How To Grow Vibrant Virtual Communities, by David Hinds, Ph.D.

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Information about How To Grow Vibrant Virtual Communities, by David Hinds, Ph.D.

Published on February 3, 2009

Author: smcsf



At our January 19, 2009, meeting, David Hinds, noted expert on digital communities and Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences in the Nova Southeastern University Huizenga School of Business, spoke about the types of platforms, processes, and culture that lead to vibrant digital communities.

How to Grow Vibrant Virtual Communities Presented to: The Social Media Club of South Florida January 19, 2009 David Hinds, Ph.D., P.E. Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences Huizenga School of Business, NSU

Outline • What is a “virtual community”? • Types of virtual communities – Why should we care? • How to grow a vibrant virtual community 1) Identify population needs 2) Design the host platform 3) Provide seeds 4) Facilitate and guide 2

“Social media” • Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.[1] The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. [2] This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and quot;buildingquot; of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM). • URL accessed 20jan09: What is a Virtual Community? 3

What is a Virtual Community? • A virtual community is a population of individuals with shared or complementary interests who interact across a host platform. • Not all social media, user-generated content or Web 2.0 initiatives are virtual communities • The key defining feature of a virtual community is the presence of collective feedback in which both contribution and use are open What is a Virtual Community? 4

Collective feedback process Virtual community Open Open use contribution Host platform Facilitator & core group What is a Virtual Community? 5

Types of Virtual Communities 1) Socializing – Facebook, Second Life 2) Gaming – Everquest, Full Tilt Poker 3) Content Sharing – YouTube, BitTorrent 4) Knowledge Sharing – Wikipedia, Slashdot, SMC… 5) Activism – MoveOn, ImmigrationVoice 6) Development – Linux, InnovationJam 7) Exchange – eBay, Craigslist By defining types, we can learn from others! Types of Virtual Communities 6

Why Should We Care? • Strategic opportunity (and threat) – Facebook and YouTube – Industry disruptions especially in media, entertainment and computers • Marketing opportunity (and threat) – Alli weight-loss program (Alli Circles) – Dell Hell • Management approach – IBM InnovationJam Types of Virtual Communities 7

Some Valuations • Facebook - $15 billion (in 3.5 years) – Presently about 300 employees – $50 million per employee (Microsoft minority purchase) • YouTube - $1.65 billion (in less than 2 years) – In 2006, had 67 employees – $22 million per employee (Google buyout) • Compare with (as of March ‘08): – Microsoft @ $4 million per employee – eBay @ $3.6 million per employee – General Electric @ $1 million per employee – General Motors @ $76,000 per employee Types of Virtual Communities 8

World of Warcraft • December 23, 2008 - Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that World of Warcraft®, its award-winning subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, is now played by more than 11.5 million subscribers worldwide @ Subscription cost: $14.99 per month = $2 Billion annual revenues Types of Virtual Communities 9

Suppliers of Web Server Software – Market Share (Source: Netcraft Web Server Survey, November 2008) Types of Virtual Communities 10

Virtual Community Technologies and Hosts Arpanet www Web 2.0 Technologies 3D-avatar environments Enabling Wikis Text-based User profiles Source code forums repositories Weblogs (blogs) Tagging The Well Wikipedia Second Life Hosts Linux Usenet eBay newsgroups SourceForge YouTube Everquest MySpace Host types Individuals Corporate Corporate marketing strategic Non-profit Corporate organizations management 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Types of Virtual Communities 11

Growing a Virtual Community 1) Identify population needs 2) Design the host platform 3) Provide seeds 4) Facilitate and guide Like “growing a garden” How to Grow a Vibrant Virtual Community 12

1. Identify Population Needs 1) Socializing Seek approval, support, friendship 2) Gaming Need for competition, entertainment, fantasy 3) Content Sharing Need for specific content, desire to express or promote 4) Knowledge Sharing Require knowledge for a purpose, desire to build reputation 5) Activism Desire for specific action (e.g. political action) 6) Development Need for specific artifacts, desire to build skills, need to feel accomplishment 7) Exchange Buyers and sellers, service providers and service users 1. Identify Population Needs 13

SMC: Population Needs • “…to help people find all the relevant communities of interest in which they want to participate. We want to help you explore your personal and professional passions by helping you connect with a community of your peers based on both geography and areas of interest.” • URL accessed 19jan09: a-short-history-a-long-and-bright-future/ 1. Identify Population Needs 14

