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BethP

These are great questions to ask; things that everyone is thinking about but don't always get put into words. True, there is no silver bullet, but that doesn't help us to attempt to answer these questions. People want to be part of something that lines up with their interests and passions, has a human face to it, and that they can contribute to without feeling taken advantage of.

I've copied the Gartner virtual community behavior matrix; a very useful way to represent visually the impulse that drives the degrees to which people participate. Thanks for highlighting it!

Lindy Dreyer

Funny...I wanted to be a concert oboist. We should get together and play Bach duets some time.

I've been thinking a lot about wikis lately. Your WeAreMedia project has been fascinating to watch. At the same time, I've been working on the Association Social Media Wiki, which is very different and also doing well. http://associationsocialmedia.com/ It just goes to show that if you have a purpose and a core group of community members, a wiki will work.

As for the n00bs...even Marcel Moyse discovered Bach for the first time at some point.

Beth Kanter

@linda -- well, I haven't picked up my flute in many years - I play the blog now!

@bethP - I was struck by the Gartner - sort of remix on the 1-10-90 rule. I wonder if it might be slightly tweaked for nonprofits?

Scarlett Swerdlow

Thanks for the great post, Beth. Two things really jumped out at me.

"This might be an interesting benchmark to gauge participation - or at least give you some realistic expectations for participation."

It's important to be realistic in expectations with collaborative projects, but it's so easy to be unrealistic and thus disappointed. Accepting that even though a small minority may contribute to or own a project, but realizing a great many will benefit is essential to one's one satisfaction and sanity as an organizer.

And I love your reflections on noobs. "How to harness the power of the newbie as a community?"

When I worked at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, this was a huge organizing challenge for us. We had a small staff (4 full-time), but we had a huge network, including our veteran activists and chapters and then a steady stream of newcomers. Initially, our Outreach Coordinator handled all activism, so she worked with the veteran chapters as well as helped foster and usher in new chapters. This worked okay, but not great. We were spreading ourselves too thin. We decided to split the position into two: a Field Director to work on campaigns with established chapters that had gotten through the formation phase and were part of the SSDP community; and an Outreach Director to handle all the newbie activists and chapter requests. This turned out to be a much better model, and we continue it to this day. (In fact, SSDP's getting ready to hire a second Outreach Director!)

This is common practice at activist meetings too: in addition to whoever runs the meeting, you'll often have a greeter to say "hi" to people as they arrive and get them situated.

I wonder if we should apply this to working wikily and other collaborative projects. In other words, rather than have the curator also serve as the greeter, perhaps it would be more efficient and effective to have those roles split. Obviously, there has to be a great deal of communication between the curator and greeter for this to work, and there have to be some benchmarks for crossing the newb threshold. Just my two cents from an organizing perspective.

Vicki Davis

This is a phenomenal post. You are becoming the "Kathy Sierra" of nonprofits. This post is truly one of the best I've ever read.

You really pull together all of the issues of newcomers and harnessing their power as well as the natural tendencies of those on the web. Wow! (This will be on my blog tomorrow.) Wow!

Bill Gaskins

Thanks Beth! I find it hard to be a blogger in sea of blogger about the things that spark my interest especially- learning, teaching, leading, and technology. I have been blogging since November 2007 and have met some incredible people. What I would like to see happen is develop professional learning groups with 9-15 people to take on the challenges and learn together. Within a group there needs to be a commitment to read, learn, write, reflect, create, and discuss what is happening. Developing groups are easy, but making a commitment takes more work.

Bill

Beth Kanter

Bill,

You've hit the nail on the head! Commitment - the secret sauce. So, how do you engender or inspire commitment?

@vicky: Thank you for your kind words, but your blog has been such an inspiration to me.

Scarlett: I like that idea -- splitting the roles. So, one person concentrates on the community building and the other subject matter. Right now I put on two hats.

Estie Cuellar

As a newbie, I appreciate your insights. I participated in an online Professional Development course through my district this summer, which introduced me to Web2.0 (you can read my progress on my blog). Now that I've begun to expand my knowledge, I am connecting with a number of educators and other professionals that are providing incredible/invaluable information. In addition, most have been incredibly accommodating--willing to help this newbie get better acquainted with all kinds of resources! I want to get to the point where I can both contribute original content and help others learn new technologies as well.

Thanks for reaching out to us newbies--I applaud your efforts!

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