Saturday, November 1, 2008

The myth of Sisyphus - Can communty be managed?

Like the onerous travail of Sisyphus, managing online community is frequently portrayed as an insurmountable task. Multiple studies and anecdotal references found on the net point to exponential growth or the infusion of new personalities as cause for the decay and the eventual collapse of online forums. It is posited that established members react negatively or even abandon the forum when new participants actively seek to change the environment or foist their own particular interests on others.

Critics and even many proponents of net based communities insinuate that all net cultures eventually decline into anarchy once the original purpose of the forum is lost via change and growth. A third part of this construct is that huge populations tend to factionalize into smaller groups or cliques with each vying for supremacy and bandwidth. Moderation becomes a full time task and moderation is often expensive. Ultimately, virtual community theorists readily identify these issues but do not discuss potential outcomes or offer models for successful management past the point of critical mass. Community managers can plan for growth and longevity based disruptions to mitigate the impact.

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