2a. Select platform technology • Technology design for collective feedback – Threaded discussion (SMC Blog?) – Personal space – Virtual landscape – Text-based repository (SMC special projects wiki) – Other repository (SMC) – Others … 2. Design the Host Platform 15

Threaded discussion (SourceForge) 2. Design the Host Platform 16

Personal space (MySpace) 2. Design the Host Platform 17

Virtual landscape (ESPN Poker Club) 2. Design the Host Platform 18

Text-based repository (Wikipedia) 2. Design the Host Platform 19

Other repository (Epinions) 20 2. Design the Host Platform

2b. Set the policies and design the procedures and processes • Host platform includes both technology and policy/process • Key policy decision: who is authorized to do what? • The platform defines the “protocol of interaction” • The platform also enables the collective feedback process to occur 2. Design the Host Platform 21

SMC: Policies “In looking at what is most important to us, it would seem most appropriate to focus our efforts on the four areas of our core mission: 1. Expand Media Literacy 2. Share Lessons Learned Among Practitioners 3. Encourage Adoption of Industry Standards 4. Promote Ethical Practices through Discussion and Actions From here, it is important to note that anyone in the advisory group (and any member of the community) may propose projects for the club to support.” • URL accessed 19jan09: 2. Design the Host Platform 22

Collective feedback in Wikipedia Community of “Wikipedians” Submitted Submitted change article Posting Repository Articles Anyone Moderators only Revert to Abusive or Prior versions Yes prior version inappropriate are saved contribution? 2. Design the Host Platform 23

Collective feedback in Slashdot Community of Threshold “Nerds” filters Initial submission Comment Posting Repository Initial Contribution Comments posting Anyone Portal Moderators only Troll Ratings filters attached Moderator review Facilitator (sponsor) only OSDN review 2. Design the Host Platform 24

3. Provide Seeds • Initial postings to public forums by key contributors • Early game players • Seed source code provided by founders of open source software projects 3. Provide Seeds 25

SMC: The Founders • “SMC is Chris and Kristie’s labor of love. From day one, they focused on growing the organization organically as there were only two of them working on the organization on a part time basis …” • URL accessed 19jan09: a-short-history-a-long-and-bright-future/ 3. Provide Seeds 26

4. Facilitate and Guide • Focus on attracting and motivating participants – Pay attention to community needs – Make it as easy as possible – Recruit key members to minimize cost • Provide just the right amount of structure – Do not command and control • Respect the norms and culture of the community – Beware that virtual communities tend to set their own direction • Be aware of specific legal considerations 4. Facilitate and Guide 27

SMC: Facilitating Collective Feedback • “SMC has fallen short on some of our goals - primarily, not connecting the groups as well as we would have liked, and we need to ensure the knowledge shared at SMC chapter events is then pushed back into the system so all can utilize … when groups are talking about a certain topic, we need to ensure there are digital scribes in the room who are then responsible for bringing that info back into the SMC ‘portal’ so other cities can then use it for their events or members can read up on what is hot in that community. ” • URL accessed 19jan09: a-short-history-a-long-and-bright-future/ 4. Facilitate and Guide 28

Relevant publications • Armstrong, A. G. and J. I. Hagel (1996). quot;The real value of online communities.quot; Harvard Business Review: 134-141. • • Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press. • • Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: homesteading on the electronic frontier. Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley. • • Tapscott, D. and A. D. Williams (2006). Wikinomics: how mass collaboration changes everything. New York, NY, Penguin Group. • • Timmers, P. (1998). quot;Business models for electronic markets.quot; EM - Electronic Markets 8(2): 3-8. 29

Thank you! David Hinds 30

Team vs. Virtual Community Apache Microsoft (virtual (team) community) Types of Virtual Communities 31

Threadless: a creative hybrid • Users can submit T-shirt designs and rate submitted designs – 800 designs submitted weekly – 200,000 design reviews weekly – Design tools available on web site • Weekly design winner gets $2,000 and IP rights to the design other than for T- shirts • Threadless produces and sells T-shirts with winning design • With only 25 employees … a highly profitable hosting model • Combining aspects of 3 markets/models – Gaming: competition – Development: design tools – Exchange: content sharing • What if YouTube sponsored a video production competition? 32

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