have more babies, and some of them stuck around for years. We also occasionally bought meat goats at a livestock auction in Kidron, OH (Amish country). When my step-dad bought this goat, he told us that her name was Sausage because that’s what she was going to be when he took her to the slaughterhouse in a few weeks, and he didn’t want anyone to get too attached to her. She was a huge goat, and we thought we’d get quite a bit of sausage out of her. On the day of her “appointment”, my step-dad was outside getting the truck ready to take her away, and he heard terrible noises from the barn. He ran over to find her lying down, thrashing around in the pen and making awful noises as if she was in pain. At this point, we thought that she was probably dying from some horrible disease that would make her unfit for sausage and just a huge waste of money. A few minutes later, she gave birth to two healthy kids. I still have no idea how nobody noticed she was pregnant, and Sausage had some very fortunate timing. Anyway, we kept sausage for years as a milk goat, and she bacame more of a pet. She continued to occasionally produce more kids, and we continued to call her Sausage for many years.
It’s not too late for you to participate in the Great Portland Interview Project!
Today we have a couple of announcements about Shizzow. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shizzow, Shizzow is a social service that was built with the goal of making it as easy as possible to find and hang out with your friends in the real world for happy hours, parties, nights out on the town, co-working sessions in coffee shops and much more. Shizzow provides the technology for you to find nearby friends on a map, get a list of people currently sitting in your local coffee shop or pub, and find specific friends. We want you to spend more time hanging out with your peeps and less time trying to coordinate bringing them together through phone, email, SMS and IM.
Shizzow is currently a labor of love that is entirely bootstrapped (in other words, we have no revenue, and we are working on Shizzow in addition to our full time gigs). I still do online community and social media consulting to pay the bills, but I spend my free time managing the Shizzow community. We have talked about getting VC or Angel funding, but part of the announcement today is that we are going to continue to bootstrap Shizzow. Bootstrapping gives us more control over the company, and allows us to focus on the product rather than having to focus on courting investors.
The first wave of the Shizzow private beta was only open to people in Portland, OR. Today, we are sending invites to people in the Bay Area, CA, so the second part of our announcement is that people in the bay area can now get invites to Shizzow. If you live in the bay area and would like an invite, just send me an email: dawn at Shizzow.com.
You can find all of the details about both of these announcements on the Shizzow blog.
I’ll be the guest blogger this week on the Community 2.0 blog with a three part series on corporate communities. Community 2.0 is an annual conference that was held in Las Vegas last year, but will be moving to San Francisco this year from May 11-13. I also wanted to let you know that they will be accepting submissions for case studies and panels until this Thursday, November 21, so you should get off your rear and propose something if you haven’t already!
There were some really outstanding presentations last year at the conference. I covered a few of my favorites here on this blog:
- David Weinberger on Community
- Shel Israel at Community 2.0
- Chris Messina on DiSo at Community 2.0
- Jeska Dzwigalski on Second Life at Community 2.0
- Kellie Parker at Community 2.0
It’s a great conference for community managers to attend. I had the opportunity to meet some really outstanding community managers at this event last year, and I am looking forward to attending again this year!