Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Lessons in how online communities work

A few months ago I set up a Facilitating Change Forum using the social networking system Ning This was in part to provide people who may be a bit afraid of social networking with a sandpit where they can test and play. Then it was also as a means for connecting those with an interest in Facilitating Change.

Separate to this I have been building my online presence using Twitter

What have I learnt so far:

  1. The adage of giving stuff away to get something back is true virtually as well generally in life. The more I post "useful" stuff on Twitter, the more the followers grow. And the more I get back. I needed a solution to a problem, posed the question on Twitter and someone (who I didn't know) replied in minutes with a fabulous answer.
  2. Letting go, going with the flow - or whatever aphorism works for you - really is necessary. I have just spent 20 minutes actual time and 8 hours elapsed time signing up to a NHS system where I now have to ask permission to join a community. I've lost the will to communicate by now. Access needs to be easy and without significant restriction. I feel for communities to work online they need to be fresh, flexible and open rather than hindden behind walls and barriers.
  3. There is not only widsom in the crowd but also leadership. Having neglected the Forum for a few weeks I feel proud to see a number of people (some of whom I have no idea who they are - and this really doesn't matter) take a leadership role in welcoming new joiners and in stimulating discussion. Wow, this is truly distributed leadership in action.
  4. Like all natural systems, getting started is like pushing a snowball uphill. Then all of sudden it takes off. With Twitter I nearly gave up, persisted another week, and hey presto I reached a criticial mass of usefulness. Same goes for a number of virtual ways of working like using team spaces. It is so easy to have a go, hit a huddle and then drop out the race.

What have these online communities got to do with the spread of good practice and large scale change? They are a great way of sharing messages, asking questions, discovering new ideas, keeping up to date, reducing isolation etc.

Follow me on Twitter

Check out Patient Safety Twitter Feed

Join the Facilitating Change Forum at

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