Results tagged “community”

Once, long ago, when the world was dark, and I was stuck living in Lewisham, I was features editor of a magazine called Estates Gazette. We wrote about the world of commercial property, and one of the things I did was commission expert comment, including some features about property marketing and branding from one Kim Tasso.

She recently took Hazel and I to lunch (a brave thing to do with a toddler), and interviewed me in the brief gaps when my daughter was distracted by other things.

The result? Some thoughts on community development, content strategy and the commercial real estate business.

Worth a read, if you're interested in the intersection of publishing, online community and B2B publishing amongst the professions…


The organizations that have the idea for a community, spend weeks selecting a platform, months developing it, and a year before they invite anyone to participate, tend to struggle...a lot. Typically they splutter along for six months before being mercifully cancelled.

I bet anyone who's worked in community development within any sizable publisher is wincing right now.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Bunkum

Maslow needs WiFi The very first time I saw someone use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in a corporate presentation, I was impressed. It tied the pyramid neatly to reasons for doing social activity around a magazine brand. It was clever, and gave intellectual weight to the presentation.

And then I saw it in another one.

And another.

And another.

And then I started getting suspicious. It was all too neat, too convenient. Human needs, all parcelled up in a tidy pattern of ascending importance. Simple.

But people aren't simple, are they? And the more I looked at it, the less evidence there seemed to be to support that pyramid. The BBC have just taken a closer look and - surprise, surprise, it's bunkum:

However, after Maslow's death in 1970, researchers did undertake a more detailed investigation, with attitude-based surveys and field studies testing out the Hierarchy of Needs.

"When you analyse them, the five needs just don't drop out," says Hodgkinson. "The actual structure of motivation doesn't fit the theory. And that led to a lot of discussion and debate, and new theories evolved as a consequence."

So, next time you see that pyramid in a PowerPoint, remember that the speaker hasn't done their research.

Zachary Neal

Liveblogged notes of Zachary Neal's talk on community integration and cohesion at the RSA.

In this talk he's going to focus on micro networks. Are diverse communities possible? Tha answer's grim: no. But there is a bright side...

He's been thinking about community policy in the US; it's fragmented and piecemeal. It's more clearly articulated in the UK. In 2001 the Home Office came out with a report on community cohesion, which lead to the Commission on Integration & Cohesion. In 2010, the Cabinet Office made it clear it was important as part of the Big Society rubric. 

This is the right direction - but there's a hidden problem, a policy paradox. It's not clear how integration and cohesion interlock. Are more integrated communities more cohesive? Or are more integrated communities less cohesive?


In segregated communities, similar people live near one another.  In integrated communities, different sorts of people are more evenly mixed through the neighbourhood. 

Social networks

In fragmented communities, people have disconnected social networks. In cohesive communities, people have dense special networks. 

Daniel Ha, CEO of Disqus, writing for WIRED:

But for too long, the debate about online discussion has been about the commenters. We need to move away from pointing the finger at pseudonyms or anonymity as the sole problem, because it’s not. Instead the debate needs to shift to what kinds of online communities we are creating because I’m a firm believer that if we build better online communities, we will have better discussions.

There are two things people who are critics of comments on blog posts or news articles rarely mention:

  • Community management: As Daniel suggests, how you shape and manage the conversation determines both the community you develop and the tone of the comments that are left. 
  • Scale: most of the arguments are based on experiences in high-traffic, general interest subject areas. This is obvious and intuitive; those places where you can get the most attention are most likely to attract those who want to win attention through disruption.

Fundamentally, comments are a social problem, and the best solutions to problems with them are social rather than technological. 

Community folks at NEXT BerlinSome community-related links, mainly for my community and social media module students at City University - but shared for the betterment of all... 

Pamela Warhurst

Catching up on my liveblogged notes from last week's Meaning Conference - I ran out of laptop battery, so couldn't post them at the time. 

Pamela's here to tell us a story about making the world nicer. Todmordon has fruit, vegetable and herbs springing up all over the town. They've developed vegetable tourism. They have a huge challenge ahead of them. The way we're living is passing on a rubbish legacy to our kids.

