I’ve been meaning to blog for a while now about 2 excellent books I’ve read this year about communities online, both of which are pretty much essential reading for anyone involved in community management.
The first is Andrew Lih’s book The Wikipedia Revolution. Lih is for me the world’s leading academic on Wikipedia, not least because he’s been a participant in Wikipedia himself and has a great understanding of how the community works from the inside.
The book charts how the community has evolved from one that was maintained by personal connections to a whole stratified society of rules, roles, technologies and norms.
Particularly key are the sections on the development of the ‘Spanish Fork‘ (the mere mention of a commercial version of Wikipedia led to members of their Spanish site effectively leaving in protest and setting up their own encyclopedia) and Chapter 5: The Piranha Effect, which I gave to my MA Online Journalism students as one of their first readings.
The book also deals with trolls, vandalism (the Siegenthaler incident) and censorship.
The second great book is from experienced community manager Angela Connor: 18 Rules of Community Engagement (also available as an e-book). This is a great complement to Lih’s as this comes from a very different, practical, angle drawing not just on her own knowledge but those of readers of her blog. In fact, it’s a very bloggy book generally.
Connor emphasises the need to invest lots of time in any community developing relationships, making connections and fostering relationships. She looks at the importance of content (of the right type) and questions, of rules and culture, egos and compliments, influence and complaints.
It’s a breezy book that doesn’t impose one solution on every problem but frequently returns to the fact that every community is different, and so even common problems like trolls and spamming will have different solutions. That said, there are plenty of experiences offered.
These are probably the best 2 books I’ve read on online communities – but if you’ve read something good in the area, please let me know.