The Art of Building Virtual Communities. The article was posted about a month ago, and the comments have extended the discussion even further.has an excellent piece on
The burning question for many of us trying to establish educational CoPs is how to design a VLC that is compelling enough that it will compete successfully for the attention of busy educators? Because communities of practice are voluntary, to be successful over time they need the ability to generate enough excitement, relevance, and value to attract and engage members. This is easier said than done.
[thanks to Luis Suarez for the pointer]
Specifically, Nussbaum-Beach looks at some models of community involvement including appropriate graphics from those models. They are vaguely familiar, and they relate to the 1% rule in some form. One thing that I've come across that runs a little counter to these models is the article on encouraging participation in virtual communities I referenced back in February. In that study, the researchers discovered separate but connected processes related to the peripheral participants ("lurkers") and the active contributors. The contributors were more likely to participate when they receive positive feedback on their contributions, whereas the lurkers were more likely to return to the community (and possibly participate) when there is content relevant to their needs. Obviously, these things build upon one another to grow (or diminish) a community.
Nussbaum-Beach also talks about the idea of developing communities around shared passion, which shifts away from involvement to formation and longevity of a community. And she closes with the question, "what makes a healthy community?" that she answers with notes from another excellent discussion from People Weavers.
I am somehow reminded of Weave the People, a service offered by my friend, Paul Caswell. As I understand it, a "weave" helps people see how they are connected around very specific topics, such as an event or organization. I have been thinking of a combination of community building meets six-degrees.