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

From the blog

CommunityBuilders – Building and Sustaining On-Line Communities by Steve Dale

Cakes at the Chocolate Museum, KolnWhere is my chocolate cake? Do you have all the nice and fresh ingredients that would be needed to make a delicious one? You do? Now, do you also have the talent to make a mouthwatering one? You do? Excellent! Then you are ready to build and sustain an online community, because that’s what it takes, folks… It’s all about making delightful chocolate cakes!

Oh, oh, don’t worry; this blog is not going to turn itself into a food blog all of a sudden (Although it wouldn’t be that bad either!). It’s just that I thought I would take this opportunity to pick up on a superb analogy that my good friend, Steve Dale, put together earlier on in a blog post talking about online communities under the heading “Building and Nurturing On-Line Communities — Batteries Not Included“. And it was just *so* yummy that I couldn’t let it go by just like that!

In that blog post Steve actually gets to share plenty of insights on what it is like building and sustaining healthy online communities (of practice) by making a successful connection between building a community and making a delicious cake. You need to have all of the fresh ingredients to make it work! And that includes having perhaps one of the most important of those ingredients: your online community facilitator! Here is an interesting quote from his blog entry along these lines trying to portrait what would be the main skills and attributes from those successful facilitators:

“[…] It’s more about personality; enthusiasm; willingness to share; being sensitive to the community environment; and energy….lots and lots of energy. Not the sort of things you can learn or teach using a pedagogical approach“.

I am not sure what you would think, but I certainly agree with Steve 100% that a community facilitator (Or more! Depending on how large that community may well be…) would be essential for the well-being and further development of an online community. In fact, I also quite like the second analogy he shared where he states that having an online community without a facilitator is like having “a battery-driven toy without the batteries” and, boy, do we feel irritated when we open up the box on a Sunday morning and we eventually find out there are no batteries included for that lovely toy that we know is going to make our day! Ha! I bet you have been there a few times!

Again, I couldn’t have agreed more with Steve on this second analogy; in fact, I think he is on to something by making use of the wording community facilitator, when probably most folks out there are actually much more used to terms like community manager, community leader, community owner, community steward or whatever else. We shared that common view once again on talking about facilitating online communities versus managing / mandating / owning communities. In my case, this is going back to the late 90s when I was first exposed to online communities and online facilitation (By the wonderful and always inspiring Nancy White) and I am rather happy to see that 10 years later that really inspiring concept of what managing a community is all about is still alive and kicking!

Right, so with that introduction how cool would it be to actually check out a few slides and a recording by Steve Dale himself on “Building and Sustaining On-Line Communities“? That wouldn’t be too bad, right? Well, here we go then! A couple of days ago I actually invited Steve to come and present on that very same topic to a good bunch of IBM community facilitators, all of whom are part of an online community, that’s been there for over 10 years already, called CommunityBuilders (How apropos, right?). Steve came along and presented to us, for nearly one hour, what communitybuilding should be all about, what traits, characteristics and skills would community facilitators need to help sustain healthy and mature communities and, finally, a nice and very helpful description of what makes a good online community, structure and activities wise.

Really inspiring! With lots of interactions, great questions and many exchanges of helpful tips on how to get things going with your own online community. And today I am very pleased to share with you folks that we have got it all readily available for you. So if you are into online communities, if you are an online community facilitator yourself, if you are part of a core team member or just a regular member of a community and would want to learn plenty more how you can engage with other community members, or if you would be interested in learning plenty of tips on how to re-energise your online community, read the following few lines, because I am sure you would find them very helpful.

Basically, I would just want to point you to the slides that Steve used and which he has kindly shared already over at his Slideshare space under the title “Building and Sustaining On-Line Communities” and from there onwards to the equally interesting recording of both video and audio of the session we did together for CommunityBuilders. So that way you would have an opportunity to listen to Dave himself as he walked us through the slide deck explaining it all and answering lots of great questions at the same time. Priceless!

I don’t want to expand myself much further on this, since I would strongly encourage all to have a look into the recording, download it from here, sit back, get a nice cup of coffee (Or tea, as usual!) for you, hit PLAY and watch through it. I am sure you would find it rather insightful and helpful with plenty of golden nuggets to learn from on how you, too, can help facilitate successfully your online community with a whole bunch of potential new tips!

From here onwards, I just want to take this opportunity to give a special Thanks! to Steve himself for being with us, CommunityBuilders, and spend a few minutes sharing his wonderful insights on facilitating online communities (of practice). I am sure there was plenty of helpful tricks for everyone out there! Thanks ever so much, Steve! It’s great appreciated! We hope to be able to have you again with us very soon!


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  1. Good post, Luis. Both you and the presentation focus on the energy needed instead of on the technical aspects or the importance of the names and titles of who does what. Keep sharing the good insights!

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