Whats the key to making online communities work?
Im not sure I have a universal answer to that. Take the people working on Flickr, including myself, a lot of the development team and Caterina Fake whos my wife but also the co-founder; all had really extensive experiences with online communities, most of us going back to the days before the Web. We worked really hard but I dont think we had any formula for how to pull it off. Flickr could have gone in a million different ways.
A lot of our success came from George, the lead designer, and Caterina. Both of them spent a lot of time in the early days greeting individual users as they came in, encouraging them and leaving comments on their photos. There was a lot of dialogue between the people who were developing Flickr and their users to get feedback on how they wanted Flickr to develop. That interaction made the initial community very strong and then that seed was there for new people who joined to make the community experience strong for them too.
Interestingly I remember this. I had some correspondence with Caterina when I first joined, and it really did make a difference…eventually. It was probably two years before I really started to get my teeth into Flickr.
Those of us involved in the creative end of Yacapaca often get frustrated at the way teachers often join authoring groups and then don’t get involved. We do offer quite a lot of support to those who really put energy in, but we are not so good at the ‘meeting and greeting’ side for newbies. Time to take a leaf from Caterina’s book and fix that!