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Slash Book Author Writes on Development of Online Communities

Dave Aiello wrote, "chromatic, one of the authors of Running Weblogs with Slash, has written an excellent piece for The O'Reilly Network called Building Online Communities. In it, he discusses the intangibles that help to turn a website into an online community. These include letting the website have a simple and clear purpose, and the power of referrals from already successful online communities."

You'll know you have a healthy community when users comment publicly that "this is the best site I've ever used," "I came here because of the goal, but stay around because of the people I've met," amd "No other place on the Internet is like this." Happy users tend to talk in terms reminiscent of Manifest Destiny and settlers in a little-p paradise. It occurs in almost every healthy, somewhat-social community. Strongly-technical communities, like software development mailing lists, tend not to exhibit this behavior.

Dave Aiello continued, "I read every article of this nature with interest. This is because two of the websites CTDATA manages, AAHArefs and the Rensselaer Club of New Jersey, are online communities whose success can be measured by how often the sites' core users return and how much new information they contribute. "

Dave Aiello continued:

The AAHArefs website has come a long way toward becoming a community this year, but it still needs a compelling reason for community members to return on an on-going basis. RCNJ.org has those draws during the fall and winter sports seasons: RPI Football and RPI Hockey.

It's much easier for people to read about RPI sports results on our website than on others, because we look at three or four websites where sports information might be, and point to the best of sources at the moment. The problem with this strategy is that it generates return traffic, but not user-to-user discussion. Quite often, user-to-user discussion is the strongest indicator of an on-line community.

But, all is not lost in cases like RCNJ.org. chromatic points out that user-to-user discussion is an overrated metric:

Most people participate on the fringes. Most people read and never write. Most writers write only occasionally. Most community members have opinions about the various discussion topics but rarely speak. Don't rely on declarations of undying platonic love. Learn to find esteem in steady growth and repeat users.

When I am looking at my logs, I mentally subtract the number of hits from Google from the total number of hits, and look for a positive trend.

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