Is it possible to find a unifying language to talk to people regardless of age or income? There is one: food. So, they didn't bother with a strategy document, or a proposal. They gathered around a kitchen table. And they decided to spin community plates, like circus plate spinners. Let's think about what happens in our gardens, and streets, and community places. Let's teach each other about food. And let's move from that to buying our food locally.

60 people came to the meeting. They didn't talk about climate change, they talked about food. They didn't ask permission. They didn't ask for a cheque. They had to see off the nay-sayers. The power of small actions is awesome. Your little bit of action will help other people come together.

This world is not for the faint-hearted. The models of the past are not the ones we need for the future. They do propaganda gardens, because her mate hates the word "guerrilla". They took a verge, which had been neglected and left to go wild (and become a toilet), and made it a garden, and six months later the council started mowing it - and put a bench in. One person took her wall down, took the flowers out and started growing fruit in her garden. And put up a sign saying people could take it. For two years no one did. And then they started...

This is not a movement for articulate Guardian readers. If you eat, you're in. People started picking veg. One family picked veg, and then brought back soup made from it. They'd never talked to each other before.

They use edible flowers sometimes, so as not to upset the "in bloom" people. They planted a garden in front of the police station - the police now look after it. And they'll tell you that environmental damage in the area has halved. So, male competition being what it is, the fire station decided to join in. Beyond that, they took the prickly plants in front of the new health centre, and replaced them with edible plants. People are walking into the health centre surrounded by things they have only ever seen wrapped in plastic at the supermarket.

They went into the station, they went into the graveyard...

And from that they've moved into training people in cooking what they've grown, and to sharing lost arts, like pickling, preserving and skinning. They bought every market trader a board, on which they could chalk their local goods. It started conversations, which reminded people why markets are different from supermarkets.

They didn't get good response from local farmers, so they build the demand themselves, using things like the Every Egg Matter campaign, and some are starting to join in. They took some waste land, and created a market garden training centre.

They're just a "working class northern town doing veg" but they're featured on TV all over the world. And there are 33 towns following them...

Believe in the power of small actions.

Community for community's sake

Neil Perkin:

Too many brands attempt to establish communities with no clear purpose to that community, or plan for what they're going to talk about not just over the next few weeks, but long-term. So they soon find that they can only talk about themselves for so long and they start to run out of interesting things to say.

For "brands", you can equally well read "publishers". The days where publishers could afford to throw up communities and see what happened are long gone - and were probably an illusion even when we thought we could. Chasing buzzwords is never a great idea unless you have a clear vision of how it fits into your overall content strategy.

Neil's piece does a nice job of setting out a rule of thumb of how to balance experimental and bread-and-butter content. Well worth a read. 

Branch, a new discussion platform for the interwebs is out of beta, but not out of needing an invite to get in. Ah, well. Until we hoi polloi are allowed in to play, we can gaze adoringly at on-going Branches, like Jim Giles's one on long-form journalism

Here's Branch's de rigeur arty launch video. If you don't laugh at the "empty engagement" moment, you have no soul, work in social media marketing, or both. 

Leadership without organisation

Lloyd Davis:

Someone needs to say they're going to show up for it. That's what makes stuff happen. Lots of other important things help too, but it really kicks off when someone says "I'm going to be there or do this, no really, I am, I don't care if nobody else does, I am."

That's what makes it so much easier for everyone else to join in. That's leadership in a world of organising without organisations. Someone is committed.

I've done this. I've seen this work. With more ability to communicate, to network, to be social through the internet, new models are emerging. This is a cool but productive one. And Lloyd, Dan and others are pushing it onwards

It's nearly the end of the conference, and I'm flagging. I've tried to distill the essence of the advice from three community-driven businesses and keep this punchy. Here goes:


Jovoto - Bastian Unterberg

I found the first talk the most difficult to get value from. Unterberg talked about the problem of disposable coffee cups used by most coffee shops, and their huge environmental cost; 16bn gallons of water, millions of trees - they're the cost of disposable coffee cups. The average in-use life spans is seven minutes...

