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Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last [Kindle Edition]

Tharon Howard

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Product Description


"This book provides the necessary antidote to the thoughtless, random and in too many cases desperate nature of many of today's attempts to build online communities." - Carl Zetie, Strategist, IBM "Howard's theoretical stance is firmly grounded in a lifetime of practical experience which makes fascinating and sometimes very amusing reading. Have you ever wondered why some networks and communities thrive and others fail? Read this book and find out." -Dr. Jurek Kirakowski, Senior Lecturer, Human Factors Research Group, Cork, Ireland "Professionals in technical communication will find this book packed with relevant information, especially given the evolving role of communicators in new media. Writers and editors can put best practices to use in working with their employers, with clients, or within their own professional lives."--Angel Belford, Technical Communication, Volume 58, Number 1, February 2011 "This important work fills a gap in the literature in its proposal of methods to fuse technology with practical community growth and sustainability. [Howard] more than knows the subject, considering the very prominent place he holds in the human computer interaction and usability communities. [Howard] very smoothly conveys his thoughts in an eloquent, easily accessible manner that any level of reader would be able to penetrate. This surprisingly deep yet easily readable book seamlessly incorporates the research of people such as Bruce Tuckman, Leon Festinger, and Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, among others. Highly recommended. All levels of academic and professional readers, especially those who create and maintain online communities."--CHOICE

Product Description

Social networks and online communities are reshaping the way people communicate, both in their personal and professional lives. What makes some succeed and others fail? What draws a user in? What makes them join? What keeps them coming back? Entrepreneurs and businesses are turning to user experience practitioners to figure this out. Though they are well-equipped to evaluate and create a variety of interfaces, social networks require a different set of design principles and ways of thinking about the user in order to be successful.

Design to Thrive presents tried and tested design methodologies, based on the author’s decades of research, to ensure successful and sustainable online communities -- whether a wiki for employees to share procedures and best practices or for the next Facebook. The book describes four criteria, called "RIBS," which are necessary to the design of a successful and sustainable online community. These concepts provide designers with the tools they need to generate informed creative and productive design ideas, to think proactively about the communities they are building or maintaining, and to design communities that encourage users to actively contribute.

  • Provides essential tools to create thriving social networks, helping designers to avoid common pitfalls, avoid costly mistakes, and to ensure that communities meet client needs
  • Contains real world stories from popular, well known communities to illustrate how the concepts work
  • Features a companion online network that employs the techniques outlined in the book

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3269 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (8 Dec. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003M5HU8A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #633,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Build It and Grow 20 April 2010
By Michael S. Greer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon, but few are doing it well or thoughtfully. As Design to Thrive argues, it's simply not true that "if you build it, they will come." As Tharon Howard writes, the "field of dreams" approach to designing social media "may have worked for Kevin Costner and baseball fields in Hollywood's version of an Iowa cornfield, but it doesn't ensure success when you're developing the architecture for an online community." Design to Thrive offers an effective blend of academic theory and applied, practical advice, based on the author's deep experience building and testing online communities. The theory is important and not at all dry. You have to understand why some online communities thrive while most wither on the vine. The practice is the fun part, and Howard draws examples, many illustrated with color screen shots, from a wide range of online communities, from academic associations to World of Warcraft guilds.

The heart of the book is the RIBS framework, a discussion of the four key elements necessary for the success of online communities: remuneration, influence, belonging, and significance. Each of these concepts is developed in a separate chapter, and the result is a solid framework that can be used to design, build, and test online communities of many different flavors.

I work in publishing, and have already been cribbing ideas from Design to Thrive to use in conversations with our new media and marketing teams. I find myself frequently citing Howard's vital distinction between social networks and online communities, two very different things that most folks I know tend to confuse. Whatever your role, if you work in media, publishing, or web development, you will find useful strategies and ideas in this book. If you're serious about doing social media right, this book can provide you with a framework, practical strategies, and a language for talking with your peers.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable, but dry reading 19 Oct. 2010
By Chen Sun - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
12/5/2010 This is one of those books whose teachings grow on the reader. Upon further reflection, I've upgraded this to a five star.

Below is my review written in 10/2010

An analogy can be made of this book as to having to read a dry, boring book in a required college course, but later realizing that the book's teachings really were useful.

This potentially powerful book is written by a tenured professor, and is halfway between a textbook for a required class and a popular marketing book, not being particularly readable in either case, but providing valuable methodology. Like many professors, the author states he doesn't care whether the book becomes popularly read, as he wrote this strictly for community designers. If you're NOT a community designer, I recommend reading the last two chapters first, as later explained.

The topic is how to attract and retain users to build web communities, using users' benefits of Remuneration, Influence, Belonging, and Significance to evaluate the community's potential for success. The synopsis of the book in Amazon's book description and other reviews here will give you a feel for this RIBS model.

