How useful is the Community Manifesto for organisations?


Included below is the Community Manifesto created recently at SXSW, but how useful is it for your organisation? For example, how well does it support emerging new forms of community management, such as ‘employee advocacy‘?

And here’s some real community managers at the event talking about what it is to be a community manager:

Will the Winklevoss twins’ new community succeed?


This caught my eye today, in an email from Richard Millington, who runs the community management training business The Pillar Summit in response to the news of investment by the Winklevoss brothers (oh, and Divya Narendra) in a new financial community.

Part of the reason it stood out is simply that I started off my professional life in community management setting up..drum roll..a new community for financial professionals! Well accountants, to be precise. And then worked on the FinReg21 community for a short while.

But enough from me, over to Richard to express his concerns to members of The Pillar Community:

Here is a quick challenge for you all.

Yesterday, the Winklevoss twins invested $1m in SumZero – a community for financial professionals.

I can imagine them debating the math: “Too bad we only made $65m from that Facebook idea, but this community for financial professionals sounds much smarter (and more original!). Financial professionals are rich, so let’s charge $1000+ per year for membership. If we can get just 5000 of the 5m in the USA to join, we’ll be making $5m per year!”

Do you know how many entrepreneurs have approached us with idea to build an exclusive, paid membership, community for financial professionals? 6.

That may not sound high, but these are just the tiny number of people that approached us. It’s a slither of the pie. I’d estimate there are 100 to 200 people in the USA working on this very idea right now.

Here is an open challenge to you all.

Based upon what we’ve covered on the Pillar Summit so far, tell me what’s wrong with SumZero?

Why is it unlikely to succeed? What do you think they are doing wrong?

Now without being on Richard’s course I can’t directly comment. But I get the drift, that the SumZero idea is unlikely to take off in terms of probability. But enough from me, over to Divya to explain the proposition:

Is your community designed to get answers to questions?


I have scribbled a few notes from the Stack Overflow community presentation below, so excuse the style of writing; there’s also times for where the points are made on the video if you simply want to jump to them. Hope it’s useful.

Joel Spolsky – Cultural Anthropology of Stack Exchange from HN London on Vimeo.

Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange gets close to 180m pageviews a month; it’s been in business 4 years; I am looking at community from cultural anthropologist viewpoint – we’ve tried to create a society specifically to meet the goal of getting answers to questions

1. Usenet was designed so that there was no central server, to discuss you hit reply, and the post quoted the previous discussion item – which led to a culture of ‘nitpickyness’ – or ‘Fisking’ as bloggers call it.

In fact world’s very first troll was on Usenet, someone who created a strawman in order to generate a heated argument. Were other online forums though that did not have the culture argument of nitpicky argument (05.40).

So a design decision taken by accident, where the reply button quoted everything, that was enough to create the culture of usenet.

2. So these lessons were used to create the culture of Stack Overflow, designing every single aspect of the user design.This lesson well understood by architects in terms of design of a room influences how people use it, sometimes accidentally – eg the famous Spanish steps in Rome. (07:53)

3. And most forum software follows Usenet, response to a response, threaded or linear (08:40). Problem is that is a terrible way to get answers to questions – copying email from the era of the mainframe.

4. First impressions (09:40) – another important factor is to get rid of ppl you don’t want rapidly – puts up a pic from @occupy Wall St’ – allows you to make an immediate judgement as to whether want to join that protest.

5. When started off looked at communities which provided questions and answers – starting with Yahoo Answers (11:00). And realise from looking at it that actually a chat room for teenage girls..and because Yahoo did nothing to repel the wrong ppl they got who they got and they are repelling anyone who could answer a question..Same applies to, same with Askville bought by Amazon that a no ones pays any attention to whatsoever “What is the 21st largest (US) state?”.

6. With Stack Overflow designed to attract expert programmers and repel ppl who are not..(12:58)

7. One of first ways designed for the site to stand apart from traditional forums is to allow ppl to vote on *questions* (16:28)

8. More valuable is being able to vote on answers…why?..prob with online discussion traditionally is that it provokes a response, rather than an answer..but instead voting brings all the good stuff to the top (17:40) you can immediately see what is the peer-reviewed answer..

We're not in Kansas anymore!

