If this was the first thing you saw when you visited a new community, what would you do?
You would leave and never come back.
No-one is going to waste time in an empty community.
When you launch a community, make sure it looks active. Better still, make sure it is active. By getting a small group of members already using the community before it officially launches.
But don’t stop there just because you have content and questions ready for launch, what will make members come back.
So remember, if you’re going to seed a community, do it properly.
If you spot this in your communities you might want to do a quick Health Check to see what you can do about it
Before Christmas myself and Steve Dale @stephendale sat down and did a retrospect about the CoP Platform. Steve was the instigator of the site and general guru. I just showed people how to use it and the concept of communities of practice. And with the platform shutting down on the 31st of March it’s probably a good time to share our thoughts.
I will make available the full version very soon.
But I created a little summary for a presentation with an organisation that where looking to start communities of practice and asked for a little history behind what we had done.
So you’re thinking about starting a Community of Practice? Firstly you will probably want to take a look at How to build a Community of Practice in Local Government
These questions below will help you prepare for your development of the Community of Practice and make sure that you are on the right track.
To use this, answer each question with a Yes or No. You may find it helpful to answer these questions with help from other members of your group
A successful CoP has a clear purpose and value proposition for all involved.
- Will you be able to show the value of belonging to and participating in the CoP for your potential members? Yes / No
- Will you be able to show the value to managers to allow their staff time to participate? Yes / No
A successful CoP has dedicated and skilled facilitators’
- Will the facilitators have the skills and time to facilitate the community? Yes / No
- Will the facilitators have a vision for moving the CoP forward? Yes / No
A successful CoP has a comprehensive resource of content.
- Will the group call on frequently used content, topics, or knowledge that should be pulled into one shared space? Yes / No
- Will members of the community understand who the sources and recipients of the knowledge are within the community? Yes / No
A successful CoP has easy to follow knowledge sharing process.
- Will people know how, what, and when to share? Yes / No
- Will community members be able to access and reuse knowledge from others in the community easily? Yes / No
A successful CoP uses the appropriate technology to facilitate knowledge exchange, retrieval, and collaboration.
- Will the technology meet the needs of the members? In other words, did they have input into the tools that will be used? Yes / No
A successful CoP has communication plans for members and others outside the community.
- Will existing community members (and prospective members) understand why they should participate? Are they aware of “success stories” and the way the community works? Yes / No
- Will facilitators be able to support members on how to share and find knowledge? Yes / No
A successful CoP has constantly updated member profiles
- Will CoP members be able to access others who share their interests quickly and easily? Yes / No
A successful CoP has several key metrics of success.
- Will the CoP have a system to demonstrate how it is meeting its purpose? Yes / No
- Will there be a plan for collecting, reviewing, sharing, and validating metrics Yes / No
A successful CoP has a recognition plan for participants
- Will participants understand “what’s in it for them?” Yes / No
- Will there be a recognition scheme built into the community as part of the development or evaluation process? Yes / No
A successful CoP has an agenda of critical topics to cover during the first three to six months of its existence.
- Will members have “hot problems” to solve early in the community life cycle? Yes / No
- Will there be sufficient face-to-face or voice-to-voice meetings for members within six months of launch? Yes / No
- Will there be enough actions and activities to familiarise the members with working together to solve problems? Yes / No
If you answered mostly No, consider getting involved with a current CoP.
If you answered mostly Yes, look to create a new community of practice
Maybe I got sucked in but what a great post from Jason Ferguson of The Metaverse Mod Squad Blog
Sure, I enjoy working in online communities, but wouldn’t life as a Jedi Knight (or perhaps a Sith Lord) be even cooler? Despite my best efforts, I can’t shoot lightning from my fingertips, move objects with a simple thought, or use my brain to control the weak-minded. As depressing as my complete inability to wield the force is, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m much better at my job than Darth Vader would ever be. Yes, you heard that right. As powerful as Darth Vader is, he’d make an awfully crappy community manager.
So why would the galaxy’s most feared man be such a bad community manager? Let’s take a look…
Firm forgiveness – Moderators here at Metaverse Mod Squad abide by a philosophy of firm forgiveness. “Forgiveness” doesn’t seem to be in Darth Vader’s vocabulary. Just ask Captain Needa about how Darth Vader accepts apologies.
