Community Building: On Boarding New Members

For the past week I have been working with a group of brave, but extremely friendly, #ISTE16Pirates. Just as we did with the UK Digital Citizenship Summit, we have been using real life Pirate articles and making decisions based on their “First and Second Council Meetings.”

As the goals and destination has been set, this post looks at the importance of on boarding new members, finding ways to maintain the culture, network effects and feedback loops.

Yesterday it felt like our crew really came together and had some fun sharing some images of themselves all swash buckled up with pirate hats and parrots.

The issues of on boarding new members while maintaining the culture has been playing on my mind for a while. Last week I caught up with some critical friends to ask for some advice, which was;

1) Start with a small group of people that you know and trust

2) Get the culture right. Set the guidelines of the community

After seeing things develop over the last week and, based on the conversation yesterday, it feels like we’re on the way to achieving this.

How important is it to get these two things right? Whether an online community or in the workplace, with a group of volunteers or colleagues the advice appears to be the same and I think that Dave Logan explains this extremely well in Tribal Leadership;

“Identify your core values and then align them with a noble cause”

Nolan Bushnell also describes the importance of the culture with early users:

“Those first dozen people in your company form the seed kernels around which the culture will mold itself. A dozen individuals are sufficient for a dynamic to get going; beyond that number, others will probably conform to the ethos they’ve established.”

Bushnell also goes on to describe the importance of carefully cultivating the culture and warns of the dangers if this advice is neglected:

“In several of my companies where there have been one or two outliers, though, and I’ve found that if you don’t take care of them, change them, or get rid of them early on, they can form a toxic pod that sprouts an atrophic branch in your company.

“I once tried to change an entire company’s DNA. In the early 1990’s, I bought a firm that made some interesting products but also had a terrible corporate culture. The place had been on a 5 year decline and most of the innovative people had left. I should have fired 90% of the staff but I didn’t; I thought I could turn the company around. I was wrong. For every proposed step forward, 5 people resisted the change. The corporate ecosystem was contaminated. This was one of my worst failures.” Nolan Bushnell, Finding the Next Steve Jobs.

I’ve been involved with companies and a member of communities as a volunteer where I have witnessed this kind of decline… but how to avoid it as this group grows?

We’ve identified some goals, have a small crew that we know and trust, have some guidelines, are well on our way to modelling a couple of collections that we can show to others and will be compiling a development wishlist… so what’s next? Network effects and feedback loops?

If there are two members of the Digital Citizenship Personal Learning Network (PLN) having a discussion about #DigCit on a social media or a social learning platform, the value of the network and discussions will not be same if there were, say, 100 members of the group using the platform.

Feedback Loops

If the people checking out this new group has a positive experience and recommend others in their PLN join, then the value increases (with N2 apparently. Lol). In addition to this, the experience will be even more positive as more and more people in their PLN joins. The visits to the community will become more frequent and people will visit the community for longer periods.

The Technology Adoption Cycle

In her post “Learn to curate ISTE2015 – From someone who has been there” Allison White offers the following advice:

The tools you choose depend on what you are comfortable with and what kind of a learner you are (Do you learn best from audio notes, video snapshots or typed notes?) Sele…
from Learn to curate ISTE 2015 – from someone…

New technology ideas do not roll out in a linear fashion, the goal of any new idea/technology should be to seek out the early adopters, the innovators and tech enthusiasts (This shouldn’t be too difficult with ISTE attendees). This should be followed with engaging the early adopters and ‘visionaries’ to get their feedback… before looking to get feedback from the ‘late majority’

The graph above is from Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Cycle, the text in blue details what each groups attitude towards technology might be and the numbers in white detail how many UK FE Colleges might be in each group. Many products and services never manage to “Cross the Chasm”

As a relatively inexperienced community manager are there any concerns as we explore issues of culture and growing? Absolutely! Are there any main concerns that can be articulated? Nora Jones… What? The singer? Yep. How come? Check out how the Blue Note Jazz forum was affected by what became know as

Nora Jonestown

I hope we’ll be able to maintain the early culture… while onboarding the right people… in the right way… and at the right time… and in time for ISTE2016. What could possibly go wrong?

As this is education and the early group have a strong interest in Digital Citizenship, I hope the answer to this question is “A lot less could go wrong compared with other online communities!”

With this project and others I hope that I have taken the advice from some of the more experienced community managers who have been extremely generous with their time and hope that I have taken the advice on board and am able to apply it well.

I love the last group that Patrick O’Keefe thanks in the acknowledgement section of his fantastic book “Managing Online Communities”

“Thank you to all of the idiots out there that I had to deal with. I learned a lot from you and I share it in this book with the hope that, when you bother the next person, he or she will be ready for you.”

I’ve no idea if I’m ready, but I know that I would be a lot less ready if it was not for people like Patrick and the My Community Manager team who give up an hour of their time every week to share their knowledge and experience.

To follow the journey of this #Cmgr newbie trying to help his friends at Declara to onboard educators in the right way, assist with the development of a super user program and try to get the culture right so that educators and suppliers come together to collaborate, check out the #ISTE16Pirates Log

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