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important information
Important Information
  • This presentation was created by Patrick Crispen ([email protected])
  • You are free to reuse this presentation provided that you
    • Not make any money from this presentation
    • Give credit where credit is due
    • Invite your audience to subscribe to TOURBUS (information about TOURBUS appears near the end of this presentation)
designing online communities on a shoestring budget

Designing Online Communities ... on a Shoestring Budget

a presentation byPatrick Douglas CrispenNetSquirrel.Com

pencils down
Pencils down!
  • Instead of scribbling down everything I say, just visit when you get home.
  • This is my personal Web site and it contains:
    • A copy of this PowerPoint presentation and others that you are welcome to “creatively acquire.”
    • Information about TOURBUS, the ADV-HTML list, and some other neat stuff.
    • A really good chocolate chip cookie recipe.
our goals today
Our goals today ...
  • Discover the nuts and bolts of online communities.
  • Learn how to create our own online communities ... cheaply.
  • Talk about some of the rules of community design.
getting started

Getting Started

The nuts and bolts of online communities

what is an online community
What is an online community?
  • A unified body of individuals who share the same common interests.
  • Online Communities are different, though, because they:
    • Break down the barriers of distance and time.
    • Make it easier for like-minded people to get together.
    • Can offer anonymity.
four types of online communities
Four types of online communities
  • Geographic, defined by a physical location like a city or region. 
  • Demographic, defined by age, gender, race, or nationality.
  • Topical, defined by shared interest, like a fan club, hobby group, or professional organization. 
  • Activity-based, defined by a shared activity, like shopping, investing, playing games, making music, or taking a class.
creating communities
Creating communities
  • The easiest way to create an online community is to simply join someone else’s already-existing online community!
  • Asynchronous (“not live”)
    • Best examples: email or newsgroups.
    • Messages are stored somewhere.
    • Community members read and respond to the messages on their own schedules.
  • Synchronous (“live”)
    • Best example: AOL chat rooms / AIM.
    • Communication is real time.
asynchronous communities majordomo
Asynchronous communities: Majordomo
  • You “subscribe” to a mailing list that interests you.
  • Majordomo automatically adds your name to the mailing list.
  • Any time something is posted to the mailing list, you automatically receive a copy (“mail explosion”).
asynchronous communities l soft listserv lists
Asynchronous communities: L-Soft LISTSERV lists
  • Sort of the “Band Aid” of mailing list software.
  • Works like Majordomo (with more bells and whistles).
  • Currently 173,337 LISTSERV lists, of which 45,644 open to the public.
http www lsoft com catalist html
  • L-Soft’s CataList Reference Site
  • Search for a mailing list of interest.
  • View lists by host country.
  • View lists with 10,000 subscribers or more.
  • View lists with 1,000 subscribers or more.
where to find more lists
Where to find more lists
  • Directory of over 100,000 mailing lists.
  • Search by keyword or browse by topic.
  • Also offers Usenet and IRC directories.
other asynchronous communities
Other asynchronous communities
  • Bulletin Board System (BBS)
  • “Guestbook”-like Tools
asynchronous communities

EASY to use.

Usually doesn’t require the community members to have any special software or training.

More deliberation in the community’s communications.

Not synchronous.

Requires us to change our pedagogy.


Requires a “master of the house.”

“Phone Tag” – it is like conducting a conversation using voice mail.

Not synchronous.

Requires us to change our pedagogy.