9. Other important thing about voting is that flows into reputation..and have a badge or ‘flair’ that reflects reputation (18:00) – get points for giving and answering questions – nice mechanism where is a % accept rate – higher the accept rate makes more attractive to answers his questions as he is more likely to accept your answer as right and thus give you points – [a ‘co-reputational’ system].

Moderators at Stack Overflow

10. The highest level of rank is a moderator, each of whom are elected..[Check out their document A Theory of Moderation for information on  moderation philosophy].

11. Makes the point that ppl in offline world portray a type of person they are through visuals too.

12. So taking from Xbox 360 can get badges (21:44)..

While admits ppl wont admit to being motivated by badges it does work…as it works if just one other person notices it..

And if only a few ppl care about badges out of a large community they establish cultural norms…this reinforces these norms..which then adds up to being able to show that on the career section of Stack Overflow [a smart example of community monetization] – and it’s by invite only which keeps the quality reasonably high

13. (25.18)
In terms of governance to save time, pushed down as much of this to members of the community; as you get points you get powers to do things.

14. meta.stackoverflow – behind the scenes govt of the site; deeper than that are the chat rooms..which is only for moderators with 275 people with access to it..all voluntary based

15. And when we change something we have a blog where we inform the community of changes

16. (27.33)
In terms of laws early on thought community be allowed anything, filter it using tags so could avoid by setting up feed to exclude for eg homework questions..realised this was not the right way to do it, and didn’t implement that way.

17. (27.40)
That leads to the philosophy of Stack Overflow – “We hate fun” – all that discussion stuff that ruins questions and answers. The clown image represents that philosophy.

18. Which is around fact that they want correct answers – despite fact ppl get upset when their answers get are five reasons that can get a question closed..this is the system that makes us get a 82% answer rate on all questions

19. When a question does not meet standards can close it, though still visible for a couple of days; use that like a decapitated head, to make an example of what is not tolerated..

Five reasons for closing questions

20. First = duplicate; question can be closed if its duplicate. We are not a discussion forum. We are here to create a permanent record of answers to questions, like Wikipedia, but on narrower range of topics. so if get duplicate will merge it into one place – so answer just in one place.

21. Note Stack Overflow not designed to serve ppl who ask the question, or those who answer it. It serves the internet at large, people who put question into Google and who find the question already on our site. Reason is that 100 times those ppl as those asking questions.

22. Backed up by fact that can edit question on Stack Overflow and then answer it if it does not make sense to you. And if that not solve the person who asked the question’s problem then tough, they can ask again.

23. Second = off topic; have 81 different sites/verticals, everyone has rules as o which is on topic and which is not. This is how we reinforce positive first impressions..that’s the only way you can bring experts in, and not feel like they are answering homework questions..

24. (34.00) Third = not constructive; a question that likely to encourage debate and opinion, rather than facts. “We hate conversation, we don’t like discussion” we can vote up answers that are correct. Something you write when you are 13, it’s just ‘heat’ – and you can’t learn anything from them.

25. Fourth = not a real question. Essentially someone trying to start a discussion rather than ask a question..or overly broad like ‘teach me how to programme’ – ie when the question is one sentence and the answer is a book..

26. Fifth = too localised..(37.00) – where a question is not going to help anyone, where only help the person asking the question. But we don’t care about these people, the people who ask questions.

Our great city

27. They are rules of our great city..with some much complexity within a 20m community we help define the rules, shape the culture that works in a way that it accomplishes the goal of getting answers to your questions – as programmers we are not doing computations any more – we are creating entire (online) cultures + societies – we are inventing the future – thanks.v.much;-)

Usenet explained

Applying lean start-up principles and practice to building corporate communities


On Monday evening I took the bull by the horns and jumped into the debate over how best to deal with building a successful corporate community at Cass Business School, organised by BrightLemon. And to give it some zip, some urgency, I based the story that was narrated with the help of some simple PowerPoint slides on my failure to create a successful online community at

A confession first, being let’s say not one of the best public speakers (great to see that Cass was holding a Toastmasters event that same evening) I did my talk sitting down, and using a microphone, which was more fun and conversational in style. Anyhow in similar laid back fashion I have decided to publish my slides in text format, to add some reflective value (and pop in the occasion image now and then)..though I do relent at the end to include the clutch of slides with a lean start-up example.

My second slide was about the real subject of the talk, which is learning from setting up community to deliver to the mission, and how I might do it again differently with the benefit of lean start-up tools.

