Next week I’m taking part in a panel discussion about the role of trust in communities at the Community Roundtable’s annual CRConnect event. Ahead of that I wanted to share a few reflections about trust.
Trust and vulnerability come hand in hand
Trust is ultimately about a willingness to make our vulnerability visible to another – and to believe that they won’t take that show of vulnerability and abuse it to hurt us. Vulnerability can take many forms from revealing a secret fear to a friend, to sharing key insights with a collaborator or admitting to a supervisor that we need more support.
The moment at which we take the plunge and share our vulnerability is always transitional – the next steps for the relationship hang in the balance until we receive a response from the person we’re sharing with. If our revelation is met with reassurance, care, and appropriate respect then we’re likely to share again and the relationship will continue to develop. Break the boundaries of the tentative formation of a safe space and the relationship may be damaged temporarily or permanently, depending on the scale of the breach.
This year I’m participating in an asynchronous, online book club in a private Facebook group. In this post I’m going to capture some of the logistics of how it’s working so far and some reflections on what it’s like to participate from the perspective of a community manager who’s not running the group.
One degree of separation – setting up the group
The book club was the idea of a friend who set up a private Facebook group and then posted that she was willing to invite any of her Facebook friends who were interested in taking part. So the members all know her but not necessarily anyone else in the group. We’ve a total of 18 members overall, of which 7 of us participate most months and maybe 7 have not yet joined the conversations.
In a series of 3 posts, I’m sharing some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this post, I recommend 5 books that discuss community management and working effectively with groups.
1. “The art of community” by Jono Bacon
This was the book that years ago helped me to realise that I was a community manager. Jono Bacon describes what a community manager does – including the importance of good communication practices, selecting the right tools, and balancing being a member of the community while often negotiating your role as an employee representing an organization. If you’re wondering whether you’re a community manager, or are brand new to the role, this is a good place to start.
The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Science of Team Science (SciTS) conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida where I took part in a couple of sessions, and moderated a third. Here I’m going to share some reflections from the first session which focused on collaborative technologies for academic collaborations.
Illustration from Think Quarterly by Matt Taylor
The uses of collaborative tools
The first activity that we used to open the session involved gathering the names of current online tools and grouping them into 5 broad categories. The categories, suggested by workshop co-organiser Ryan Watkins, covered different reasons for using online tools. I’ve listed each below, with my interpretation added alongside:
- Project management and communications – tools that allow users to organize and communicate with one another about their group-based work.
- Sense-making – tools that enable discussion and idea sharing that leads to participants forming or refining their knowledge and beliefs about topics.
- Knowledge sharing – tools that enable the dissemination of information.
- Acquisition of knowledge – tools that enable active searching for information or passively receiving updates about new information.
- Data analysis – tools that enable the sharing and computation of raw data.
The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog.
Earlier this week in a panel discussion about technology for academic collaboration at the Science of Team Science conference, I mentioned a recent paper, which asks “Why do academics use academic social networking sites?” The paper presents the results of a survey of 81 researchers at three Israeli institutes who were asked about their motivations for using ResearchGate and Academia.edu.
The survey draws upon the Uses and Gratifications theory from the field of media studies for its research questions – exploring whether the five broad motivations for media consumers may also apply to academics that use online professional networks. Here we outline that theory and then highlight some of the findings from the paper.
Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here.
This post first appeared on the Trellis blog.
Building online communities can be hard. Maybe you start a discussion and nothing happens – silence. Or maybe last week saw lots of conversation but this week you’re back to worrying that you’re talking to yourself. Combine that with the lack of training and resources for community managers and you can be left confused about what to do to help your community activate and grow.
One of the resources that I’ve used a lot at Trellis is the four-stage lifecycle model presented in Rich Millington’s book, “Buzzing Communities”. Millington’s model is based on a systematic review by Iriberri and Leroy which synthesized the results of 27 papers about online communities to create a model for how online communities progress. This lifecycle model is key if you’re a community manager because it explains clearly what to expect at each stage – and what you should be doing to move things along to the next.
One of the keynote talks at the Mindful Leadership Summit that I attended in early November was by neuroscientist Dan Siegel. Siegel is particularly interested in the subject of integration, a topic I’d like to explore a little here.
Integration is a healthy state within a system where there is neither too much rigidity, nor chaos. Take for example a choir (and example Siegel also uses in his books). There may be multiple different voices in the choir, and different notes being sung at any given moment – so there’s differentiation within the group rather than a homogeneous mass of identical components. But the contributions of each member of the group are coordinated – they understand where one note relates to the note that another is singing (rather than rigidly sounding out their own melody in isolation). And so the result is a pleasant song rather than a clashing, dissonant jumble.
Which got me thinking about online communities. In talking with with many folks recently about what they use as the definition of a community, lots of them said some variant of “a group with common interests, or a shared goal”. So is integration within a community when the members feel as though they are aligned with the goals and interests? In this context, rigidity might be opposing one another’s opinions and suggestions or perhaps refusing to evolve with the changing environment in which the community exists (refusing new members, not adopting new tools etc). The opposite of this, chaos, may be a community that has not yet settled on a shared purpose or set of interests and perhaps is trying to cover too many topics, or not sharing information about activities in a way that members feel they are able to understand and participate consistently.
To what extent does a community manager play the role of “integrator” – helping each individual to make sense of the overall community, perhaps like a choirmaster or a conductor might do in a musical context? And to what extent do other members take on this role? How do the technical features of the online community promote or inhibit integration – for example, if a newsfeed algorithm is showing different activities to different members of a community, do they end up with such contrasting perspectives about the community that that don’t feel integrated with it?
I’d be curious to hear how you’ve handled this in the communities that you belong to and work with. How do you enable individuals to feel differentiated (and valuable in their own right) while also being aware of others around them and striving to interact with others in a meaningful way?