LIFT Workshop: Online Communities Clinic, Pedro Custodio

Reboot9 First Day 34: Pedro Cust? on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Pedro Custodio did a great workshop, an “Online Communities Clinic”. Good material, really solid foundation for thinking about and planning user interactions for online communities. Once the slides are on Slideshare I’ll update this post and embed. (If you want to see them when uploaded, leave a comment on this post.)

My rough notes follow after the jump….


Communities need to bring together a unity of goals and actions; they should display internal policies that guide social behaviour; online communities lay on top of computer systems that support the social interaction

Communities necessarily have boundaries; something ambiguous will not be joined; although it is necessary to have boundaries, those boundaries need to be permeable to encourage adoption and movement/adaptability

Online communities architecture:

virtual space -> user interaction -> virtual community -> information

Users Profiling:

Visitors – start as observers
Consumer – as interest raises, so does the involvment at tthis point users
Member – fully active, producing materials, engaging and helping others

Sort communities by kind of Interaction:

Low social interaction – users only interact with the platform, not with each other: e.g. Digg,
Built upon “products” – Flickr, YouTube, Threadless – because of the tool, not the users
Highly collaborative communities – real-world communities, moving online for some reason,

…by level of Commitment:

Communities of interest; very specific; will not be active for your whole life, but will join when you need it
Communities of passion; subtype of interest,
Communities of purpose; common short-term goal; afterwards it will dissolve
Communities of practice;

Better Usability means Better Communities? Not only user-centered interfaces…we need community centered interfaces! Need to plan ahead for the behaviour

Communities are conversations; so look for Conversational Maxims; Apply the same ground rules that run daily interactions in real life:

Quantity – the amount of information that each party should provide; should limit how users interact; length and frequency of posts
Quality – deals with truth and authenticity; credit and reference to expertise
Relation – relevancy of participation
Communicate in a fast and reliable way: post message, was it delivered?
Interface should be as transparent as possible; the tool mediates, but it shouldn’t get into the way
Allow user to cancel

Community Design Pattern Types:

  1. Community support – sustains the community itself
  2. Group support
  3. Communication support
  4. Awareness – perception of the others, part of something bigger

Community Support Patterns:

Quick Registration: as quick and lightweight as possible, very important for them to enter quickly to evaluate the community; but still protect the community from strangers; leave profile info as a later process, noncontingent; need to track the process in order to identify dropouts; PROBLEMS – fear of commitment, because trust has not been established; BOTs are problematic – Catchas, email verification;

Login: force users to identify themselves before using/entering the community; easy recovery mechanisms

Welcome Area: list new members of a community and present them to other members, ensuring that new members won’t go unnoticed; e.g. email communities, introduce themselves to each other; USE WHEN: a long-standing community who know each other very well, large collective history, subgroups inside the larger community, resistance to entrance of new members; PROBLEMS: newcomers may not want to attract so much attention at first; veterans have to be made sensitivie;

User Profile: virtual presentation; a personality and skills aggregator; the bridge between the real and the virtual individual representing the user across all interactions with the community; Digital Identity Mapping image –;

User Gallery: USE WHEN: hesitation on first contacts, hard to remember who’s a member of a community; you know their names, but want to know more about them; PROBLEMS: must be searchable, carefully balance amount of public information without further involvement or identification (user levels-> information levels)

Buddy Lists: friends list is the new centre of the universe; “through others I define myself”; “Tell me who you go out with, and I’ll tell you who you are!”;

Group Support Patterns:

Groups: need ways to form, short-term and long-term communications; shared repositories; group awareness – feeling of being part of something; E.g. Flickr – friends or family, that’s it; USE WHEN: send out multiple artifacts to same users multiple times; select multiple users before interactions; users don’t clearly know who they interact with; PROBLEMS: by interacting with groups of users, one might not develop group awareness – no awareness outside the ; additional workload for users; group create strong borders within the community; group moderation;

Invitations: allow user to plan interaction with others; PROBLEMS: time to turnaround; rejection fear; need to sort out

Shared Editing: allow users to edit simultaneous user of data/documents; USE WHEN: need for collaborative editing; missing group collaboration in context of isolated user actions; PROBLEMS: single-user applications don’t help collaborative environments; WYSIWIS – what you see is what I see

Reputation and Differentiation: metrics to store reputation, a projection of their status; users with more friends, more photos, more music;

Messaging: provide ability for direct messages within community

Chat: allow users to communicate synchronously; if messages aren’t being responded to quickly;

Comments: on specific artifacts; not a message to you in particular, to the community about an artifact;

Forums/Blogs: provide means for persistent, asynchronous conversations; important role for newcomers, a way to learn about the community; persistent nature of the community;

Patterns for Awareness:

Overview: Give users a sense of the other; understanding or realizing the others’ activities; communities with high awareness are highly collaborative; creates the feeling that there are many others, than they are; you are just a dot, but you’re not alone

Neighbours: proximity pattern; providing information about user’s interactions with the platform; – people who played similar music; keyword discovery for people you want to meet; Proximity: six degrees of separation concept;

Interactive user Info: make information about others users clickable and connect it with means of communication; quick action spots

Activity Logs: record information about users activity; most famous – Wikipedia tracked changes; memory; users don’t have a lot of time, can’t be on all the time; need a reminder of what’s been happening; merging past and present activities it’s hard; scale – ensure many users can update simultaneously; ensure users know what activity is tracked

Timeline: e.g. Facebook news feed;

Period Reports: inform users at regular intervals of relevant changes/actions; weekly what happened in the community – brief;

Aliveness Indicator: show an indicator on the virtual environment that reflects user’s activity


It is about identity; the more I know about the others, the more I feel engaged in/by the community; Features for more advanced users will scare off less advanced users; overlap the experience level profile with the adoption of the features; Foster personalization, production and sharing of content; Plan the social interactions

Scalable Platforms: Can never know when your community will explode; can’t predict; development, support, moderation; Open and well documented APIs; the Social Graph;

10 thoughts on “LIFT Workshop: Online Communities Clinic, Pedro Custodio”

  1. I’m glad you have not only enjoy it, but you were also able to take so many notes out if it. May other improve them and we can all improve the quality and dimensions of our off/online communities.

    I’m a true believer of using technology to empower people and take them to new levels of participation.

    I’ll do my best to post the presentation tonight.
    Truly thanks for attending it, i can only improve it by listening to other active members of communities and people you like yourself are bridging between the real and virtual worlds 🙂


  2. Jevon, totally! Having a framework for think about online community development in a systematic way, without losing the soft “swarmth” elements, can move us all forward. Great work!

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