The Best Tools to Encourage Community

photo courtesy thomas_hawk on flickr
(photo courtesy thomas_hawk on flickr)

One of the most fascinating things happening right now during Kathleen Gilroy’s presentation is the questions. So far, I’ve noticed that it seems a lot of questions are being asked like this: “So, that’s interesting and everything, but what things should we build? What’s the basic toolset to building a community?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this question. Lately, however, I’ve heard it a ton. Most of the people asking these questions are what we call TBP’s (Traditional Business Person/People). I’m not going to get all over the case of these people for being out of touch (although, I think they are). What I’d rather do is help you people out.

I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this. Stop asking that question.

You can’t build tools for your community without knowing your community. The basic answers Katleen gave – tagging, RSS everywhere, personalization, customization, and user profile pages (you’re welcome, but don’t leave now that you have her answer) – these are good answers to the wrong question. But how many people, other than the Threadless guys, are going to tell you that’s a dumb question? Not many.

But, why do I say it’s the wrong question? Because if you’re asking that question, you don’t know your community at all! You’re not part of it. You don’t get it. You ARE out of touch.

You said you’re here to help… what’s your problem?

Ok, so here’s the help I mentioned. When you are in, or simply are the community, you understand what is needed. You know what you have to do.

The answer is… get involved! Stop sitting around trying to figure out how to capitalize on eyeballs. Start thinking about how to “give your users the ability to kick ass”!

In the end, I’ll let Louis Armstrong say it best:

“If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.”

And “practice”, in this conversation, means “doing it” and “being a part of it”.

[tags]community2.0, questions, building, community[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

One Comment on "The Best Tools to Encourage Community"

  1. Hal says:

    Or, in other words-

    “If ya ain’t got it in ya, ya can’t blow it out”- Louis Armstrong

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