Why founders should be part of their community

Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter, on the importance of participating in your own community:

“Be the best member of your site. Lead by example by participating as much as you can in your own community. This is a good way to attract other well-intentioned members of your site and also reminds everyone a real person is behind it all and building the best community they can for everyone. Speak honestly and be supportive of other members. When I think of all the communities I’m a part of, the ones I love are the ones I see the creators using everyday.”

This directly relates to the idea of Give people something to copy, as you’re showing your community a great role model for participation. It also highlights a growing problem I’ve seen with start-ups who are trying to build communities. In many cases the entrepreneur isn’t the type of person who belongs in the very community they’re building. Perhaps they’re an MBA who wants to start the next user-uploaded video site. If they don’t do video, they’re another degree of separation away from their audience.

Each degree of separation from your audience makes it harder to cope with designing for them…

Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter, on the importance of participating in your own community:

“Be the best member of your site. Lead by example by participating as much as you can in your own community. This is a good way to attract other well-intentioned members of your site and also reminds everyone a real person is behind it all and building the best community they can for everyone. Speak honestly and be supportive of other members. When I think of all the communities I’m a part of, the ones I love are the ones I see the creators using everyday.”

This directly relates to the idea of Give people something to copy, as you’re showing your community a great role model for participation. It also highlights a growing problem I’ve seen with start-ups who are trying to build communities. In many cases the entrepreneur isn’t the type of person who belongs in the very community they’re building. Perhaps they’re an MBA who wants to start the next user-uploaded video site. If they don’t do video, they’re another degree of separation away from their audience.

Each degree of separation from your audience makes it harder to cope with designing for them. My guess is that once you get away from no separation (i.e. designing for yourself), the difficulty increases exponentially…it’s just too hard to design for people we are unfamiliar with. If you’re more than one separation (meaning that if you’re not at least observing and interacting with your users)…forget it, just go design something you’re familiar with instead.

Read the rest of Haughey’s excellent post: Some Community Tips for 2007

Another interesting bit:

“I’d love to see a large paper like the NYT implement a real community system. Based on my existing NYT login, I’d love if I had a profile page on their site, tied to any comment I left on a blog or any article I wrote for the paper (I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but there are writers for the NYT that would also be active on the site). Let me list my blog URL and track any posts I make about NYT articles on my profile page (the NYT already has a “most blogged” feature on their site). Feel free to show me ads that would actually make sense (example: I don’t live in NYC, but I see NYC ads on the site — you might want to pitch me home delivery or general ads aimed at out-of-towners) based on my profile.”

In most cases social features are add-ons…not primary reasons for use except in very special cases like MySpace. They’ll be valuable as add-ons in the way that Haughey describes for the NYTimes…as ways to increase participation and knowledge in and around user relationships.

Published: May 15th, 2007

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