Power hungry – Remember these quotes? “Someday I will be the most powerful Jedi ever.” And how about “Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!” Sure, having force powers is cool and all, but with great power comes great responsibility and community managers have to learn to use their influence (and handy community tools) wisely!
Don’t get drawn into battle – Community professionals NEVER let themselves get drawn into battle. Trolls and angry users might try to get under our skin, but we’ve learned to be bulletproof. Had Darth Vader learned that lesson, maybe he wouldn’t have ended up with his limbs hacked off stranded on the planet Mustafar.
Over reacting – As Master Yoda says, “Anger…fear…aggression. The dark side of the Force are they.” Unfortunately, those three things tend to block out Vader’s ability to think clearly… and then you end up as a slave to Emperor Palpatine after slaughtering the entire Jedi Order. A good community manager knows how to keep their cool, more like Yoda than Darth Vader.
Don’t feed the trolls – Like it or not, a community manager has to learn to learn to deal with annoying people in a professional manner. Sort of the exact opposite of what Anakin did to those Tusken Raiders that killed his mother. And those younglings on Coruscant. And just about everyone else he ever met.
Be welcoming and friendly – Community managers need to be approachable and friendly, welcoming new users into the community and making them feel at home. A six-foot tall Sith Lord in scary black armor that kills everything around him? Not so welcoming.
Keeping secrets – If you want to earn the trust of your community, you shouldn’t keep secrets. Sure, there’s plenty of information that you just can’t reveal, but when dealing with a community crisis, honesty is always the best policy. If you didn’t pick up on the hint Darth Vader, maybe you should’ve told Luke that you were his father a little bit sooner. And your “secret” relationship with Amidala? Probably not the best idea.
The new trilogy – Face it, the new Star Wars trilogy stunk. That’s irrelevant to the rest of this article, but it needed to be said and would probably destroy Vader’s credibility as a community manager somehow.
There’s no shortage of reason why Darth Vader should keep his distance from online communities. Long story short, don’t quit your day job as a Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Metaverse Mod Squad isn’t interested in your lack of Community Management skills. But if you can teach me the ways of the force… that would still be pretty cool!
– Jason Ferguson
I have been facilitating an online facilitator’s community for a number of years on the Communities of Practice for Public Service, which is some to close as we are moving to a new platform called the Knowledge Hub
But before we left one platform I remembered a great little survey from KM4Dev and thought I would ask the question.
The template consists of 4 simple questions
- What is your name, organisation and title?
- Where is your organization based?
- What “brought” you to CoP facilitators CoP
- Has being a member of this community assisted you in any way?
So I asked a few of them and this was their response
So what brought you to the Facilitator’s Community?
- A desire to learn from other facilitators
- I wanted to share experiences with other facilitators
- I had no idea how it worked, what it was, or even that there were experts in it!
- A desire to ask technical questions, communicate faults, and contribute to the improvement of the CoP
- I was quite new to the Community of Practice way of doing things, so it was very useful to have a back up support system in the form of someone who will help answer queries and ideas about doing things as efficiently as possible.
- I joined another community but saw the possibility/need for one in my area. I somehow found the facilitators community and managed, nervously, to post something in the forum
- I was sort of told to join!! I was made a facilitator as part of my role and advised to join the Facilitators CoP, which I did. Great advice.
- I joined the Facilitators community because this new role felt a bit bewildering
How has the community assisted you?
- Being able to share ideas on how to organise and promote communities. Also knowing there were several people I could ask if I got stuck!
- Taking part in on-line discussions and conferences has been a valuable learning experience as has using the platform to search for new ideas, concepts and approaches to community knowledge sharing across the country
- I feel it is an essential platform to learn how best to make the most out of such a resource
- It built my confidence, made we feel welcomed and I could ask any daft questions I wanted.
- Really helped me understand what the role is all about. The analogy of a party host has stuck with me about the role and having a space for all party hosts to share ideas and discuss approaches has been invaluable
- It has really opened my eyes to how powerful it can be and how useful it is in creating and storing information in one place for all of the community to use/discuss/enjoy.
- I got some very useful information about embedding Twitter feed into one of COP groups. This was achieved relatively painlessly and it was good to have a forum to go back-to to iron out any problems.
- Being a member of the facilitators community gave me some ideas for developing the CoP
- Very useful wikis on setting up and maintaining an effective community.
- One of our first tasks was to produce a guide to how to use the Forum – Made much easier by the powerpoint presentations already present on the FC
Some nice answers and more to work on for the new community.