So, they launched a competition - betacup - to try and resolve the problem.  They reached out to Starbucks who had an interanl team working on the same problem. They connected multiple communites - threadlessInstructables, core77

The result? 430 ideas in 1600 versions, with 13k votes on them. And a tonne of brand exposure for Starbucks. But, uh, as far as I can figure, no actual solution as yet. And surely, unless something actually comes from this, all that goodwill will turn bad…?

Etsy - Matt Stinchcomb

Matt Stinchcomb

Like so many startups, Etsy was born, 6 years ago, from an idea in a flat. And that idea took $100k in its first year, then $7m, then $27 to $600m now. 96.5% of that money stays in the community. It's not an eCommerce site, but a marketplace, says Stinchcomb. You don't just go there to buy, but to join in with the community. Once you knew the cobbler who made your shoes, you knew the baker who baked your bread. You supported them because you knew them - and they supported you back. So Etsy is about the community.

They publish all their revenue and traffic details - the community is a partner. They hold meetups wherever they go in the world.

They grow primarily through word of mouth. They need to give their community tools to bring more people to the site. The desire to use them comes from the relationship. Community curation and activity determines the home page, rather than the traditional metrics of what sells when.

SoundCloud - David Noël

David Noël

Everyday, we choose a user as SoundClouder of the day, says Noël. They started sending back stories about how the site has changed their lives. Site was built from the group upwards to encourage participation. People can put comments at particular moments in the track. Community people can tend to talk too much - do too much. It's important to listen and absorb. The first thing you need is support - the faster, more personal and more friendly the reply, the better. It's the foundation of the community team. When things go bad, be totally transparent and keep communicating until things are fixed.

Other community initiatives: SoundCloud Local - picking a city a week. Meetups. Old-Skoolers - took them on board and talked to them, along with QnAs. Sessions on their roof in Berlin.

Be patient and place dots - you want too much too fast. It's extremely hard, and you need to be patient. See how people respond to your dots.

#next11 - Social Media for Good

WARNING: Liveblogging. Here be errors, inaccuracies and typos

Peter Bihr

The panel is working on the assumption that social media is going to go away as a separate, but become integrated into the whole of the business.

Mike Arauz, Undercurrent

Mike Arauz

Mr Arauz prefers to do over-complex presentations. But today (phew) he's going to try and keep it simple. In the summer of 2004, a group of people built a system that allowed them to deliver messages to 1000s of places all over the world. And he's going to go through a whole number of examples like that…

I Love Bees - an immersive game that promoted Halo 2. Thousands of gamers worked together to solve puzzles and take on challenges. The ARG evolved to the point where "Melissa" (the alien character) would call one payphone, and demand that someone at another payphone somewhere in the world, and the person who answered had to have the answer. The developers pushed it down to 15 seconds - and still the players managed it.

Reddit & Stephen Colbert - How do you get Stephen Colbert's attention for your plan? Work together to raise money for a charity he's on the board off - and he went on to host the rally they wanted him to.

Ask Metafilter - a spin-off community from Metafilter, full of people who enjoy research. One day, a post: "Help me help my fiend in DC." The friend, a woman, had come over on a shaky visa situation. She was going to meet some people in New York, and her friend was concerned that she would be kidnapped, or dragged into sex slavery. In 24 hours, 20 to 50 people called embassies, government agencies, the FBI, the police, the woman herself. By the time she got to New York, she had met a safe person from the community, the NYP investigated the people she was to meet, and they turned out to be sex trafficers…

It Gets Better - After a series of teen suicides by kids who were being bullied for being gay, Dan Savage and his husband posted a video. 3 days later they had one extra video. Within a month they had thousands, including a messaged of support from Obama.

So why do people do things they don't have to?

  • Accomplishing satisfying work
  • Get good at something
  • Spend time with people I like
  • Be part of something bigger

Will Sansom, Contagious

Will Sansom

Contagious is a quarterly magazine looking at the future of marketing and engagement. And we're in an era when people tune out of anything that looks like marketing. But he argues that it's all become marketing (God, I hope not). People are looking for entertainment and meaningful experiences.  That's why you can't carpet-bomb people with social media - it needs to be meaningful.


1. Projects, not campaigns

Lots of brands are having success through effective change in the real world. You can't plan and schedule this in the same way as traditional campaigns. They need to be designed to live and grow organically. Volvo's right to clean air is cites as an example.