I also mentioned that my desire to talk about the value of start-up tools for building communities is based on discussions with community managers and entrepreneurs on the LinkedIn Community Roundtable Group and e-mint, who’ve shown support for the concept:

“I can’t say that I have really applied them directly to community building, but I certainly think that the approach makes sense. Since the fundamental tenet of the lean start-up is to be customer-focused and to continually seek actual customer validation for what you are creating, it seems to intuitively fit as a model for community development, agreed Terry Coatta.

“The biggest challenge I would foresee is critical mass. As a lean startup with a specific product/service you can engage in customer validation with a small number of customers — sometimes even just a single one. But in a community, you need to have interaction amongst the community members. So you clearly need to have more than one :-) The actual numbers are going to depend on how willing people are to contribute, but given the 90/9/1 rule of thumb, it would seem like you might need at least some tens of people involved in order to have even a minimal level of interaction.”

A little about my background experience in social media and community starting at Headshift at the end of 2005 (now part of the Dachis Group) and most recently working for eBay Inc’s


And as way of a sneaky-peeky into what I was up to at check out this quick overview of one successful social media campaign activity at the top price comparison site:

The original aim of mission was to be ‘best place to buy online when don’t know what to buy’ which was supported by a NPS led user value proposition (UVP) piloted in our German (DE) site with improvements to search, data, product selection, and community itself as the means to improve guidance for customers.

And by the 3rd quarter of 2010 our community strategy was starting to pay dividends in DE, with good quality customer conversations, leading to successful offline top contributor meet-ups.

While in the UK we did not take part in the UVP I did get chance to look ahead for 2011 and put together a top level plan which in retrospect had its simple merits as strategy for content and community optimization:

{1} SEO:
Better SEO content => new visitors; better member content => better SEO content (revenue)

{2} Community:
Better incentives/feedback => better community (cost)

{3} Conversions:
Loyal community members => increased conversions (revenue)

The obvious weakness was in failing to understand how to get a community contribute to revenue, except in terms of creating reviews and guides which would rank highly for SEO. But I only got to try that out with a social SEO approach with a test with user-generated 40 guides created at the end of my tenure.

What I did learn was the value of using social media channels to listen and learn from the customer, as with Google’s ZMOT’s observation that people will search for reviews on small purchases like Scotch tape, understanding that for the customer that the smallest issues had significance [Dec 2012: what I now term #thinslicing – the power of bringing together an understanding of how customers make purchasing decisions with little info, together with how to listen and help customers using your social & community manager supported with social tools & data].

But the strategy ultimately did not deliver the expected positive results, and community while remaining in place on the site was called off as a ‘key business driver’ for

So with the benefit of this experience what would I do differently? And thinking about previous community building experience at ICAEW when we considered surveying members on the first iteration of IT Counts, maybe the answer is as simple as asking potential community members if it’s what they want.

In other words testing the assumptions with a basic ‘mvp’ which we could quickly validate and pivot from if necessary. To illustrate this I used the nice example from the Lean Startup Machine London event I attended recently, with an idea for a per-to-peer mobile dating app called appropriately ‘You Never Know’. There’s a full list of startup entries here.

But of course there’s plenty to consider overall to make sure your community is a success, as this expert blog post from Dachis which I used in one of my slides highlights 13 high-level points to consider, including those which relate to testing with your customers/community. Clearly lean tools apply to tasks such as building to solve both a customer and brand problem, but don’t forget the value of applying a metrics led approach to validation, as outlined in the concluding slideshare below from one of the Lean Startup Machine London presenters.

I hope that’s inspired some interest in the use of lean start-up tools to validate your community proposition. But it’s also worth adding the point made to me by Rosie Sherry, that these tools aren’t just for pre-launch validation – but can add value throughout the business cycle when used with an existing community of customers:

“Another angle to look at it is how lean startup methods + communities can help build a product/business.

“In my situation, for example, I started an online community that has grown to be something special. As a consequence, it takes much more effort than an odd hour here or there to maintain. As a result, we are trying to figure out ways to create it into a sustainable business – in a lean startup kind of way. We hadn’t, when we started it, thought it would turn into what it has today. But in order to maintain it, we do need to figure out how to make it work financially.

