The webspace today is getting flooded with websites which are community powered. Everybody wants to build a community around their website. The website could be doing big things like building a better encylopedia, describing the whole world, or they could be doing social things like finding the interesting stories, finding the best deals, or they could be just a blog, a news/information website.
The reasons are very simple and very compelling.
First, all that you do is build a website and the real work is done by “others” (“others” being the “community”). You write and deploy Wiki software and others come and write the content. What’s more valuable? Wikipedia software or wikipedia content? Digg software or digg content? Wikimapia software or Wikimapia data? Thousands or millions of people working to make you rich! Isn’t it very nice? :)
Secondly, you build a website so that people come and use it. And if there is a community around your website, you have got the users as well. And it’s not just some random, curious visitor to your website. It’s a person who’ll keep coming back to your website. What does StumbleUpon do? People bring in the content and people keep coming in to see what content has come from others.
So, a lot of people (a lot of meaning millions of people) contributing to your website and then using the contributions that they have made as a community at the same time. And what are you doing? Isn’t it a dream thing?
I have talked to many people in last couple of years whose business idea is to build a community around “something”. That something could be education, shopping, research, a specific city like Bangalore etc. And even I wouldn’t mind that since it sounds fascinating and the latest easy way to get rich :) Only glitch is that it’s not so easy to make something community powered. And it should be obvious from the number of failures in social networks.
So, what makes it work is a billion dollar question. Isn’t it? Considering that most of the websites going forward will need to have some kind of community power to be successful, it becomes very very important to understand how that community power comes. In my opinion, there are only two ways of bringing this community power to a website: 1) don’t do anything about it and rely on a bucketful of luck, 2) design your system for community power and rely on a cupful of luck.
Over next couple of days, I’ll put down some random thoughts on drawing community power and retaining it. Stay tuned…