Laissez-faire community building

The best way to build a community is to set the foundation and let it blossom on its own.

As community becomes the currency increasingly driving cash in the technology industry, there's a lot of pressure to force communities to bend to corporate desires. This, as community evangelist John Mark Walker suggests, is perhaps the best way to kill the goose that lays the golden community.

Sting sings that "if you love somebody, set them free." Walker applies a similar principle to online community-building:

[T]he way forward is much the same as with the search for happiness: take care of the community building blocks, like your choice of web platform, community governance principles, interesting conversations, and a sense of purpose, and the rest will take care of itself.

Walker goes on to say that a lot of focus needs to be given to feeding the free-loaders, those pesky people that hang around and don't pay your company a dime. "Freeloaders help to add 'activity' and 'center of gravity' to your community," Walker writes, which might well provide the ambiance would-be paying community members need to feel comfortable sticking around.

"Community" can be a squishy concept at times, simultaneously important yet very hard to quantify and qualify. Even so, Walker's suggestions point to ways to get the most value from communities by giving the most value to those communities.

Funny how that works.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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