Web community building is, in its essence, an understanding of the sociology of the web and how to harvest its groups. This understanding requires volumes of books, and this small book and RIBS can acts as partial guideline for web community guideline.

Is reading this partial and dry guideline on web community building worthwhile? The answer is definitely yes, and this is actually best explained in the final chapter, where the author describes the political power, marketing influence, social behavior influence of potential web communities. The problem though is that this is the final chapter, and it took 7 chapters of dry reading material to get to this final motivational chapter.

There are three pertinent steps in building a community: 1. Finalizing the decisions to build one 2. Selecting the appropriate web software 3. Utilizing the software, leadership skills, and people behaviors to build the community.

This book is best on helping one to assess step #1 and providing a few suggestions on step #3. Step #2 is better served by a book such as Social Networking for Business.

As for step #1, the book's value is that most web owners who want a community have not thought through on users' motivations to participate in a community. The author asks such owners to evaluate how does the community really benefit the user, by evaluating using the RIBS model. Potential owners of web communities should definitely read this user model before investing into their web community.

As for step 3, the author gives a number of techniques to enhance the RIBS user motivation. Techniques such as having emoticons in the software, not archiving users' content, building rituals, and ensuring empowerment.

The book isn't really good enough to be a great textbook, because it's too anecdotal and lacks quantitative analysis. Too dry to be read for non-course learning, unless, a person is really motivated, which is why I suggest reading the final chapter first. In short, the author has spent a lifetime studying the topic of electronic communities, and the book's information is valuable, but it's dry writing, so consider reading the last chapter first to get motivated.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the care and feeding of online communities to make them thrive and prosper 16 Sept. 2010
By I Wanna Be A Pepper Too - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Drawing on his extensive experience building successful online communities, as well as some sociological research on how groups form and evolve, author Tharon W. Howard shares with readers of this book some learnings on the care and feeding of online communities to make them thrive and prosper.

Mr. Howard discusses four design tenets for delivering user experiences that will draw new members in and keep existing ones committed to an online community. Together these tenets form Mr. Howard's R.I.B.S. theory of successful online community building, with R.I.B.S. standing for: Renumeration, Influence, Belonging, and Significance.

Discussing these tenets individually in separate chapters, Mr. Howard begins by defining the goals for each tenet, then provides examples of things that can be done to help achieve those goals.


Renumeration: the goals would be to meet the stated purpose of an online community and make members feel they're getting what they signed up for (e.g., knowledge sharing, information exchange, collaboration, etc). Creating a safe and welcoming environment for novices and veterans alike to continually mingle, interact, and make contributions is a necessary step towards achieving these goals.

Influence: the goals would be to make members feel they have a voice in the community, and their efforts to make contributions and help out are appreciated. Providing mechanisms for community members to "tip their hats" to (e.g., positively rate or comment on) quality contributions and rewarding "points" for active participation are some ways to achieve these goals.

Belonging: the goals would be to make members feel "they've arrived" and the relationships they've formed with community members are "special". Staging "bonding" events can be an effective means for creating memorable "shared" experiences.

Significance: the goals would be to make members feel they've chosen * THE BEST * community in terms of exclusivity, reputation, effectiveness, etc. for a given purpose. Tooting one's own horns when called for would be an appropriate way to inform members of the impact their community is making.

Mr. Howard gives a few more concrete examples of how to achieve the above-mentioned goals in the book. All of the examples make sense and some are obvious, but a few of them may strike some readers as counterintuitive and somewhat controversial on first glance. What Mr. Howard doesn't address adequately I feel are levels of difficulty, scalability, and resources required for implementing some of his suggestions.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Model for Online Community Development 22 Aug. 2012
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0, etc. are merely platforms to create a sense of belonging and community; Design to Thrive attempts, successfully, to explain the theory and practice behind such community development. Most other texts and consultants focus too much on the technical limitations and design of each of these platforms, while this book is great for understanding how a community is created.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic primer, one you'll go back to over and over 22 Sept. 2011
By M. Cheung - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are some great reviews already listed here so I won't be too repetitive except to share some of my favorite features/highlights:

1. It's not just a book that tries to define what social networks are or what differentiates them from one another. The author really takes a deep look at the nature of social networking and provides incredible, usable, real-world examples of how to build a community with a sense of community, not just a forum about topic XYZ.

2. He addresses something most of the books on this topic seem to neglect - the AUDIENCE! It should be one of the golden rules of launching and nurturing and developing social networks and communities is to FIRST understand who you're reaching for, your customer.

3. The content is written clearly and is useful for those new to social/community development as well as those with experience who seek new perspectives.

I recommend this book without reservation.
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