Last week I traveled with my manager down to Mountain View to attend the Online Community Unconference. I went to the conference last year when it was in San Francisco, and I found it to be a great gathering of ideas and people who are truly excited about this whole "Web 2.0" thing that seems to continue to gather steam.
A few of my takeaways from the conference, now that I've had a week to reflect on things:
"Community" is a completely overloaded term
You could really break down community around two camps at the conference: those using community to augment their businesses, and those using community *as* their business. Microsoft is in the former category--trying to be a better company for their customers by really building online communities that help people get better help using our products. For some other people, the business was community.
What this really affected was how different people determined the health and success of their communities. With the MSDN Forums, we really try to focus on answer rates--are people getting their questions answered? On more socially-based communities, the metrics would be much different--page views, return visits, post volume, etc.
"Keeping the Peace" was something that came up repeatedly
I heard lots of war stories about dealing with moderator disputes, flame wars, and other day-to-day squabbles that come up repeatedly in online communities. The most interesting comment I heard about this was "this is actually a good thing." Basically, the idea is that if people care enough to squabble and fight, they are engaged in your community and actively trying to shape the culture of the community. (This still doesn't make it less annoying, but still...)
Microsoft's Doing What?!
People are still surprised when they hear that the people who work on the actual products in Developer Division answer questions in the forums. They are surprised to hear that our blogs are 100% uncensored and unfiltered (I just type my entries in Live Writer and click "Publish".) They are still surprised to hear that customer filed bugs go straight into the same database that we use for internal tester-found bugs. And it's still fun to tell people. 🙂
Josh's Red Sox aren't as good as their lead in the AL East suggests
We watched the A's do a number on the Red Sox. Their large lead in the AL East is likely due to the weak competition. C'mon, the Blue Jays, Orioles, (old) Yankees, and Devil Rays? Yes, the 'Sox are good this year, but I'd dispute anybody who says that they are the best in the league.