Prototyping in community

Hello. My name is Rosie and I'm guilty of doing community things without properly thinking them through.

There is no shortage of new ideas for what we can do in community, but ideas are nothing without action and living through them.

New community ideas are exciting. They are a break from the norm. They fill us with excitement and possibility.

New community ideas often feel like:

  • they're not that complicated
  • a good thing at the time, surely they are going to be a winner!
  • 5-minute job (instead of a 5-day one)
  • we can sustain the energy and resources to support them

The reality is often different. New ideas bring complications.

  • Too many and they get confusing. Where do they fit into the member experience of the community?
  • They are another thing to communicate. How does this impact our current communications going out?
  • We have to think about where they fit within the overall community flywheel. Do they support or hinder the traction we have?
  • Does this mean we have less time for other things? What do we potentially have to give up as a result of this?

🐴 So, let me tell you about this new idea for the Rosieland Community...

Oops, hold your horses, Rosie! I recently had to stop myself from falling into the new community ideas trap.

This idea had been lingering for ages, in its most raw form it has been in my mind for years. I was tempted to just get on with it. My notes and ideas were lost and scattered. I also kept posting the things to social when I should have probably started with this community new idea.

I asked myself how I could avoid falling into the trap of new ideas and doing too many things. I'm not anti-documentation, but it didn't fill me with excitement to put pen to paper and map out my ideas.

I am more of a doer though and what made sense was to prototype what I wanted to put out there. And so I did.

πŸ™‹πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Prototyping community questions

For those who know me or follow me on social, you may have seen community questions I've put out. I haven't been doing it as much recently, but there is definitely a trail I've left behind.

I love questions. They fascinate me. They help us understand what things we could be looking into. They help us to come up with our own solutions. They give us confidence, or seed doubt in how we are thinking. They don't give answers, they encourage us to explore our own path. Sometimes we just need a good question to help us along the way.

Importantly, I believe most advice is bad advice, unless you deeply know the people you are confiding in. Most generic advice out there is not helpful and even damaging. Instead of seeking advice, sometimes we need to ask ourselves the right question.

This was the foundation of my community idea.

  • How can I enable better community thinking through presenting thoughtful community building questions?
  • Did it make sense to create it as a channel? And if so, how should it be structured and described?
  • Did I have energy and ideas to keep it going?
  • What's the best format for the content?
  • Is this something that is just me contributing?
  • How do I describe the channel?
  • Do people even want it?

I prototyped it as a private channel with just me in it. I had some scrap notes on my desk with some questions noted down. I posted them to the channel to help me start to see what it would look like.

A prototype of the Community Questions. (The tool in use is Superwave).

I let it sit there for a few days as new ideas came to me. I call myself a slow thinker, which really means that I need time to process all the options.

I pondered:

  • What do I call the channel?
  • What if others contributed and were awarded a "πŸ¦‰ Wise Owl" badge for 25 contributions?
  • How do I encourage emoji reactions and responses of the questions?
  • Do we even want responses?
  • What does success look like?
  • Do we have a goal for the number of questions to be posted?
  • What could we turn this into later on? (community flywheel building)
  • What value is there for people to contribute?
  • Could these be a list of social questions I schedule ahead of time?
  • Could I feature these questions in my weekly newsletter?
  • Do I believe this would be helpful to people?
  • Do I feel good about doing it?
  • Am I smiling? πŸ˜ƒ

And then I sought feedback on the idea and I wanted to do that in the most lightweight wayβ€”as a request for help in one of our community channels.

Asking for feedback on the Community Questions idea.

Seeking feedback for me is a way to give me confidence and also to help me explore ways of improving upon it. I personally don't need to have positive feedback to make a decision, it's one data point to consider.

Positive feedback is also dangerous to rely on. The people aren't necessarily aware of how this fits into the community as a whole. I need to be the person that is filled with confidence and justification that this is a good idea.

Prototyping in community

Going through this community prototyping process doesn't mean we can't add it into a wider strategy. In this situation I happen to only need to report to me, myself and I. The flexibility I have is not the position that everyone is in.

I do believe protyping can help us design better communities. We can include leadership, team or community members in the process. The ability to get playful and creative is valuable within a closed and safe space. It can encourage us to push the boundaries in an experimental and less risky way.

The results of the prototype could then create a strong visual and interactive validation that the idea could not only work, but it can also be used to demonstrate how it can practically play into other parts of the community and business.

And incase you're wondering. Yes, there's a Community Questions channel coming to Rosieland very soon! 🐌


How can we build better communities?

We are on a quest to learn and explore what makes great communities.


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