Thursday, January 20, 2011

Openness and communities

Last year, Tandem Learning had the honor of transitioning the ThinkBalm Innovation Community into the Tandem Learning Innovation Community (TLIC). The community was housed on LinkedIn and was in many ways a "closed community": you had to request to join, agree to the community rules, and then be approved by one of the moderators. Within the community, the goal was to talk about innovative technologies and their use for "serious" purposes, including business, education, etc. With membership over 500 members, it was a fairly large community and there was information being shared through member blogs and posts on a consistent basis.

One of the struggles for me with the TLIC was that it wasn't really integrated with the other social media tools I use consistently, namely Twitter and Facebook. Although it was beneficial to feel like there was a closed community that could share topics of mutual interest, I was "sharing" much more through my other social media accounts even when topics would have been of interest to the TLIC community. I suspect that other community members were doing the same.

Another struggle was with the idea of community participation and moderation. Of course we wanted as many people as were interested to join the community and I will freely admit that as long as someone said they agreed to our community "rules," they got in. But is it really up to just Tandem Learning to moderate the community? Or is it more effective for the community to self-moderate and Tandem Learning to step in when an issue is raised?

With the release of the "Open Group" option on LinkedIn, we needed to make a decision about the structure of TLIC and what it might mean for the future of the community. I want to be able to integrate our group communications with my other social media accounts and I want to connect to other members' accounts as well. I want to attract as many people as possible into our community to actively participate. And I trust the community of professionals that have joined us in the TLIC to let us know if something is happening in the community that needs to be addressed. Because of these reasons, we have decided to make TLIC an open group.

I welcome any feedback from our existing group members and I look forward to their continued participation. I also am looking forward to who our extended visibility may attract to participate in our community. I truly believe our community will be all the richer for becoming more open.

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