"Dude we should do" - problem of jumping on bandwagons. Chose the media that work for your idea, not whatever's trendy.

Doesn't have to be worthy - Nightlife Exchange Project

Is you project so good people would share it without media, then you have something that will work.

2. Networks of the Unacquainted

Getting people to connect around common interests, and reaping the benefit. Examples:

3. The Emotional Power of Response

  • @jessGreenwood tweeted @flyairnz asking them to change the music in the airline lounge. She was paged, called to the desk and asked to change the music… Of course, she tweeted to her thousands of followers about the experience.
  • @interfloraUK monitoring Twitter for people who are having a bad day - and sending them flowers to cheer them up.

Social data - lets you treat people as people. Data is the oil of social media - useless until you refine it.

  • @twelpforce - Best Buy's tech pros on twitter offering real time after sales services. Creates a real relationship with recent customers.
  • iButterfly - an augmented reality butterfly collection game - and the butterfly becomes a coupon for a local retaier - and they're sharable with friends...

Amanda Rose, Twestival

Amanda Rose

She was nine when LiveAid happened - but that sense of being part of something bigger than yourself left a deep impact on her. He had big dreams of changing the world 20 years ago, but then became part of the PR world. About 5 years ago she had the "wow" moment of social media with Facebook. She did a Masters about Twitter (I was interviewed for it ;-) ). She found that it changed events, because of the backchannel…

In 2008, she and friends organised a meet-up, a good night out, called Twestival - and it was great. And she couldn't help thinking that this was something that should happen all over the world. But it took finding the right charity - and that turned out to be Charity Water.

202 Twestivals simultaneously around the world was the result. 55 new wells in 3 countries was the result.

Now there's two different branches of Twestical: Global and Local. Over the four campaigns, they've raised $1.75m and 200+ cities have participated.

Social media has changed the game - they was no way all those volunteers worldwide could have been mobilised without Twitter. Even Facebook couldn't have done it.

Amanda doesn't have a home right now. She was in Sicily, and now going to Thailand, and then Switzerland… Skype and social media have enabled that working pattern.

The first Twestival cost her £200. To raise that much money for £200 - pretty crazy. She's not a fan of "Tweet this" - she wants to see connection and tangible results.

Fleet Street Blues:

Are 'community moderators' and other such multimeeja types really journalists at all? Or is it an entirely different skill? And is it time we stopped pretending otherwise?

That's exactly equivalent to asking if 'page designers' and other such paaaayper types are really journalists at all.

Good luck with telling them that they're not…

Facebook wants to be your comments service. A few weeks ago, it revamped its Facebook Comments service, and relaunched, grabbing sites like Techcrunch and GigaOm along the way. Facebook clearly has ambitions to be the social service for the web, and this is another step in that direction.

I've been watch its spread with some interest. Comment-based communities are fascinating to me, if only because we've successfully built a number of them around our blogs. Getting commenting right is hard, takes management, and can actually increase its management needs exponentially as your success grows. Any technology that eases that is going to be attractive.

And, at first glance, the Facebook paradigm of "real names only" seems to encourage more responsible behaviour in commenting. If you are locked out of anonymity the greater internet f**kwad theory no longer comes into play. Trolling has more consequences. But there is a flipside to that. We have markets where anonymity is a virtue in allowing people to actually join in discussions where exposing their own names would put others at risk. Our social work communities would probably be killed stone dead by enforced real identities. I suspect that people who find this a very attractive proposition haven't really looked at the range of research that's been done on how people build multiple identities for themselves on the web. At its simplest level, sometimes people want a clear delineation between work activities and "friends and family" ones.

We've all seen the great traffic gains that the Facebook Like button can provide, which will almost certainly have been boosted by recent changes to the way it operates. A version of commenting that pushes all the load to Facebook's servers, that enforces real identities, minimises spam and drives traffic from the news feed is a very compelling proposition.

