Five Years of Community

jasonlustig

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jasonlustig submitted a new Article:

Five Years of Community

It’s been just over five years since I began to take part in community on the internet. That’s a long time, almost a quarter of my entire life! It’s actually sort of scary, but these five years – and my place in online communities as a participant, moderator, and community worker – have enabled me to observe some really interesting aspects of online community, how it changes, and what it means for us who want to run an online community.

First, a bit of autobiography to give you a little context for what I’ll be talking about. My first run-in with computers was about ten years ago, and the internet a couple of years after that. I probably saw message boards at some point, but the first time I registered and posted was in April 2000, after buying my copy of The Phantom Menace on VHS (yes, I still used VHS back then) and I wanted to discuss the movie with people like me who are interested in that sort of thing. So I stumbled upon TheForce.Net’s Jedi Council (also known in the business as “TFN”), and began my journey into online community building.

TFN was using UBB at the time. The community was growing very fast because of the new Star Wars movie that had come out the year before, and UBB was having some problems. It would crash all the time, sometimes for days at a time, and since it was using flat files instead of a “real database,” periodically threads would become corrupted and everyone would get upset. So, that June, TFN moved to a totally new message board system – Snowboards, as they were originally called, or IGNBoards. There was a great response to these new boards – most people didn’t like them. That’s something I generally have found in my experience with online communities, people like meeting with and chatting with the people they meet, but they get used to the software they are using, and don’t like much change in that respect.

Another thing that I realized is how the features and idiosyncrasies of a message board or community system really have an affect on the community you are building. Take, for example, UBB. There were certain aspects of UBB that had a good affect on TheForce.Net’s community; for example, it because the standard to bold face peoples’ names when you type them in a message, because the names were all bold faced in the “Who Posted” pane of the thread display. This was good for the community, because it made it easy to spot peoples’ names. SnowBoards/IGNBoards also had a feature that gave people a...

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