12 Rules for Managing Crowdsourcing Communities

Tonight at Crowdsortium Boston II, I heard the following advice:

  1. Remember that the crowd is what you acquire from, not what you sell to.
  2. Don’t try to replicate your best user (otherwise, all users will look the same).
  3. Win over the people that the community respects.
  4. Remember that you are in a unique business, with two sets of customers: the people you serve and the members of your community.
  5. If members of the community are playing the wrong game, it’s your fault.
  6. Strike a balance between engaging, interacting, and rewarding the members of your community, and not letting them boss you around.
  7. Everything has to be really easy (bad messages spread really fast).
  8. Consider the number of winners: The challenge of community management is inversely related to how many winners you have.
  9. A good competition is when even if you lose you feel like you gained something.
  10. Put a human face to the company; complainers will contact directly this person rather than rant publicly.
  11. Decide on and publish the site’s rules of engagement.
  12. Provide a platform and encourage community members to share their expertise; they love it.

Note that these are not direct quotes, but how I processed the entertaining and informative discussion. The panelists were Matt Johnston, CMO at uTest, Gabe Miano, VP of Product at OnForce, Chris Howard, CEO of Libboo, and Daniel Sullivan, Founder of Crowdly (Appsell relaunched).

Reacting to last year’s Crowdsortium Boston I event, I suggested a 2×2 grid as tool for classifying crowdsourcing ventures: competition/collaboration vs. crowd/community. Tonight, Matt Johnston offered a different 2×2 grid: level of expertise (high or low) vs. number of winners (single vs. many).

Jeff Howe, who coined the term Crowdsourcing in 2006 and moderated the discussion tonight, declared to my delight that it is a great myth that open source is democratic. Wikipedia, according to Jeff, is not “this magical product of the cloud”–there’s a management bureaucracy behind it. Indeed, tell this to Gary Hamel! (and see tip #6 above).

Jeff also offered a definition (updated?) of Crowdsourcing: The commercial application of open source principles.