Scaling Your Community.' Matt started by defining scaling your community as "being as useful to the last 100k people as you are to the first 100k." He talked about the four steps a community goes through as they scale.This morning I attended a presentation by Matt Mullenweg, the Founder of WordPress, on '
The steps he laid out for leaders of a community were:
- Build a Good Foundation
- Let Go
Step 1: Principals for Building a Good Foundation
The principals that Matt emphasized to build a solid foundation all revolved around taking a simple idea and articulating it clearly. Also he said that once you, as a leader, commit to a set of simple principals, it is essential to make sure all of the product development is consistent with that vision. Matt made the point that while this is very straight forward, it is often difficult to execute on. For example, at Word Press they have committed to "all free features will always be free". Unfortunately, this has proven difficult at some points because users have leveraged the system in ways they never expected (such as unique ways to track their blog's activity). Because of their commitment, they have decided to continue offering those features for free.
Step 2: Bootstrap
Matt encouraged leaders to do three things during the 'bootstrapping' phase of community development:
- Be your most passionate user;
- Talk to people (like an earlier panel, he pointed to the Flickr example);
- Finally, he admitted that while somewhat controversial, he encouraged leaders to 'pre-moderate'. He explained that "there is a point in every community where the signal to noise ratio degrades ... you need to pre-moderate before comments are publicly available to protect the community from this degradation."
Step 3: Let Go
Once you have an active community, he explained that one of the most difficult things to do is give the community over to its members. He talked about how he has recently done this with WordPress Ideas, a website that allows people to enter their ideas for new Word Press Platform features and allow the community to vote on them (think Digg for features). So far the site has received over 487 ideas. He encouraged other open source project leaders to let go, because Open Source "is more than just providing software and source code" - explaining that it was also about opening up processes and decisions.
Step 4: Personalization
Finally, communities need to encourage their users to express themselves as individuals. Websites need to to treat "every tag and click [as] sacred." He discussed how interacting with a personalized site can build stronger affinity. He pointed to a recent article from The Onion about the effectiveness of Amazon's Recommendation Engine. Matt explained that systems like this really help encourage your community to spend more time interacting with your site. As an example, he relayed a story where he spent 8 hours on the phone with Amazon trying to merge all his accounts together.
Obviously, this is something Matt knows a lot about - having built a very active open source development community for the Word Press Platform. He also has helped create a destination site that hosts 3/4 of a million free blogs (wordpress.com) which have more than 35 million unique visitors a month.
Each of these four steps are critical as your community evolves. Hopefully, you're able to diagnose where your community is and have identified a few techniques to help you get to the next level.