Amy Jo Kim's long-awaited book, Community Building on the Webarrived on my desk recently. I build online communities, so I'malways drinking in any information that comes down the pipe. The onebig plus that is apparent in the initial few pages of the book, is that this is a good starting point for those with no prior community-building experience. It's not that the book doesn't deliver much richer information -it does. What Amy Jo's book doesn't take for granted, is that there is a large audience out there of people who want and really need to start from square one.
Even before the book actually starts, the roman-numeraled introduction delivers Nine Design Strategies. #1 is Define and Articulate Your Purpose. Bang, that's enough to slow some people in their tracks and make them actually think about what they want to do. Three Underlying Principles are then introduced. For anyone actually involved in community building, just the information given in the introduction is more than worth the price of the book.
Chapter 1 draws on and expands the information presented in the introduction. Amy Jo even uses Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, presenting concepts to make sure the community member's basic needs are met before offering "higher-level" features. Something which is surprisingly often overlooked.
What I like about this book, is that it's void of academic and sociological, highbrow rhetoric. I thought it was quite subtle and interesting that Amy Jo's Ph.D. title is not displayed on the book. Instead, it delivers page after page of nuts n' bolts information on how to actually design, build and manage web communities. And before the building even starts, a lot of thinking has to take place. This book will get the motors running. If the reader's desire is still there after working through the "pull-no-punches" first chapter, then there's good reason to explore community building further. On the other hand, if the reader finds the wind knocked out of their sails, they'd have Amy Jo to thank for that too. No sense in investing a lot of time and energy if it turns out that a community venture idea never even makes it out of the gate.
One thing the author really has going for her, with her ten years of community-building experience, is that she's worked in a lot of virtual environments -and that is clearly reflected in the contents. From MUD's, to The Palace to eBay, each environment has it's own set of positives and negatives, and those are all well-covered.
The meat of the book delivers a well-rounded arsenal on community leadership, membership roles and rites of passage, etiquette, community growth stages, and even Event Planning 101.
The one aspect that might be missed by some is more actual case-history examples. In some ways, I actually found this refreshing, because there are more than enough web-community books on the market that cover those bases. If anyone is actually thinking of getting involved in building communities, they'll soon find themselves reading Cliff Figallo's Hosting Web Communities, and of course, the classic The Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold. (A second addition of Rheingold's book will be released soon by MIT Press.)
There are certainly more web community books [see our recommended links included with this article], but if there is one book to pick up first, Community Building on the Web, by Amy Jo Kim, is the one. END