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.