This week in community building - Issue 42


I wrote a piece The Power of Building Communities with Questions. This has been core to how I’ve approached many aspects of my community building activities over the past 15 years.

However, it’s also my first piece that is behind a paid newsletter subscription. I wrote a bit why I’m doing this in this tweet. As part of the subscription there will be pro content, access to a more comprehensive Notion database and regular online meetups/chats.

These weekly curated newsletters will remain free and unchanged. I’m simply ramping up my commitment to publishing about community building in a way that is sustainable for me.

Free or paid, I’ll hope you’ll continue following me on the journey. ❤️

When should you build community?

Answered by Alex Hillman

Here's my take: you can't and don't actually start by building a community. Weird right?

But think about it: You can't actually control a community (you can only control the environment and constraints), and you can't manifest community out of thin air.

Community is a result of doing other things, usually forming relationships, first 1-1 and then interconnected over time that leads to building trust, sharing knowledge and experiences, and people supporting one another.

So community doesn't start with an idea. It starts with relationships. And if you do the rest of the work, truly listen and empower people, a community MIGHT be one of the results!

The silence is deafening

Devon Zuegel

Imagine you're at a dinner party, and you're getting into a heated argument. As you start yelling, the other people quickly hush their voices and start glaring at you. None of the onlookers have to take further action—it's clear from their facial expressions that you're being a jerk.

In digital conversations, giving feedback requires more conscious effort. Silence is the default. Participants only get feedback from people who join the fray. They receive no signal about how the silent onlookers perceive their dialogue. In fact, they don't receive much signal that onlookers observed the conversation at all.

Why You Feel At Home In A Crisis

Farnam St

When World War II began to unfold in 1939, the British government feared the worst. With major cities like London and Manchester facing aerial bombardment from the German air force, leaders were sure societal breakdown was imminent. Civilians were, after all, in no way prepared for war. How would they cope with a complete change to life as they knew it? How would they respond to the nightly threat of injury or death? Would they riot, loot, experience mass-scale psychotic breaks, go on murderous rampages, or lapse into total inertia as a result of exposure to German bombing campaigns?

The smart strategy that one LGBTQ forum uses to keep out trolls and bullies

Ahwaa’s secret weapon: gamification. From the beginning, the site has relied on friendly competition and team-building to create a close-knit community and weed out intruders and troublemakers. By Al Shafei’s estimation, Ahwaa was one of the first platforms to use gamification to protect users. “On other platforms that use it, the incentive is often to get a title or a badge, rather than privacy or anonymity like it is on Ahwaa,” she says. “That’s why we had to develop it from scratch.”

The forum is organized into three levels, each with a different set of permissions. After users first create an account, they’re able to enter Ahwaa’s first level — a basic set of chat rooms and topic threads. The more they post and interact and the more that other users find their participation beneficial, the more access they gain. “When you first join, you don’t realize there are other features that you can unlock,” says Al Shafei, who runs Majal, an ecosystem of platforms (including Ahwaa) that promote freedom of expression in the Mideast. “That was done purposefully, because we wanted people to invest time in this community.”

#WorkingOutLoud on Communities and Social Movements

By Julian Stodd

Perhaps another way to look at it is to understand the difference between ‘community’ and ‘connection’. We may find that ‘communities’ come and go, but that underlying ‘connection’ remains. I have explored this in more detail with the language of ‘community firmament’, the idea that we can be socially connected as a precursor to ‘community’ itself.

What comes after Zoom?

Benedict Evans

Interesting to think about this in terms of community. Zoom seems to be such a default for online video meetups, but is that the best or future way?

I think this is where we’ll go with video - there will continue to be hard engineering, but video itself will be a commodity and the question will be how you wrap it. There will be video in everything, just as there is voice in everything, and there will be a great deal of proliferation into industry verticals on one hand and into unbundling pieces of the tech stack on the other.


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