And yet, it makes me very uneasy, and here's why:

In essence, as Matthew Ingram suggests, it seems that many companies are looking for a magic wand that will take the challenges of community management away. Certainly, I've had plenty of experience of people whose attitude to comments is to ignore them until they become a problem, and then demand a magic technical solution. I'm sure that, to some people, Facebook Comments looks like that solution.

lt just has a touch of the "oh, company x will save us" attitude that seems prevalent amongst those in the journalism game right now. That might be Apple with its tablet or Facebook with its comments, but I'm deeply sceptical that a single saviour company is going to heal all publishing's ills. Publishers are already feeling burnt by Apple's subscription terms. I think seeing Facebook Comments as a saviour will inflict a worse injury.

In particular, I find the idea of handing your community interaction wholesale to Facebook to be both disconcerting and short-sighted. Facebook is a competitor to every publisher, both for advertising and eyeballs, and helping build its absolute dominance of everything social on the web feels like a short term gain for a long term loss. In fact, I think you can tell a lot about the companies who have chosen to adopt Facebook comments, because they've swapped any form of "owned" relationship with their community for page views. And when publishers are howling in protest at Apple making transfer of subscription information to be optional and at the customer's discretion, handing the whole infrastructure of discussion to a walled garden that just won't let that data come back to you (unlike, say, Disqus, Facebook Comments does not yet allow you any way to get the comments back out of the system) seems bizarre.

Facebook has huge ambitions to dominate the social web. I'm not sure that I'm ready to bend down before it and call it "master" just yet.

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Spent lunchtime today at the RSA for a debate between Henry Hemming, author of a new book about small communities called Together: How Small Groups Achieve Big Things, and Clive Aslet, who wrote Villages of Britain: The Five Hundred Villages That Made the Countryside. The formal title was "The Death of the English Village?", but I was more interested in the themes of transition from geographical community to interest-based community, which I think has interesting implications for hyper local and hyper niche journalism.

Chair Matthew Tayor blogged some thoughts in advance of the event.

Liveblogged notes below:

Henry HemmingHenry Hemming

The ideal of the English village is more recent than we think - it emerged in the late 19th century. Were they just reacting to the modernity of their period? Or were they displaying one of the most ancient prejudices? The most defining shift of the last 12,000 years was the groups who moved from nomadic living to settled living. And not all did this - two groups of humans living side by side. In the Old Testament you can see the settled peoples' distrust of the nomadic. It's seen as a divine punishment. This prejudice can be found amongst most societies of the time - and did not die out.

Our romantic attachment to this prejudice has blossomed. You can see it in the way we construct policy today. Billions of pounds were poured into community cohesion by the last government. Community justice centres force offenders to walk around their neighbourhoods in bibs. The Coalition and Big Society rhetoric is focused around these ideals. Over the last century, the lives of millions of Britons have become less local - so policy is increasingly at odds with experience.

Deerhurst: 22 homes, but not a medieval-style commune. Apart from the biannual flower festival, there are almost no moments when the whole village come together. 2/3 of residents gave not lived there their whole lives. Our spacial mobility has increased 1000 times since the 18th century. Our homes are more comfortable than they ever were, so less reason to go out to pub/church. People just don't bump into their neighbours.

He's been researching communities for his book. Communities of interest are providing the sense of belonging no longer provided by location. It is now possible to live as a hermit on a busy street. We need an understanding of community that accounts for that. It's time to end our love affair with the English village...

Clive AsletClive Aslet

Most villages are largely empty during the day - and that's because they've changed. They used to have an economic purpose for existing like that, and did until around 1950. And for most people it was awful - stultifying and boring... The conditions of life were awful. The journalist who founded the Countryman in the 1920s was appalled by the condition of the cottages attached to the Manor he bought in the Cotswolds.

Is our new nomadism, moving from place to place, a good thing? People retire to the ideal of the English village, and they've created a new type of village community. Many parish noticeboards are packed. It's more one age group and one class. Commuting is an issue. Could we use that time better? Would we get to know people better and use facilities more if we didn't? Villages are good size for many of the social aims we aspire to today.


HH: Fellowship and identity are at the heart of wellbeing in groups.
CA: Getting the size right is important. Too small, and there's not enough of a gene pool of talent, too big and you don't know people. 
MT: Celebration of small groups can be an attack on big groups and bureaucracy. We'll see a backlash.