Everything old is new again (for CoPs)

Back in “The Old Days” (meaning more than 2 years ago in Web 2.0 time), there was a lot of interest in Communities of Practice.  They were formal, funded, sponsored, held regular events or meetings and had a diverse group of members.  Somehow, with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, especially blogs and wikis, the idea of communities as a way to share knowledge seemed to become soooo . . . old school.

I’ve noticed that with the expansion of social software tool suites the concept of communities seems to be taking off again.  It made me start to think about the need to think about how to make business use of tools to enable communities.  So you bought SharePoint  or Lotus Connections or Jive or . . .  now what?  We all know that it takes about a minute to create a community in one of these packages.  Pick a name, pick a logo, enter some overview content and voila – technically you have a community!

So, you’ve built it – will anyone come?  Does the community have a well thought out mission, objective and plan for the ongoing care and feeding of the community?  What will attract and retain active members?  And . . . the big question – how will you measure the success of the community?  In Bill Johnson’s Online Community ROI blog  he talks about research that shows what online communities view as important metrics.  It boils down to a basic premise.  Know who your community stakeholders are, know why you created this community in the first place, and select metrics that will show that community value to your stakeholders.

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