10 Things I've Learnt About Online Communities

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I realised the other day that I’ve been participating in online communities for over a decade, from telnet-based chat rooms via mailing lists to Facebook. Here, mainly for my own reference, are the major repeating themes I’ve seen over that time:

  1. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the loudest voices in preference to the rest
  2. You can’t avoid conflict in the community, and even splits, no matter how had you try to control who joins
  3. Calming voices are invaluable
  4. Controlling voices are deadly
  5. Conversations that drift off topic and into running jokes are the sign of a good community developing – but if it goes too far, it alienates newcomers
  6. Once your community starts forming groups to develop rules, it’s dead
  7. The people with the most vested in the community are often the deadliest to it
  8. Communities that grow too large will fragment and, if you can’t accommodate that, move elsewhere
  9. Beware: those who police other’s behaviours, those who believe in one true way and those who hate change
  10. Communities, like people, have a life span. Once it’s gone, it’s gone
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.