How to harness the wisdom of online communities
A suggested strategy
Since the dawn of the internet, we as individuals and groups of interest has sought tools that helps us connect together and exchange ideas, thoughts, questions, share calendars organize events and meetups.
I personally started @Questler back in 2007 as informal learning social network. Then @ Spring and SYNTAX we’ve been asked countless times to create online communities, we’ve done half a dozen or more already since 2007 the biggest one was @Wamda back in 2010–2012. Then @Jeel962 in 2015. The vision was always to combine great content, with user profiles directories, search and some interactive tools, like messaging, groups, live chat and individual posts. Lots of ready-made-tools were available as well like Ning, BuddyPress…etc.
Yet today, Facebook rules when it comes to community interactivity. Countless groups of different purposes and sizes are part of our daily lives as our interests vary as are the groups we find ourselves being part of. Even LinkedIn tried and is trying till date, yet I see more more choosing Facebook for their professional groups. WhatsApp groups are popular in my part of the world but are too hard to follow once the number of people exceed 10 depending on your attention span level! Slack now is getting popular with the tech community, still maintaining lots of workspaces can be overwhelming.
So how can we keep using those popular platforms but still create branded communities, own the content, expand the reach of these groups and make use of this powerful collective wisdom?
My new suggested strategy on starting and building online communities is twofold:
First, choose a very interactive tool
Be it Facebook Groups of WhatsApp or Slack or others including Discourse. Or maybe a combination if the community is split between two of these tools. The idea is not to create your own interactive tool. Use whatever is popular with the community in question.
Second, hire content extractors & editors
They could be handpicked from the community itself or volunteers. Their job is to create summaries of conversations of importance, highlighting information shared that could be useful for someone to read later, and indexing these summaries into topics or themes that can be easily browsed, searched or shared on social media (in case of an open community).
The result is a community website with extracted content that is editorially sound, easily read, found and referenced within the community and to the outside world if needed. And one that can expand in the future by adding more specialized tools to it.
In the near future, AI can be used as a middle layer to help in simplifying the job of those editors by doing an auto-extraction based on some preset metrics for the editors to be able to transform them into great summaries.