E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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The Art of Building Virtual Communities by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

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I love Twitter. Yes, I do, despite some of my twitterings saying how broken the RSS feeds are and how some times I keep missing out on various message exchanges. But I still love it. Honest. Why? Because apart from being connected with those folks I am interested in following up further, and getting to know some more about them for when I have the chance to meet them face to face, it gives me the great opportunity to bump into gems that otherwise would pass by me un-noticed. And just this morning I had one of those moments.

One of those folks I follow in Twitter, and various other places, is Jose Luis Cabello, author of Internet (Como Recurso) Docente, amongst others. Just this morning, and over at his Twitter handle, he shared the following comment: "The Art of Building Virtual Communities", in which he points to the following blog post by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach: The Art of Building Virtual Communities.

My goodness! What a superb article! Stop whatever you are doing. Now! Even reading this blog post and head over to Sheryl’s and read on. Even better. Get a cup of coffee (Or tea!), because I tell you, you are going to enjoy it quite a bit! What a fantastic resource, folks! One of the best, most thorough articles I have seen in years around the subject of online communities. As simple as that.

Sheryl has seriously done her homework very very nicely and she has proved with that particular blog post that building an online community is not an easy job. Even better, maintaining an online community is not as easy as what most people would think. Like, there, pick up your favourite social network and the community members would come to you. Well, well, well, how wrong!

If you check out the blog post that Sheryl has put together you would be able to find out how¬† most online groups out there are actually everything, but a community. Yet, most people claim to say they are communities, but they are not. If not, have a read through that article and then compare some of the key concepts shared over there towards the groups you may belong to already. Quite a difference, don’t you think?

I must say that as I read through some of those key concepts that I have mentioned above, like tools, structure, incentives, recognitions, community participation, facilitation, etc. etc. are along the same lines of the various community programs I have been exposed to up until now. Yes, the terms are different, but the key concepts are the same ones, which is a good thing, because it clearly comes to prove the point that working your way in an online community may not be as easy and un-demanding as whatever you ever thought in the past. And since community seems to be the new buzzword, I am sure this particular article would be rather educational for those folks diving in for the first time.

And that is certainly what I really enjoyed about Sheryl’s blog post on The Art of Building Virtual Communities. The fact that it is an invaluable source for everyone out there who would want to explore the world of community building and may not know where to start. Some people may place the focus on processes or tools, but certainly Sheryl hits the nail on the head by showing that it is not just the tools, nor the processes, but also the people, i.e. those online community members, the ones that play a key role in the successful implementation of a communities program, pretty much like with Knowledge Management.

In fact, if you care to notice most of the successful KM programs out there are actually still up and running very actively not because of having the best tools, nor processes, but because they have got different community building programs running side by side and with great success. So if you ever plan to come up with a KM strategy and not sure where to start putting together a community building program, Sheryl’s Art of Building Virtual Communities is a must-have fundamental resource.

And in case you may not have enough with it, which I doubt it, check out as well the different references to some incredibly helpful resources from some of the top leaders in this space like Nancy White or Etienne Wenger. Or browse through as well, why not?, the entire set of comments that people have put together so far and which help make the original post an essential reading for anyone out there getting involved with online virtual communities. Priceless!

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  1. Thanks for the great review. Would love to talk about learning communities anytime, it is certainly one of my passions.

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