Online community building is like gardening. Whether you’re running an active blog, moderating forums, or managing a social network, you will encounter challenges in maintaining growth. Experienced community builders have a wealth of knowledge to share with those who are new to it, especially when it comes to recognizing and mitigating toxic elements, fertilizing to encourage growth, and responding to community changes.
Last year, StackExchange opened a Community Building beta to test the waters for a new Q&A site dedicated to building, administering, managing, and cultivating digital communities. It’s been in beta for approximately six months and has attracted 877 users with an impressive 100% of questions answered.
While the Q&A site is not oriented around WordPress (WP Developers have their own thriving Stackexchange), many of the questions and topics relate to issues that WordPress site managers deal with every day:
- How do you choose the software that runs your community?
- Can’t watch 24×7; how do we keep comments under control?
- How to handle a shill?
- Forum war because of a new rule and a banned user
- Pitfalls to avoid when transferring community ownership?
- Do long-term “icebreaker” threads foster quality discussion?
- How and when do I attract experts to a young site that doesn’t yet have much expert content?
WordPress users have a diverse array of community building software available to them for creating interactive comments, forums, and social networking sites. These plugins make it possible for anyone to build a community, even with very little technical knowledge. However, even with the best tools at your disposal, a community is an organic thing that requires skill and dedication to cultivate.
New community managers are eager to learn how to chase rabbits and moles out of their gardens while not disrupting community growth, as evidenced by the many questions submitted regarding managing user behavior. The “problem-users” tag is so far one of the most popular on the site, followed by other related topics, such as conflict resolution, new users, content curation, forums, and site growth.
This new Q&A site is still navigating through its beta period but still needs to demonstrate progress. So far, the beta is healthy in terms of questions getting answered, but it needs to generate more questions on a daily basis, attract more experienced members, and gain more traffic before it can graduate from its final beta.
Part of the StackExchange mission is to provide answers without distraction for users who are asking practical, detailed questions. The new Community Building beta site is not a place to vent but rather a place to get solid, actionable advice from experienced community managers. This site is an excellent resource for anyone who is involved in online community building, even if you simply have a blog that receives a steady stream of comments. If you want to contribute, sign up at StackExchange to get started.