Notes from the Online Community Roundtable, 3/12/08 @ Microsoft

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

We had a fantastic group of people at the Online Community Roundtable Wednesday (3/12) evening on Microsoft campus in Redmond.

Bob Rebholz of the Windows Live team was our host, and we scored space in the MS conference center (which rivals SAP Labs as the nicest space we have Rountabled in).

We had folks from Microsoft, Forum One, Intel, Full Circle Associates, OCLC, The Gates Foundation, Telligent, Trusera, VML and the University of Washington.

A few highlights from the evening:

User Experience: Categories vs. Folksonomies
The folks from the OCLC were struggling with the issue of wanting to introduce folksonomical content structures in to their site, and how to either compliment or replace hierarchical category structures.

Invitation and Community Growth
Trusera asked questions around growing community membership via “invitation”. Specifically, they are struggling with balancing growth velocity and member quality. The invitation process ensures quality by inviting “known” potential members and assuming members of their network are trustworthy. The problem is that this i generally a slow way to grow a network (gmail is an obvious exception to this statement).

Internal Usage Adoption

How do you incentivize internal staff and organization members to use new social tools? This question was posed by a non-profit foundation that is trying to roll out a new collaboration toolset, and is trying to asses the best path forward. Feedback from the roundtable group was: start small, test & get feedback (but pay attention to what they do as well as what they say), and ensure that the tools actually facilitate and enhance existing workflow, not disrupt or add overhead to it.

Qualifying and Representing “Activity”

The last session started as a conversation on incenting users, but to me, one of the most interesting dimensions was around tracking, qualifying and representing activity in a social system. The example given was tracking what help and training content someone read on a community, and then representing this as a level of “knowledge” via a widget on that persons profile on various social systems.

After every roundtable (including this one) I’m always struck by the caliber of folks working in this space, the level of real-world knowledge they posses, and they generous nature and willingness to share.

My notes are short, but we had two superstar notetakers (one was also a super-tweeter) in the room. For a play by play (and thanks to both Nancy and Teresa), please check out:

Notes from the Seattle Online Community Meetup – Nancy White

A Vertitable Online Community Smörgåsbord – Teresa Valdez Klein

Would you like to be invited to the next roundtable, or are you interested in hosting? Please drop me a note.

Want to keep up with Roundtable activities? Join the Facebook group.

Bill Johnston - Founder, Structure3C. Former Head of Community at Dell & Autodesk. Mobile: (415) 233-6914 Twitter: @billjohnston LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/billj In a sentence: Seasoned online community and social media executive and advisor with over 15 years experience developing large scale online communities, social media initiatives and successful online product strategies.
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