"Structured Content" in a Community


(Mark Bazin) #1

We have been users of Workplace by Facebook for about 1.5 years now, and for the most part it’s been great. Does a good job of fostering discussions, really like the chat feature, and overall we’re reasonably pleased with it. Where it struggles though is any sort of more “structured content”. What I mean by that is not just simple one off files here and there, but a more comprehensive, large-scale collection of files, links, etc.

Quick background - We are a nationwide school network that operates sort of like an affiliate - our national office is a small group of people and we all operate on Dropbox for file sharing, and Office 365 for email and such. Each of our schools though is on a separate platform - some GSuite, some O365, etc From the national office, we’re trying to do a much better job sharing resource kits, lesson plans, etc. with our schools. For this, Workplace is woefully inadequate.

Right now we do a lot of secret links to Dropbox content - for instance a Dropbox folder with a bunch of files organized into folders. It works “okay”, but really isn’t ideal since not everything is a file, and then if someone downloads content and it changes, that person would never know. Plus, this doesn’t hold up well to employee additions / removals or any sort of complex permissioning.

Wanted to see how people have handled things like this in the past. I am no fan of Sharepoint, but it looks like what might work for us is to have Workplace for discussions and then Sharepoint as a “where structured content lives” sort of thing. Or perhaps Confluence or another wiki-style site. I’ve spoken with a few vendors and they all want us to pick up and leave Workplace, which maybe is the right answer but I don’t know.

(Natasha Schön) #2

Hey Mark,

I feel your pain. Just in our company, we have an elaborate maze of documents and information that need to be structured somehow.

We’ve put quite a lot of time and effort into working on how to best structure information in communities at Open Social. We actually paired up with some knowledge and ideation experts! So we have a few solutions for this including a book structure and a resource library built into the platform. So, might be interesting to check out.

I’m familiar with the downsides of Workplace, and I’m not sure there’s a quick fix to your problem. What we do is a combination of Google Drive and using our own community platform. So, all documents are placed in folders in Drive (often in google documents) so that changes can be seen by everybody. But we also use Groups, the resource library, and topics in our community to talk about processes, share information, or just interact socially. That way everyone has an overview of interactions and information.

I hope this helps a bit!

(Joel Rangelle) #3

In general, I think you have two approaches:

  • stay with Workplace and add a downloads directory
  • move to a community platform that covers discussion and downloads

I’m not in the education sector, but five years ago I had the same fundamental problem. I was using different systems: one for discussion, one for downloads, one for gallery. It was a terrible user experience and nothing talked to each other, even though each was really good (and low cost) in what they did. I took the plunge into a community platform where I mixed and matched my apps: forums + downloads + pages + gallery. I now host a private downloads directory with 10,000+ files, some hosted on the server and some hosted on Dropbox and Google Drive (but all delivered through my community suite’s downloads). What’s even better is that the comments, reviews, versioning, and notifications are consistent across the suite so no more information silos. The suite also hosts my discussion forums, calendars for events, informational records, news updates, micro communities, and everything else so members get one consistent experience.

What you’re running into is what I call the Forum First problem. Most organizations rely on the chat / discussion as their main core, but there comes a time when the organization needs to build out a set of resources beyond the chat area to become a content rich organization. That’s when you need infrastructure to host structured data and files.

(Anna Keenan) #4

Following this topic!!

I’m looking at creating a community from scratch, and from surveying the needs of the community members, I know that we basically want it to be

a) a resource library of training materials, workshop agendas, key concepts for the type of leadership work that they do (most of this is long-form stuff, documents rather than ‘tips’, hence the need for a library), plus

b) a complementary space for discussion of things like:

  • sharing the leadership challenges that they are facing, so that community members can point them to the resources that they’ve found have helped to address their problems,
  • discussing what resources in the library are the most and least helpful, announcing new resources (and translations of resources) that have been added to the library, flagging where there are gaps in the library that should be filled, and where translations of resources would be most useful.
  • upcoming training webinars that cover the content of materials in the library, presented by expert trainers.

I’d like for all this to be multi-lingual, too, with built-in translation of messages in the discussion forums (which I understand can be done by google-translate for a fee).

I would LOVE to have recommendations on software that I could use to achieve these goals, or developers that I could speak to. How to I get started in making this a reality? Anyone have tips?

(Anna Keenan) #5

Joel, which community platform are you using? What others did you assess?

And - got a link where I could check out your directory/community to see if the functionality is similar?

I don’t think I want a gallery function at all, and I’m unsure about whether I need pages - maybe pages could be a good way to present links to ‘sets’ of documents around a similar theme. I want to keep the community as focused as possible on a narrow goal of upskilling leaders so they can be as effective as they can be, and I get the sense that they don’t want it to be a source of news/updates, but really just about learning.

(Joel Rangelle) #6

There’s a directory of community software somewhere around here, so that can be a starting point.

I use Invision Community. What I like is that you can mix and match the apps that you need, so for eaxmple, you can combine forums + downloads for online discussion and a file directory. They also include calendar and clubs as part of the core software, so you can create smaller learning groups.

(Anna Keenan) #7

Thanks heaps!

(Sarah Hawk) #8


(Mark Bazin) #9

Thanks for the replies, all. To your point @joelr, there are downloads and such in Workplace, it’s just not nearly sophisticated enough. And the integrations they have with things like Dropbox are very poor, although they say a more substantial Sharepoint integration is coming. I looked at InVision when we did this a few years ago and it was very featureful which is good.

I’ve been demoing various platforms and for the most part there are lots of good options out there but the momentum we have with Workplace is so good I think we risk losing a lot in a transition. The folks at Facebook/Workplace have done a good job with the platform but I think there’s a big gap there that they’re hoping to fill with integrations. And that’s fine, but the integrations need to be way more than they are (basically just rich previews of links) to make it any good. They’ve also gone big on the idea of bots, but that feels sometimes like a solution in search of a problem.

(Robert van Hoesel) #10

Hi Mark,

Following on the excellent comments above: It’s really hard to find a good replacement for the Facebook UI, system and patterns that have literally billions of R&D in getting so good at engaging people – but as you mention, it’s unlikely the gap will be closed very soon. :roll_eyes:

We faced a similar problem with a community around Young Digital Talents I founeded 6 years ago. An approach we took to solve this (not in Workplace, but a very active Facebook Group) was to support the Facebook solution with a community platform that is built around resources. The conversations and interaction can still happen at Facebook, but publishing resources happen in the dedicated platform.

For example, we use it for the following:

  • Freelance Opportunities where unstructured, non-searchable and short-lived in Facebook. Instead, people now can post them on the platform, including briefings, budgets etc. and share the link to that page (if they want) in Facebook to the right people.

  • We also have a page for resources, where people can share toolkits etc in a collection and upvote the best items (i.e. the best Books to read).

  • We also had a lot of events that weren’t present on Facebook, launching a dedicated event calendar allowed us to create a better overview.

It took some time, but right now we see great adoption with very quick resolving of questions asked, increased engagement and more benefits; Including more detailed analytics to improve our offering.

The most valuable result was that the Facebook Community is now way more inspirational and conversational – people are more focussed on questions, sharing expertise and building connections (which Facebook rocks at). The transactional stuff is now separated into its own platform and works really good. We saw a 2x increase in opportunities posted compared to Facebook, and an increase of engagement in the remaining FB posts.

When searching for a solution, it might be good to entertain the possibility of using both Workplace (for conversations) and a dedicated resource community. For us it worked out great!

Hope that helps! :slightly_smiling_face:

Full disclosure: After building the platform for this community, we got the hang of it and turned building custom community platforms into our core business at crowded.co