Ten Things We Learned About Communities

June 1st, 2010 by Grace Meng

After 8 posts and several thousand words on how communities encourage participation, define membership, sustain networks, and govern themselves, what have we learned?

Dimitri Damasceno Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 (Generic)

We started this study because the datatrust we are working to build will depend on an invested and active community.  We want data donors, data borrowers, and data curators to interact as members of a community that are empowered to manage data, monitor the community, and hold the datatrust accountable to its mission.

So here are the findings we think are most relevant to the datatrust:

What motivates high-quality participation?

1. People are motivated to participate by rewards, but also by a desire to enhance their reputations.

Do communities need to have a mission?

2.  A shared ethos, culture, or mission are important if you want members of the community to be invested in the community and its survival as an institution.

3.  A shared ethos, culture, or mission also make it harder to have a very large and diverse community of people with different tastes and goals.

Should we require real identities?

4. People care more about their reputations when their real identities are on the line.

Can a community get too big?

5. If a large social network is to maintain a sense of small-scale community, it needs to reinforce a feeling of smaller communities within the social network.

Does diversity matter, in what way and why?

6. Diversity isn’t necessary for a successful community, but it’s important if the community’s goals require participation from a broad and diverse range of people.

Should you have to “pay to play”?

7.  We have always anticipated instituting a clear quid pro quo in the datatrust community – if you donate data, you get access to data.  Although we value the clarity of that exchange, will it limit our ability to grow?

Do more privacy controls=more control over privacy?

8.  People need to understand intuitively where information is going and to whom for privacy controls to be meaningful.

Is self-governance worth it?

9.  Decentralization of power and transparency can go a long way in helping an organization build trust.

10.  But you will have to put up with people who argue about what color to paint the bike shed.

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