How to grow my wiki community






Please include a summary of the discussion, any recommendations or requests that the group had, and any resources the group noted regarding the topic.


Marie - convener introduction: WagN ready for deployment to build community among certain groups inside the nonprofit sector. How does that happen, generally?


Wikis represented

* Wiki1001 - getting started

* Foodista - launched December 17, blogger outreach

* FanHistory - being a good neighbor

* MuppetWiki

* CPSquare

* WagN + Connectipedia

* WikiHow - established community -- maintaining that dynamic as group grows

* Dreamfish - tools for community

* ArborWiki

* AboutUs

* Wikipedia

* Debatepedia


Retrospective on starting community

It's important to tailor a wiki appropriately to its community. Lesson from socialtext: distinction between "in the flow" and "above the flow" work. Knowing when to begin and when to wait -- natural bursts of activity are just a part of a flow of the community.


FanHistory: analytics plays an important role in surfacing unexpectedly/weirdly popular parts of the wiki, then work can be organized around improving those already popular things.


AboutUs: the role of user observation and "human analytics" (in addition to web analytics) -- lets you figure out who these people are, and enable you to reward them.


MuppetWiki: Personalized attention to contributors is the best reward.



General conversation

Featured articles a good way to deliver that attention. Open question: promoting named contributors vs. good content. FanHistory "Rescue Rangers" is a way of promoting groups within a wiki, without calling attention to individual group members. Volunteers get paid in thanks and ego boost; so say thanks when you see someone helping.


Importance of mission statement to guide a community. Retirees and (recently) laid off employees can be attracted because of the mission/guiding principles.


Question: about capture. Is there a wiki community about wiki community? 

MeatballWiki, CommunityWiki, and C2 are possibilities. Go read "how to get involved" sections on established wikis and reverse-engineer what they did to generate that stuff.


Question: how do you get started? what do you do?

Articulate a clear purpose. Actively facilitate, refer to people by name and personalize interactions. Get people over the technical hurdles to contribution who have bought into the purpose/goal of the wiki. Collective authorship is another hurdle.


Tools branching off of the community. Wiki is one tool. Other tools: mailing lists, chat, mailing lists, forums, meeting in person. Another concept is to just keep everything on the wiki. Chat and e-mail can be transient, problematic to develop policy there. Rates of conversation / flow differ between people in a group. That makes realtime chat problematic, but it's just another channel.


Question: what's a good way to start a wiki? Platforms, etc. and tool dump that SUPPORT the main activity on a wiki

- "What is a wiki" Youtube video

- Easy Wiki platforms:

  - wetpaint

  - pbwiki

  - wikispot

  - Wikia

- mailing list:

  - Yahoo group

  - Google groups

- Free Conference Call


Story time

WikiHow forums for open chat and interaction, totally off-topic. Distinct from talk pages (for specific article planning / maintenance), just for general purpose conversation.


Wikia has graded levels of talk/chat spaces: talk pages, user pages, general purpose "Village Pump" stuff. Exemplar of interesting user profiles:


Mediawiki extensions that allow IRC client embeds on a page.


Wish for a good wiki + drupal integration.


Wagn for Connectipedia -- enable structured data / retrieval. They're looking for comments and suggestions, take a look.


Mission should coevolve with the community. It's not worth thinking about a lot, but it is worth starting to talk about.


Outreach on twitter. It's a role to be considered for some wikis, there are tools for finding stuff and using twitter in this way. Conversation about twitter relativism, we'll skip this for the summary :)


Interwiki stuff. Follow the rules of the other wiki. You can outreach to bloggers too. Some wikis are easier to plug in to than others; just be a good neighbor, do some work on the wiki in addition to adding your link. 


Reaching out to individuals on neighboring wikis and blogs is an easy way to outreach -- but not everybody working in the same topic area will be receptive to wiki culture. 


Don't let titles / named roles become an reward. If you have persistent identity, then a person's own good name is reward enough.


Wiki adoption

Wiki adoption inside your organization: a challenge. The value that you ascribe to the wiki (example: "transparency") may not mean much to other people in your organization; if and when they adopt the wiki, they may see it as being valuable for different things.


Do simple things to get people looking at the wiki. But you're not going to do all your work inside the wiki. Make those boundaries and connections clear. Possibility of anonymous / alter ego contribution as a way of blurring lines of authority or distinguishing between personally held and officially held positions.





