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Communities: activity vs. content access

From Interview with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice, about “how to involve everybody” (in the Knowledge Board context):

The combination of a core group and a lurker group is a pattern we have observed in most communities and I am not sure that you would spend your energy most efficiently by trying to get everybody to contribute in the same way. It is more important to have an energized core group that attracts more and more people into it. And of course you will face the question of size but most core groups that go beyond a certain size naturally evolve into sub-groups. Then it’s a matter of how you connect these sub-groups with one another by having people that act as brokers between the sub-groups, for instance, some kind of co-ordinating groups that make sure that if something important comes up in one group it is also understood by the others; or by having events organised by one sub-group but open to everyone.

If you are thinking of growing the groups, grow them from the inside. Don’t try to pull everybody in; increase the intensity of conversation at the level of the core groups. Now, to find ways to involve new voices is very important. You may want to create an event or encourage some people to take on some new responsibility. Sure, but still, having everyone in one big core group is neither realistic, nor necessarily useful because not everybody has the same level of interest. And if you have 5,000 members who all contribute the same, it will be just overwhelming.

Last week I joined Knowledge Board discussion at KM Europe. Raising the level of the community members activity of was one of the issues raised there. What I found out interesting is that (according to the survey) only 30% of members participate in discussions. I guess the number of people in core group is much lower.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad: many people say that Knowledge Board is a good source of information and staying updated, and they don’t want to engage in conversations using it. I’m wondering why being non-active is percieved as bad? Why do we want to make (corporate) communities more active? And is there a limit for meaningful activities?

I don’t know. I know that we don’t want a dead, not talking, community. But I also know that we don’t want conversations for the sake of conversations. May be we should let those who join a community to stay updated to do it this way. I wonder where is the border line that says: this community is active enough, you don’t need to promote more activities…

Just a work-related thinking…

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2003/11/19.html#a842; comments are here.

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