||Our Community Answers:
||How should I compare community sites and functions?
I would like to be able to compare communities on various sites and their functionalities. What is my best way of doing this?
Thank you so much for your question. In fairness to the efforts of individual communities and site developers we do not mention communties or vendors specifically, but we are able to provide some indicators in the form of a schema which you can use across the board to compare communities. We hope that this helps.
Communities come in all shapes and sizes and with different rationales in mind, so our criteria for comparison should be able to accommodate those nuances. For example, a community may be built solely around an e-mail listserv of common interest, or could be centered around message boards and/or chat on a web site. The essence of any community, however, is the provision of venues for individuals to share information, exchange ideas, and develop relationships with others. In providing such venues a true community is based upon the principle that its members take ownership and responsibility through their contributions.
In order to compare consistently across a variety of communities and community types, it is important to compile a schema of features which are fundamental and will allow you to better understand the functionality of each.
The following schema can be used as a basis for analysis:
BASIC COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS:
Is the community open in nature and accessible to all? YES/NO
If registration/membership is required what information is needed in order to register? YES/NO
Does one registration enable access to all community features? YES/NO
What is the general nature of the community?
Peer-to-peer exchange (e.g. user reviews, general discussions)
Site-to-user exchange (e.g. support forum)
On what basis are individuals invited to form relationships?
Is the community...
Continuous (e.g. always "open" forums and chat)
Temporal in nature (e.g. periodic live events, newsletters)
Combination of continuous and temporal.
Do participants in the community gain other value-added services?
Is the community integrated as a central focus of the content and structure of the site? YES/NO
Are there high profile links on the main pages of the site to the community? YES/NO
What tools does the site use to encourage exchange?
Are there clear and effective help areas or instructions for the tools? YES/NO
Are these tools seamlessly integrated into the site? YES/NO
Does the site have user guidelines? YES/NO
Are the conversations free of detrimental content? YES/NO
Can community participants easily report any detrimental content? YES/NO
Do conversations in the community appear to be active? YES/NO
Are stagnant conversations suitably archived? YES/NO
Is there a strong sense of self-moderation and guidance within the community? YES/NO
MODERATION and SITE REPRESENTATIVE INVOLVEMENT
Are moderators and/or site representatives clearly identifiable? YES/NO
Are moderators present, friendly and responsive? YES/NO
Are questions regarding site features/content answered promptly? YES/NO
Is there a readily available contact point for community questions? YES/NO
Is there a way for members to share opinions or ideas regarding the site content available? YES/NO
Does the site spotlight individual member contributions? YES/NO
Does the site utilize chat transcripts or message board content? YES/NO
These questions about core community components should enable you to develop a comprehensive analysis that will allow you to compare online communities in a thorough and solid manner. Best of luck!
- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas