It's a good thing I don't have an upper limit on references to other people on this blog. This week is Mukund Mohan's turn with a case study that talks about what engages a community: interesting questions.
[I]f you ask the question "What is the burning desire for the members of the community to participate?" - (hence the image at the top BTW) we get one very interesting answer:
Great discussions were a result of great questions asked by the community members that prompted a passionate response. Great discussions were the "burning desire" for the erudite crowd of their participants.
So we dig further: What were the questions and can we categorize them. Here are the categories we came up with:
1. Hypothetical questions: These are best used to test and explore. If someone has a hunch to go down the path for further discussion:
E.g. What if ....? or How come this.... and not...?
2. Elaborating questions: These take something the community all together knows and can extend beyond to foster imaginative behavior:
E.g. What does .... mean? What's missing from ....?
3. Provocative questions: These challenge your conventional wisdom and also are meant to push people. Done right they tend to be the longest discussion threads. Take my own example at future of communities.
E.g. Are we really sure...? Is there a point ?
Reading this gives me an, "Of course!" response. I have experienced this in the communities where I am a member. I have also experienced questions taken too far, or questions taken out of context and misunderstood, so it can't be a simple matter of getting community members asking questions. And I'd bet that the form and substance of the questions depends on the makeup of the community too.
I like the sense in the descriptions that these questions are those that stretch the total knowledge of the community, rather than the knowledge of individual members. In other words, it takes the participation of the community to fully answer the questions, rather than an answer from one smart bird in the community.