Engineering, maintaining, organizing

Building community in modern times requires unconventional approaches

How to build local community, whatever that is. Get Together Book (and podcast) packages community building for the dotcom era. Their case study on substack is also interesting. For a critique of the limits see, How Substack Became Milquetoast.

An infographic-friendly presentation is Nick DeWilde’s The Social Architecture of Impactful Communities.

To motivate initial interactions, you’ll want to design your community to incentivize members with their first hit of value soon after they sign up. This value should arrive in a form that fulfills whatever need caused them to join in the first place. For example, I recently joined a writing group called Compound that has a couple of great magic moments:

  1. When you initially join the Slack group, the founders invite you to introduce yourself and share your publication. This leads to warm welcomes, new Twitter followers, and newsletter subscribers (leveraging the dopamine hits that social platforms are good at delivering).
  2. During onboarding, the founders explain that the core activity of the group is editing. You post your work and get a bunch of insightful comments. The first time you post something to the group and end up with a Google doc full of insightful comments, you can feel the value that the community has to offer.When a community’s magic moment is effective, new members will crave more of this value. You want them to learn, early on, that the key to unlocking more value for themselves is to create it for others.

He also recommends

Friday for Future have a political-action-driven set of resources.

Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement studies this stuff, e.g. Woodley and Pratt (2020).

Image: CSCCE

They publish, e.g. Guides to community maintenance on slack.

Left field, Benjamin Ross Hoffman on Why I am not a Quaker (even though it often seems as though I should be)

In the past year, I have noticed that the Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers) has come to the right answer long before I or most people did, on a surprising number of things, in a surprising range of domains. And yet, I do not feel inclined to become one of them. Giving credit where credit is due is a basic part of good discourse, so I feel that I owe an explanation.

The virtues of the Society of Friends are the virtues of liberalism: they cultivate honest discourse and right action, by taking care not to engage in practices that destroy individual discernment. The failings of the Society of Friends are the failings of liberalism: they do not seem to have the organizational capacity to recognize predatory systems and construct alternatives.

Fundamentally, Quaker protocols seem like a good start, but more articulated structures are necessary, especially more closed systems of production.


Woodley, Lou, and Katie Pratt. 2020. “The CSCCE Community Participation ModelA Framework to Describe Member Engagement and Information Flow in STEM Communities,” August.