“One advantage, is that we can reach out quite easily to people to get feedback. The community members are also not shy in saying if they think what we are doing sucks!”

Lean startup metrics

Viral loops as a subset of feedback loops in social media


I like Jeremiah Owyang’s matrix with the embedded point about the viral loop value, to drive engagement in advanced integration of one’s corporate site with your social media strategy.

Accords with my views on how to grow online communities (where I’ve seen viral loops are a subset of feedback loops) – so using such a strategy both in the viral sense as above with with users, and in terms of establishing feedback loops with top contributors.

Any circuit-design type simulators out there which could plug into your web analytics data to allow you to test out viral campaigns?

I sketched this out a bit more on a recent slideshare:…

It’s also worth reading the comment from Bert DuMars on the value of using consumer generated product reviews published on one’s site as a powerful feedback loops for driving performance:

When you integrate CGP reviews into your branded website you are inviting additional conversation about your products and services. You are opening up to your consumers and allowing them to begin a conversation with you about what they like and do not like about your products.

If you are open and honest (showing both positive and negative reviews) you not only learn how to improve your products and services, you are given the opportunity to show that you care about your consumers. We have seen culture change at our Rubbermaid and Dymo brands based on CGP reviews.

We can respond faster to feedback, especially negative, and reach out to consumers to learn what went wrong. We can then adjust the product or service based on that feedback. Think of it as an ongoing, near real-time, feedback loop and a gift from your consumers.

Who believes in the 90-9-1 rule?


A second question on LinkedIn from Dr Michael Wu, Principal Scientist at Lithium Technologies:

Is there something more accurate and precise than the 90-9-1 rule out there? IMHO, Lorenz Curve and Gini Coefficient. Do you know anything else? The Economics of 90-9-1

My answer as part of yesterday’s Online Community Manager group discussion kind of sums up where I’ve got to after reading Dr Wu’s blog previous post and this latest one:

I like the approach you have using economics-based models. I’ve come at it from a more particpant-observer type sociological point of view, so what I’d like to see is for your analysis to return a new ‘rule of thumb’ based on your in-depth data analysis.

The 90-9-1 rule is useful to community managers because it helps provides a starting point for understanding, as Arantza says above. For example it would be useful to know from a practical point of view whether for more open communities (as opposed to niche market research or project based communities) the 90-9-1 is a useful tool for helping launch a new community.

It’s partly about creating a social dashboard that can explain to a member of senior management why a certain kind of community activity may help or hinder greater participation.

I did this kind of work previously in the National Health Service, creating simple reports on the success of a national public health initiative, which worked well for senior managers (government ministers in that case).

So I come back to the challenge, the age old relationship between lab & fieldwork if you like, what would be the new rule of thumb/thumbs?

I’ve chosen to highlight multiple feedback loops as a useful tool, to help drive top contributors for example (taken from the HP Labs research), but I take your point that for commercial ROI purposes more precision is required. To put it another way in such a dynamic social context how does precision allow you to create heuristics for day to day community management?

Do you believe in the 90-9-1 rule?


A question on LinkedIn from Dr Michael Wu, Principal Scientist at Lithium Technologies:

Do you believe in the 90-9-1 rule? Do you think it is a hard and fast rule, or do you believe that it is just a rule of thumb?

What do 10+ years of data across 200+ communities say about the 90-9-1 rule?

My answer as part of the Online Community Manager group discussion kind of sums up where I’ve got to, hence why I thought it worth reproducing here:

Hi Michael,

It’s getting a little late on Friday evening here in the UK but I wanted to share my experience in case it’s of use to you.

I tried to use the 90-9-1 rule as a heuristic to help guide community development here: – and used that rule of thumb in designing a drupal-based community metric package to help monitor the balanced between readers and contributors in various facets of measurable development.

In addition I believe it’s worth considering the value of designing feedback loops, so that your top contributors for example are rewarded for their efforts. I did a slideshare sketching out that concept here: – in fact that got me thinking about the broader topic of ‘viral loops’ but that’s another story with I was sharing with some great people at the Social Media World Forum in London this week.

Otherwise thinking about the 90-9-1 rule also has underlined to me recently the value of measuring offline use of online communities, especially to the majority of ‘readers’. I’ve blogged on that aspect here:

Hope that’s of use.