Asynchronous communities
synchronous muds moos etc
Synchronous: MUDs, MOOs, Etc.
  • Originally “Multi-User Dungeons,” now “Multi-User Dimensions.”
  • “An inventively structured social experience on the Internet, managed by a computer program and often involving a loosely organized context or theme.”
synchronous aim
Synchronous: AIM
  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • FREE!
  • Included in later versions of Netscape.
  • Download from
synchronous irc icq
Synchronous: IRC / ICQ
  • Other popular chat programs:
    • IRC: Internet Relay Chat
    • ICQ: “I Seek You”
  • If you are a “newbie” (or work with newbies) stick with AOL Instant Messenger. It is MUCH easier to use.
synchronous web based stuff
Synchronous: Web-based stuff
  • Online Chat
    • Example:
  • Online MUDs/MOOs/etc.
    • Examples: and
    • Synchronous and asynchronous communication with its online MA students
    • Conversation transcripts/archives
  • Solution:
    • MUD for synchronous communications
    • NNTP for asynchronous communications
nntp info
  • Go to Serverwatch
  • Reviews of NNTP servers (including prices)
microsoft netmeeting
Microsoft NetMeeting
  • Video and Audio Conferencing
  • Whiteboard
  • Chat
  • File Transfer
  • Program and Remote Desktop Sharing
  • FREE!
case study pwc
Case Study: PwC
  • Needs:
    • A way for stakeholders in many countries to view a synchronous, on-screen presentation
    • Voice communication
  • Solution:
    • NetMeeting for the on-screen stuff
    • Speakerphone for the voice stuff
synchronous communities

Live, real-time communication.

High “bells and whistle” factor – it looks impressive.

Requires us to change our pedagogy.


Additional software – and training in how to use that software – may be required.

Fear factor is high.

Scheduling is a nightmare.

“If you aren’t on the bus, you’re off the bus.”

Requires us to change our pedagogy.

Synchronous communities
the whole point
The whole point ...
  • If want to incorporate an online community into your classroom, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • There are hundreds of thousands of already existing online communities you can use.
  • The tools you need to access and use these communities run the gamut from simple (email) to semi-complex (a VRML-enabled Web browser).
creating you own online communities

Creating You Own Online Communities

Why invent a custom wheel when you can just as easily “borrow” an off-the-rack wheel that works just as well?

the biggest secret
The biggest secret
  • You really don’t need ANY special software, hardware, or even training to create a really good online community (although software and hardware is available that will help you take your community to the next level).
  • The number one community-building tool? EMAIL!
creating simple email communities
Creating simple email communities
  • The simplest way is to use “groups” in your email program’s address book, but you should only do this if you have less than 10 people in you community.
  • Problem #2: If the community becomes too big (more than 10 people), it becomes unmanageable.
simple moderated email communities
Simple, moderated email communities
  • One person – the “moderator” – maintains the list of community email addresses in his or her address book.
  • All of the community’s email is first sent to the moderator who then forwards it to the rest of the community.
  • Problem: This is one heck of a lot of work, especially if the community is either large or “active.”
email communities using an alias list
Email communities using an alias list
  • You can set up an email aliases list (/etc/aliases) that will send mail to multiple people on the list.
  • But, someone must maintain this list.
  • This is a UNIX solution.
mailing lists
Mailing lists
  • That’s where Majordomo and L-Soft LISTSERV come in!
  • Software automates both the subscription and mail distribution processes.
  • Every major university on the planet is running L-Soft LISTSERV, and many major organizations (like Merit) are running Majordomo.
  • Ask if they will host a list for you.
and if they won t
And if they won’t ...
  • LISTSERV light is FREE!
  • Maximum of 10 mailing lists with up to 500 subscribers each
  • Runs on EVERYTHING!
don t forget the archives
Don’t forget the archives
  • List archives are a wonderful resource for current members (“asked and answered”).
  • List archives also help acclimate newbies.
  • LISTSERV does it automatically; Majordomo requires Hypermail (I think).
case study adv html
Case Study: ADV-HTML
  • Needs:
    • Way for Web gurus to ask Web design/development questions of other gurus
    • Some way to keep the signal to noise ratio to a reasonable level
  • Solution:
    • Moderated LISTSERV list with an automated archive (at
web based chat
Web-based chat
  • Use someone else’s (like
  • It is cheaper.
  • With SO MANY Web-based chat communities out there, unless you have set meeting times, any new chat room you create is probably going to be a ghost town.
and of course
And, of course ...
  • If you are going to use synchronous community software – be it a “talker,” a chat program, an online “world,” or NetMeeting – make sure your community’s members:
    • Have the appropriate software.
    • Know how to use the software.
    • Know when they need to meet online.
  • Find someone to be the community’s “tech leader.”
the rules of community design

