Club Membership Brings Expectations

In the preceding discussion of relationships and interactions and their importance in developing a strong sense of shared purpose within a community, left aside was how the social norms or rules of etiquette are established and maintained within a community. Cyberbullying, flame wars, and the general bashing of newbies work at cross-purposes with almost any online community development effort.

In the design of any social interaction—be it as simple as posting on Twitter or as complex as driving innovation in an expert community—the policies that define and govern the conduct of participants are of utmost importance. To maintain order and a defined sense of decorum, the practices of moderation along with the implementation of policies—also known as Terms of Use—are funda[1]mentally important. While there are entire texts on these topics, some core concepts should be part of any community effort within a social business pro[1]gram. Effective moderation—the guiding of participants and conversations within the bounds set by the Terms of Use—is likewise key to successfully implementing a community or collaborative workspace. Typically, the Terms of Use will provide for the following, each of which contributes directly to the overall health of a collaborative community:

• Expectation of participation, perhaps managed through a reputation system that rewards more frequent and higher quality contributions

• Ensuring that participants stay on topic within any specific discussion, so that the discussion remains valuable to the larger community, and so that the topics covered are easily found again at a later date

• Curtailing any form of bullying, use of hate speech, posting of spam, and similar that is counter-productive within a typical business (or related) community Beyond these core practices, the function of moderation is to watch for issues that surface or problems that require some escalation.

At a basic level, moderation enforces the Terms of Service by warning members about inappropriate posting, language, or behavior. Moderation provides a sense of comfort for newer members unfamiliar with more subtle rules or expectations within the community. Moderation practices, Terms of Use (governing external communities— for example, a customer or supplier community), and social computing policies (governing internal use of social technology—for example, by company employees) together provide an organizational safeguard when implementing social media and social technology programs. Understanding who can participate, what is and isn’t appropriate for social channels, disclosure practices, and more is part of an effec[1]tive social computing and community moderation policy.

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