We get some push back from folks who worry about handing over control of our communities to the community itself on http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn. I personally believe it’s vital to our success that we trust the community to have control over it’s own destiny.
As communities scale it’s important that we enable members of the community to have truly shared ownership of the direction and maintenance of our sites. Shared ownership, long term, means the ability for the community members to (for example):
- Automatically gain access to low level moderation functions such as answer marking, post movement, and editing.
- Nominate other community members as full-fledged moderators to MSFT site owners or a community committee that has the power to grant such rights.
- Community ability to suggest and create new forums topics.
This is important in the long run for the following reason:
- We must do everything in our power to set our communities up for long term success. If MSFT where to stop adding moderators, performing ownership responsibilities, answer marking, post editing, and other forms of moderation the community must be enabled to carry the torch to prevent the dissatisfaction that would occur from the neglect. Think of this as a safety factor.
- Limited MSFT resources can’t scale. Even if we do maintain our presence in the communities our presence can’t scale to the needs of the community. The ENU MSDN forums site recently passed 3,000 new questions per week. There just are not enough MSFT people participating in the community to keep the community healthy, happy, on-topic, and free of disruption.
- After one year of site ownership we’ve learned that there aren’t even enough heads dedicated to the ENU site to enable the community members needed for the most basic forms of moderation such as answer marking. This resources problem is likely to be even more pronounced in the subsidiaries as they grow.
- Satisfaction – It’s not OUR community. It’s well understood by our surveys and research. To be successful the community members must truly feel that it’s their community. For that to occur it’s necessary for them to have control over the outcome in their communities. We’re better off as a platform provider than key participant and only moderation staff. In the NNTP world everyone was equal, but with forums we’ve set up a system of unequal rights with MSFT currently holding the keys to all the rights. We need to enable the balance of power again that also leverages all the cool advances made in the forum technologies.
In the short term we only seek to enable the community based answer marking. It’s the lowest risk ability to start with and also the one most frequently used. Joe explores the subject in more depth here:
http://blogs.msdn.com/joemorel/archive/2006/02/07/526213.aspx – Who can you trust?
http://blogs.msdn.com/joemorel/archive/2006/02/10/529044.aspx – Trust and reputation on the forums
http://blogs.msdn.com/joemorel/archive/2006/02/17/534326.aspx – Reputation system phase 1
http://blogs.msdn.com/joemorel/archive/2006/02/28/540267.aspx – Reputation system phase 2