The Rules of Community Design

How to ensure that your hard work as a community builder will actually benefit the members of your online community

the community building bible
The community-building bible
  • Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities by Amy Jo Kim
  • ISBN: 0201874849
  • List Price: $29.99 ($23.99 at Amazon and BN)
  • Free excerpts at
nine timeless design strategies
Define and articulate your PURPOSE (*)

Build flexible, extensible gathering PLACES

Create meaningful and evolving member PROFILES

Design for a range of ROLES

Develop a strong LEADERSHIP program

Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE (*)

Promote cyclic EVENTS

Integrate the RITUALS of community life

Facilitate member-run SUBGROUPS

Nine timeless design strategies
1 define and articulate your purpose
1. Define and articulate your PURPOSE
  • What type of community are you building?
  • Why are you building it?
  • Who are you building it for?
  • Avoid the “soup to nuts” fallacy.
a three step planning exercise
A three-step planning exercise
  • Step One: Members’ Needs
    • Understand your members.
    • Make a list of their needs.
    • Prioritize your list.
  • Step Two: “Owner’s” Goals
    • Understand your owners.
    • Make a list of their goals.
    • Prioritize your list.
a three step planning exercise1
A three-step planning exercise
  • Step Three: Create a “Master List” of your community’s goals
    • Compare and consolidate your two lists.
    • Create and distribute the master list.
6 encourage appropriate etiquette
6. Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE

“Cyberspace, in its present condition, has a lot in common with the 19th Century West. It is vast, unmapped, culturally and legally ambiguous, verbally terse (unless you happen to be a court stenographer), hard to get around in, and up for grabs. Large institutions already claim to own the place, but most of the actual natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of sociopathy. It is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for both outlaws and new ideas about liberty.”

-- John Perry Barlow, Crime and Puzzlement

6 encourage appropriate etiquette1
6. Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE
  • “Netiquette” is etiquette on the Internet.
  • Based on the Golden Rule.
  • Poor netiquette because you're new is one thing, but such practices as spam and flaming are another matter.
  • Without rules and social boundaries, your online community will rapidly collapse.
  • Most communities avoid this by using both codified rules and “super users” who enforce these rules.
case study bamafan
Case Study: Bamafan
  • Needs:
    • Email list for fans of the Crimson Tide
  • Solution:
    • LISTSERV list
  • BUT, I forgot to establish etiquette rules up front
6 encourage appropriate etiquette2
6. Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE
  • Figure out:
    • What the rules are.
    • Who will be responsible for enforcing the rules.
  • Let your members know the rules, and the consequences of breaking those rules, as soon as possible.
  • For some great netiquette guides, go to Yahoo and search for “netiquette.”
some more resources

Some More Resources

Where to go if you want to take your online community to the next level.

another good book
Another good book
  • Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt
  • ISBN: 0787944602
  • List Price: $29.95
http www naima com cs377b class html
  • Amy Jo Kim’s “Designing Online Communities” graduate seminar at Stanford.
  • The “Template” is the key points from her book.
  • The “Outline” is the seminar syllabus and contains FANTASTIC links.
http www builder com
  • CNET’s site for site builders.
  • Great for anyone who wants to learn more about any aspect of Web design, including community building.
http www yahoo com
  • Collection of links to some of the most popular online communities in the world.
  • Search for “virtual communities.”
quittin time
Quittin’ time!
  • Again, this and many other PowerPoint presentations are available at
  • Look in the “Classroom Resources” section
  • Two small differences between the online presentations and what you saw today:
    • No transitions
    • Different fonts
if you liked this presentation
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our goals today1
Our goals today ...
  • Discover the nuts and bolts of online communities.
  • Learn how to create our own online communities ... cheaply.
  • Talk about some of the rules of community design.