Stuart G. Hall

PS: I’m off on a skiing today but hopefully I’ll get chance to read Dr Wu’s in-depth piece on the subject when I get back from Rauris in Austria!

Pic from Ava Maria Seven’s photostream.

Telligent Community is on the move!


Telligent has announced the availability of Telligent Community 5.5 and Telligent Enterprise 2.5.

The new releases include enhancements around extensibility, performance, flexibility and ease of adoption and represent the company’s ongoing commitment to innovation in the areas of community and collaboration software.

  • Telligent Community is an external-facing community application that enables organizations to listen to, learn from and improve conversations with customers, partners and prospects.
  • Telligent Enterprise is an internal collaboration software application that promotes a productive and efficient corporate culture. Collaboration between employees is kept private and secure

Both products are built on Telligent Evolution, an award-winning collaboration and community platform that enhances integration and allows organizations to create applications to meet specific business needs.

In addition, the following will be released in March 2010:

  • Telligent Analytics 3.5 provides dramatic improvements in performance and ease of use to our comprehensive analytics software that allows organizations to quantify user engagement both inside and outside of their communities.
  • Telligent Evolution Platform SDK provides development capabilities to extend the existing applications and build new applications on the Telligent Evolution platform. It enables customers and partners to easily integrate the Telligent Evolution platform with enterprise systems, such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (SharePoint), which organizations already depend on for content management, document management, customer relationship management and other specialized functions.

Telligent will host a FREE live webinar and product demonstration featuring Telligent founder and chief technology officer Rob Howard on: Thursday, February 18, at 11 a.m. Central US time (5pm GMT).

You can register for the event here:

On another note I am also pleased to let you know that Telligent was recently named an InfoWorld 2010 Technology of the Year Award winner!

Each year, the InfoWorld Test Center picks the year’s best hardware and software for business and IT professionals. The winners represent the best and most innovative products to meet the test bench each year, leading the way in the data center, in the cloud, on the desktop, or in software development, security, collaboration, or mobile computing.

InfoWorld named Telligent Enterprise 2.0 ahead of both Jive and Socialtext, praising Telligent’s integration with SharePoint and ability to meld collaboration features with community sites both internal and external. Another high point according to InfoWorld was Telligent’s social analytics capabilities. In addition, InfoWorld predicts big things for Telligent in 2010.

You can read the full article here:,8

Three essential questions about community management


Try your hand at these three questions about community management. My answers are below to give you some inspiration!

Q1. What has been the biggest surprise you’ve had while community manager, during the process of building your community?

The degree of difference there is between growing a conventional website and an online community, where the success depends so much on engaging people and sustaining that engagement. While it’s true that ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t apply to any website, this is particularly true for communities where you need to attract not just readers but contributors who are willing to take time and effort to provide their ideas and feedback.

Q2. In your opinion, what are the top 3 ingredients for building a great community?

1. The community should have a clear audience with a clear purpose with which to serve them in mind.

2. The community manager must know how to nuture an online culture based on reasoned debate and knowledge sharing, from implementing a clear and consistent use of community guidelines on the one hand, to an effective strategy for balancing the needs of both top contributors and the majority of readers on the other.

3. The community manager must know to capture metrics of success, and be able to convey these at all levels of the business to demonstrate the value of the community especially in terms of ROI.

Q3. In your opinion, what are the top 3 skills required to be an effective community manager?

1. Know how to create the conditions which optimise the emergence of valuable conversations between members, so-called ‘golden nuggets’ of information, so that quality as well as quantity of participation is clearly demonstrated, balancing the needs of the organisation with the needs of the community.

2. Excellent organisational skills as so much of good community development involves successful co-ordination of a wide range of tasks, from listening to community feedback and raising that with technical developers through to implementation, to promoting the benefits of the community through online and offline marketing.

3. A passionate ability to see the value of the community in every aspect whether it’s valuing contributions from the smallest comment to the most in-depth blog post, or balancing the value of individual top contributors with the importance of aggregate indicators of value such as content views, so that they all can harnessed to contribute to meeting the business objectives of the community.

Essential online community blog posts of 2009


My blog posts of 2009, from how to reward top contributors to discussion about community metrics to grow your community, bullet pointed for you below. Here’s to a successful 2010 with more thoughts on online community, & with a special eye out for enterprises investing in communities for their employees (and what that might mean for internal communication professionals).