Maturity ––> Mitosis

(Sarah Hawk) #1

I was having a conversation today with someone that is in the same position that I was in at SitePoint – after years of being in the fortunate position of having people flock to the community regardless of what I did, a downward trend in forum use, an upward trend in social media use, and a generally burned out audience pool from which to draw, meant that things suddenly started getting tricky.

At that point of plateau, you have to reformulate your strategy – refine and focus. That generally means creating sub-groups within the community, but I found it incredibly difficult.

Does anyone have experience in transitioning from maturity to mitosis? What are your big tips?

Further reading:

SPRINT: London - Who Do You Want To See?
(Darren Gough) #2

Sub groups are definitely a tricky one.

It’s a balance of creating useful spaces for people to splinter into for specific interests, vs. losing that overall community togetherness and cross-pollination.

I’ve found that customisation of sub groups where appropriate/possible was a big win. For example we had people who liked to “comp” (enter competitions as a hobby). We splintered off this sub group to give them a home, but then wrote a bunch of custom functionality that they could use to spot, post, enter and mark off competitions.

Fundamentally this was some custom search, sort and buttons which wouldn’t have made much sense elsewhere but gave them a new value benefit. The upside for us was that we become known as “the” community to use if this was your interest, getting us lots of new traffic from search, marketing and mainly word of mouth.

For me, it’s about seeing if you can add unexpected value in new ways, rather than just splinter for the sake of it.

(Scott Gould) #3

This is a tough topic!

My experience has taught me to build in mitosis at an early stage. The culture of the community needs to that there is “multiplication” or “division” (pick your metaphor). So in a small community, creating sub-groups, or rather, task-forces (think Hoffman’s Alliance) that already are mixing existing groups of people with smaller groups, other groups, old members with new members.

Maturer members are brought into a place of leadership, and thus incentivised to lead the culture of mitosis, rather than hold onto maturity. These maturer members will be in the influences.

The influencers themselves will of course retain their own sub-group. The sub-groups are like tags rather than categories - you can be in as many as you want, and being in one never means you cannot be in another.

Leadership is the skill here. This isn’t management, it is leadership. Thus the purpose of the group is critical to be clear, and also have been bought into, as that is why people would choose mitosis over staying together.

I like to think of community on three levels - macro, medium and micro. So I would be finding times when the sub groups come together to celebrate together, or nostalgia is pulled on as old groups get together to reminisce.

(Gear Buzz) #4

We have always pondered

  • A Read only forum for the Original Gangsters / old members / best contributors to chatter in.

But the gatekeeping duties might be immense and declined members might “flounce” off.

Ability to post couple be determined programmatically (length of membership, post count)

  • A OG only respondent switch that OGs could put on threads they start.

(Sarah Hawk) #5

By this do you mean that everyone can read it, but only certain people can post?

Is your issue the fact that you are struggling to retain your OGs?

(ForumSentinel) #6

We’re doing a simplified idea of this right now (and the thread was even started by an OG, for the OG’s). It’s been pretty cool to see a lot of old timers come out of the wood work to post (some with 01/02 join dates). This is one sub-group that can flourish here and now I just have to figure out which other sub groups are best to keep watering during this interesting transition period.

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Is it a downturn in engagement or in sign-ups that is the driver for this transition?

(Gear Buzz) #8

Yes diminished OG participation.

Mind you, after 12 years some will have moved on to other interests.

(Gear Buzz) #9


What is your simplified version exactly?

(ForumSentinel) #10

Well basically just an “OG thread” without any gatekeeping or programmed restrictions for those who are “too new”. The users do a good enough job of policing the thread themselves, by using negative reputation on those who try to crash the party. That old school vB reputation system has many issues but it’s still an effective carrot and deterrent.

(Colleen Young) #11

Great response @scottgould especially the part about building in mitosis at an early stage and cross pollinating between original and sub groups. If I translate your advice into my current situation, it would look like this.

We have several groups based on disease area - Automimmune Disease, Brain & Nervous System, Cancer, Heart Health, etc. I’ve kept the groups large in scope because we have as yet small numbers and little activity. I want people to connect and to generate activity first. But I can already predict that there will be a sub group of “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” patients who will form a sub-group. They are my early adopters, mentors to new members and activity generators. They will want their own group to talk about specific disease-related issue, but I also hope they will serve to continue activity in the main Heart Group.

All seems good in theory. What potential pitfalls should I be cautioned about?

(Scott Gould) #12

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for your encouragement. I’m glad that my experience is useful to help your work through your own journey.

I must say before I reply that my speciality is not online community, but offline community. I have always used online as a way to augment offline (indeed, online and offline are just ends of a spectrum that has little divide, really).

If you stop thinking about forum groups and think instead about relationships, your “sub group” of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients already exists. They have a set of relationships that has formed a community, existing across various channels, private and public, regardless of whether there is a formal sub group for them.

Creating one would of course help them - however - if they don’t have the motivation to create it or contribute to it, then you could end up making it, to only find it is a ghost town.

I would go down the route of empowering these early adopters, and asking them what would help them, and indeed giving them privileges that enable them to do this a bit.

The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to draw that group of people together. Have a hangout or group Skype with them, or an email chain, or an offline meeting, and listen to the conversation.

Then those who are interested can be empowered with more privileges. The pitfall here is that some people might resent not being given privileges, so it might be good to limit the number, and allow people to nominate themselves or something like that. This way it is seen as a community appointment, and something that you are testing as you roll out.

Another pitfall would be that you create a subgroup for them, but there is no activity there, because they just don’t need the formal group. This is why listening to them is critical. It might be that they don’t want a subgroup, but would really value a monthly Skype call with you, for instance.

Is that helpful?

(Darren Gough) #13

We also had a version of the “OG area”. Essentially it was a hidden forum that only became apparent when someone had joined (vs a visitor) and was put completely out of the way so the chances of anyone else stumbling into it was minimal.

We also relaxed the rules a little in there - so aside from unlawful stuff and the general “dont be a dick” ethos, people could discuss politics, stuff that made them angry, play games or do whatever. It had a nice knock on effect of not just making the staunch long termers happy they had their own “home” but it kept a lot of the crap off the other areas to keep them on topic.

Wasn’t perfect, but certainly helped a lot.