WordCamp Ireland 2010: Building Online Communities

Gamers. I’m not a big fan of them. In my mind they eat pizza, drink fizzy drinks from a can, have beards and stay up late festering in their sweat ridden shirts.

I’m rotten. I’m writing about a stereotype. Leonardo Vanis and Loughlin O’Nolan were nothing of the kind. Leonardo did have a beard although I didn’t detect any whiff of body odour during his presentation about online communities at the WordCamp Ireland session.

What follows are some of the main points I took away from their interesting session, with a few of the usual little asides I’d have found almost impossible not to whisper in your ear if you’d been unfortunate enough to be sat next to me.

How to build a community

Remember you have to talk friendly with people.

Don’t jump with massive boots on thinking people will come and talk to you just because you are who are. Be a nice person. Don’t be a dick.
(Personal experience underpins this piece of advice.)

Community management is an art, not a science

Don’t believe a word of what those ‘pay me money I’ll set up a community for ya’ bollocks. It’s not that straightforward.
(It’s not a piece of code. It’s not a piece of perl script. It’s like making a souflee. You’ll need to work hard at it. And it will take a bit of practise.)

Bloggers are community management experts …

… even if they don’t know it, because they’ve probably got 70% of their online community work covered already by virtue of having a blog. But remember a blog is only blog if you have commenting switched on.

More importantly, you can only have a community if you engage in conversation. Don’t think you can just broadcast stuff and that’s it. You need to engage in conversation with people who bother to leave you a message. It’s just polite after all. Don’t broadcast … chat.

(I’m the worst offender. I must try harder on this.)

But people don’t leave comments on blogs as much now !???!

They don’t, it seems. According to Leo and Loughlin, the high point of commenting was in 2007. A few years later commenting on blogs has dropped off. People are commenting elsewhere. They’re commenting on Twitter, posting messages on Facebook in response to blogs.

So, you absolutely have to go where the audience is and engage them in conversation there.

(This is a shame. My chosen subject area of passion – ie the Eurovision – is discussed in areas I actively choose not to go. I must try harder regarding this. Maybe I’ll leave a message there tomorrow or the next day, or the day after.)

Forget the old style website

This really was the most refreshing and exciting point of all. Old style, websites with homepages and content pages and the like we were used to six or seven years ago are history now.

Users are so used to there being a blog that the blog is often the point of entry to an online presence.

Blogs allow the author to speak to the user in a language which is both relaxed and accessible. This is entirely different from the stiff old text you’ll find elsewhere on websites.

Forget corporate style. Be more friendly. People will like you.

And, most important of all remember that your online reputation will be created in the comparitively long form conversation to be found in forums. Twitter is good for distributing links and short exchanges. Your blog is for your take on stuff. Your website is nothing more than icing on the cake.

Nothing to it really. Now then, where’s the crowd?

Facebook “imposes facelift” ?

Maggie Shiels, BBC Technology Reporter based in Silicon Valley reports on Facebook’s recent supposed imposition of a website redesign on it’s users. Suitably motivated and annoyed users have set up a group protesting about the changes.

I’m one for gut reactions to things and when I read some of the user’s complaints about “having” to accept a site redesign and not being afforded the opportunity to still choose between the old one and the new one, I did start climbing the walls of my office.

I appreciate redesigns can be difficult for a consumer to muster, but designers like to change things. We all like to see things change so that new things can be brought in, so that new functionality might be introduced in the future. We all like to go through a bit of a redesign from time to time.

And there’s the thing. It’s just a redesign. You’ll still be able to contact your friends. Still be able to send out infuriating requests to all your other friends inviting them to install some pointless application in a bid to ascertain whether you think they’re your favourite pal or not / hot or not / rich enough / poor enough / ugly enough.

The irritating functionality remains. It just looks a bit different now. That’s all.