Additional session notes


Marie - Meyer Trust - convener
Derek Wong - wiki1001 - trying to build a community of users
Colin - Foodista - want to find evangelists to start community
Barnaby - Foodista - everyone eats
Laura Hale - fanhistory - being a good neighbor, building external community to have healthy internal community
Danny Horne - wikia community dev - he does community building
John Smith - cpsquare - CoP for CoPs - have been internally focused, opening outward
Jean Russell - community addict
Phoebe Owens - Meyer Trust - connect
Trudy Johnson Lenz - - give a wiki just enough structure to take off, but not too much - scaffolding for community to launch well - what community facilitators, wiki gardeners should do / not do to build community
Krystal - wikihow -
Kristin Wolf -  what Trudy said
Sylvia Orduno - need better tools than just email
Peter Kaminski - dreamfish -
Tiffany von Emmel - dreamfish - working with grassroots orgs, how people can enter wiki as community
Brian Kerr - arborwiki - analytics to make it easier to understand what people are looking for, so other people can create it
Paul Bengman - - love it when people get together with intention
Steven Walling - - want to help smaller wikis
 - debateopedia -
Trudy - learned from Socialtext, start with small group who are excited about the topics, build up from there. most  people love community, but they don't have lots of time to spend on things other than work or something they love. michael idinopolus, in-the-flow wikis and above-the-flow wikis. in-the-flow gets used a lot, but above-the-flow gets less participation. that's okay in a big community, but in a small community, not enough participation.  jazz singer - knowing when to start things. activity waxes and wanes, which is normal. helps to have core participants.
Laura - brian and i are both obsessed with analytics. looked for article that generated lots of incoming links, had somebody improve that article so it was more interesting and helped people engage with the site, instead of just bouncing away after 5 seconds.  A lot of our internal community comes from building external community.
Steven: analytics. need to track not just technical details, but people, too. get their names, their interests.  Some writers, some recent changes patrols, etc.  Figure out what you can do to make their jobs easier.  Reward them.

Q: What's rewarding? A, Danny Horne: attention, recognition.  They need to fall in love with the wiki, and feel like this community / wiki ought to exist in the world.  Who are the people who are going to fall in love with your wiki?

Laura: people like to have articles for themselves, people into self-promotion. improving articles help them get more traffic elsewhere.

Steven: not just individual recognition, but highlighting the importance of the content that the community is building.  Not just personally satisfying, but helps people feel altruistic.  Highlighting featured articles, etc.

Q: feature the contributor, or the content? A, Steven: depends on the wiki. A, Laura: it's a community context thing. What helps the contributors.  Based on the needs of the existing community.

Laura: no hard and fast rules, depends on what kind of community you're building. 

Steven: adapt to the people and the culture they're from.

A: Volunteers get paid two ways: thanks, and ego boosts.  In community, you can also get promotion.

A: Another thing, the mission.  Being connected to a community that's building something you believe in.

Steven: community mission statement is really important.  a goal (succinctly stated) that people can get and get behind.

Krystal: 1 group, people with lots of spare time (retired folks, laid off people (ed: school kids)). Another group, subject experts.  People with spare time can feel useful, and they can spend lots of time doing stuff.  Be patient explaining to people who have ownership issues with the site (change "this is mine!" to "this is ours")

Q: Wikis on forming community? A: MeatballWiki, CommunityWiki, C2, the documentation for WikiHow, Wikipedia

Q: How to get people engaged when there are multiple channels they have to understand - how to work on a computer, why wiki, building a community.

A: Trudy: personal recognition. Bring challenges into the conversation. Example challenge: don't want to edit somebody's else's words, I'm used to everybody  owning their words.

John Smith: community needs other channels - IRC chat, email lists, face-to-face.

Danny: i'd rather see everything on the wiki

Pete Kaminski: I wouldn't start a community without an email list.

Kaliya: there should be another personal page on Twitter that tells people what your follow philosophy is.

Laura: Twitter's a great tool.  Identica has a better ratio for traffic for me.

Laura: understand cultures you promote in: Twitter, LiveJournal,

Q: what other wikis / how to engage people from other wikis?

Brian: make your wiki behave differently if they're coming in from another wiki.  e.g., change mediawiki skin because you know they're okay with MediaWiki.  Some wikis turn off ads if you're logged in.

Krystal: difference between information wiki (like Wikipedia) and instructional wiki (like wikiHow); people who are used to information wiki need some time to get used to how to contribute.

Grant: i like the way Krystal has talked about reaching out to find people on Twitter, blogs, etc., who are having the conversations / creating the content you want on your site.

Krystal: explaining to people about Creative Commons, that everyone builds on the CC content. Some people don't get it, and it hasn't been worth it to argue with them.  Sometimes the public domain discussion from helps.

A: Do simple things that help people get used to the wiki (example of posting budget requests). People end up finding the wiki useful, even if they think it's for different things, which helps.

Grant: get people using the tool in their day-to-day habits.

Q: hierarchy in the wiki community, as a reward? is it good? how much? what kind?

Laura: it's contextual. might need someone to take responsibility.

Krystal: important not to make people feel entitled.

Krystal: humility from the top is really important. people try to say "jack's the founder, he can make the rules". He's alway said he's just the steward, and the community decides.

Pete: separate responsibilities from recognition.





Short description

Wide ranging discussion about community launch and development.


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