Wednesday, July 09, 2014

There is no I in Community

Before you start yes I know the title is wrong. There is an i in community, it’s towards the end of the word. But like the saying there is no I in team I’ve been slowly learning that there should not be I in community either.

As regular readers of my blogs will know I'm setting up an website about historic churches. It is currently at and I think that that could be one of the issues with it. Does it not give the impression that the site belongs to Peter and Susan. It did start as a personal website but slowly and I mean far too slowly, I've come to the realisation that I can’t do it all on my own. It's too big a subject matter for one person. I need to either scale it down or build a community around it. I've slowly taken off personal things from the site. Like marking which churches I have visited, but I've just come to the realisation that this was no where near enough.

I think a good example of a community website that is similar to the one I'm hoping to create is Open Plaques ( . A site dealing with the Blue Plaques you find on sides of buildings. It's quite a simple site but it is effective in getting its message across. You can see when you look at the site exactly how you are to interact with it. Yes you can look up details of the Blue Plaques around the world, but one word is repeated again and again across the website. That word is Contribute. It's clear that the owners of the website want you to submit data and photographs to the site and give you various ways to submit your photos. That is what is clearly what is missing from my site. You look at it and it is not obvious what it is all about. The transition from personal website to a community website has been too long forthcoming and the website has suffered as a result. There is far too much mention of the word 'I', on my site. I is not a community. And if you did want to contribute to my site, there was no easy way of doing it.

So this is my top tip for any of you doing any sort of community website. Stand back and look at it from the users perspective. Make it obvious that their interaction is key to the site by making it easy to contribute to the site. Show contributions from other people and make it clear that other people have contributed to the site. This will encourage more and more people to join in the community that you are trying to create.

In the mean time, I bought a new domain for the site. (the .org version would be better but is already taken.) I'm also doing a site redesign and I'm using the Open Plaques site as a major source of inspiration. As it's a community I'm building, I'm replacing the subtitle of  'Our mission to visit and photograph every church in Great Britain' with the less individualistic line of 'Documenting Historic Churches of Great Britain'. I'm also adding lots of ways that people can contribute to the site but mainly I'm taking out the word I as there is clearly no I in Community.

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