|Selfishness, self-interest, altruism & community building|
What evokes - brings out - the best in new and existing community members?
What is it about a forum that brings out the best in it's existing and prospective membership?
Assume you are starting from scratch.
What are the building blocks of a forum that brings out the best in people?
Is it the character of the founding member(s)? What is it about their character, their persona, their personality?
Is it the forum's charter?
Is it something about the community's moderation? Something about how conflict is handled?
Is it respect or the belief in people?
What is it that brings out the best in people in the many diverse realms - forums, communities - of the Web?
What is it about a forum or community that brings out the best in you - in your membership and participation?
What brings out the best in you?
I ask hesitantly, for I'd rather focus on the positive elements, but in case any of us are currently laboring in a cloud of negativity I'll leave the door open for contribution by asking:
What brings out the worst in you?
For me, some of what brings out the best is
- Signs of intelligent life - interested in discussing issues of general interest or import - versus signs of self-interested life, that is, interested in discussions that only work to one's own advantage, such as promotional posts
- Moderation that extinguishes flaming and similar nonsense and distractions
- A sense of respect or tolerance for divergent views
- A sense that the place is about doing some good
- Evidence of a commitment to a sense of humor
- Clear ground rules (TOS) that are fairly applied
- A sense of a welcoming community
There's perhaps a lot more to it but at least that's a start.
Perhaps I might have crafted a somewhat different sub-title: Healthy self-interest versus unhealthy self-interest.
Where's the line? If there's an element of self-interest that brings us here then what brings out benevolent self-interest and what brings out the monster?
I moderate the Domain Forum here. Why? I don't exactly know. I don't sell domains. (We'll very rarely, as selling them isn't my gig.) I don't run a domain registrar. I don't have a personal website about domain issues. Heck, I'm not quite certain that any of my efforts here have made me a dime.
So why do I do it?
Ego gratification would be a quick and easy answer but, beyond a reasonable doubt, ego gratification is ephemera: It's a thin meal, not sustaining. You can see that focus play out in the world, mostly in people/members who come and go from various forums - along with another mob who only show up to promote themselves.
Maybe being someone who helps others is a thing unto itself, a sort of "it's in my, so I do it" thing? You too?
What brings that out here - in me - perhaps explaining my presence?
Maybe it's the presence of others of like mind, character, quality? Maybe it's the rogerds, Tedsters, cavemen, davezans, hannamyluvs, EFVs, buckworks, ogletrees, sugarraes, kirbys, digitalghosts, trillianjedis, encyclos, claus, pageones, spacylacies, emodes, bharzters, martinis, and on and on - forgive me for not listing you all - people of considerable knowledge and experience who drop in just to answer questions or share a bit of insight or to get you to think.
Maybe it's something about the people who give without evidence that they are giving to get something in return?
BUT what brings them here?
Don't you wish you could run a forum like WebmasterWorld?
Well, what is it about this place and IF you run a forum what is it about your place that brings out the best in people?
Is it you? Do you set a standard? What is it?
What brings out the best in people AND, if you can identify it - know it, talk about it, grasp it - is there any reason why "whatever it is" is not more prevalent?
Doesn't the business of community no get down to brining out the best in people? The best the have to bring to the table?
What is it that brings such people to the table?
Don't worry, we are listening, just pondering over the questions. :) When I saw your first post I was tempted to answer with a simple "yes" - but that would have been rather too facetious. ;)
The community depends on members and leaders - especially in the early days when the forum owner(s) have an dominant role. The members "fit in" to an established ethos of a community - a sarcastic tone will bring out further sarcasm, agressiveness attracts aggressiveness, the members conform to the prevailing atmosphere. Those who don't fit in at first will either move on or change their comportment or attitude. Later on when a forum grows, the existing member base continues in the same vein as the original leaders. In fact, a change in ethos (or its derailment) can quickly kill a successful forum.
In my forum, the ethos is highly dependent on my administrators having promoted a culture of confidence and respect. Whilst I have a minor influence with the technical aspects of the forum itself, nothing within the forum setup itself, I believe, had a significant influence.
What you really need are members like Webwork who can sustain an entire thread without anyone else posting! ;)
I really think you have hit the major points, Webwork. To bring out the best in people, the discussion needs to be civilized. So, setting and maintaining a high level of friendliness and courtesy is really important. Mods can do that both by ensuring compliance with the TOS (editing/nuking/cautioning, etc.) but also by participating in a positive manner.
Positive feedback to members who make particularly good contributions to the discussion will help. I guess you can think of forum behavior like any other type of behavior - if you reward what's good, and disincent what's bad, you'll end up with an overall improvement.
Like I suggested, rogerd, a sense of humor is part of the spice that makes the meal appealing and ya, I can be like that - sustaining a thread - whilst I grope around for a central premise or discussion point. :-P
I guess at this point, should anyone care to join in, I'd like to phrase the question that is perhaps common to all the questions I've raised above:
What is it about WebmasterWorld that brings out the best in you - YOU - the person who has read this thread?
What brings out the best in you, in a community setting? Speaking for yourself.
Everyone likely has their own answer and the answer(s) may be the sum of many parts (+ a whole), still, addressing myself TO YOU - I'd like to know:
Why are you here?
Does your membership and participation mean something to you? What?
What brings YOU HERE and what makes you stay?
I ask this knowing, for myself, that I've seen a lot of good contributed by a lot of people here, so I'm talking to ALL OF YOU: Speaking for yourself, what is it that makes you contribute and stick around? Is there something YOU find here that is somewhat rare or unique or "whatever"? What is that?
Well, while praising or searching for the definition of community goodness, maybe I'll make a small exception for that guy that spammed the Domain Forum and then stickied me, after I deleted his post, to tell me in no uncertain terms that I'm . . . . such a nice guy. :)
You're seeking the holy grail here: the key to a person's motivation.
All I'll add is that we're likely a mix of the selfish, selfless and self-defeating across the span of our social lives, forums included.
What does membership of a forum like this mean to me? I don't yet know, but seeing a sparky thread like this certainly delighted me after a few weeks of threads focussed on the means of delivery, as opposed to community building.
' What is it about a forum that brings out the best in it's existing and prospective membership?
Assume you are starting from scratch.'
Ok, I'll take it from scratch.
'What are the building blocks of a forum that brings out the best in people?'
Passion in the topic is what brings out the best in people.
'Is it the character of the founding member(s)? What is it about their character, their persona, their personality?'
Not paticularly, it is the founding contributors to your site. Encourage those who post passionate replies to a topic.
'Is it the forum's charter?'
Character determines a lot about an entity. Alhough, you might want to think about the impression and reputation before character, though it certainly helps.
Is it something about the community's moderation? Something about how conflict is handled?
Most good sites are self regulatory, that is the regular posters pretty much administrate the site for you, but you have to be prepared to step in at any time.
'Is it respect or the belief in people?'
No, most online trust is completley unfounded, and a lot of respect is earnt falsely, with repercussions when falsity emerges. Check your sources thouroughly.
'What is it that brings out the best in people in the many diverse realms - forums, communities - of the Web?'
Really, it is usually upstanding people in their own right having a say. They are easily identified by polling the community.
'What is it about a forum or community that brings out the best in you - in your membership and participation?'
Participating, and not sitting back. Lurking/trolling gets you nowhere.
'What brings out the best in you? '
Participation. Contribution. Excellence. Inspiration. Dedicatiopn. Dreaming. Reality.. it's all a jumble.