I beg your pardon?
In some circles, the title of this post alone would be enough to get me thrown under a bus… and not for the language. I’d be hauled over the coals for the very fact that I’ve dared to besmirch the great god “Content”. But if folks are preparing to throw me under a bus, then at least they’re paying attention… so hopefully I’ll be able to get them to read what I mean by that statement first. It may not save the world’s ears from the horrible crunching sound as the bus casually rolls over me, but at least I stand a chance of getting the message out. So what actually is the message?
Community Content is essentially “Community Poo”…
…But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Poo is a sign of life (It really is! it’s technically one of the seven or eight acknowledged indicators of life), and finding it somewhere is a sign that life has been happening at that location. If it’s fresh, it’s a sign that it’s happened recently. It’s also good fertilizer, so it creates places that life (and activity) can thrive… but if you were to start declaring “poo is life!” you’d probably get a few funny looks and maybe a special jacket that does up at the back and makes you hug yourself all day long.
The same is true of community content. It’s good stuff, and it’s great evidence that a community has been active, but it’s not the community itself. A set of diverse forum threads with loads of posts in are not a community, but they are evidence that a community has passed that way. “Community content” is the trail of droppings that gets left behind by the real community, which is happening up at the front where the interaction is happening.
If you want to help keep a community healthy, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on the community poo, but it’s not *all there is*. Not by a long shot. Despite what Gillian McKeith might tell you. You should look at the ebb and flow of the community and look at the people that come together to form it. You should listen to what they say and how they choose to behave, not just at what poo they leave behind.
So what should we be focussing on?
If you want to keep a community healthy, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on the stuff that produces the poo. That’ll generally be the users. You want them to keep pooing, becuase if they’re not, it’s a sign that they’ve either left or died… neither of which is exactly promising for the longevity of your community. But don’t get hung up on preserving every bit of poo for the rest of eternity. Particularly memorable community poo will preserve itself – it will live on in the memories of the *people* who make up the community.
What are you getting at? What’s the point of this post?
If I really have to spell it out for you, the point of this post is that businesses should stop fixating on the community content and instead focus on the engines that generate it. Keeping the community alive and healthy so it can produce more community poo is far more important than lovingly and painstakingly preserving all the community poo that was ever produced.
All you lovely readers out there? Wherever you lot converse and discuss things, you create community. The stuff you leave behind when you move on? The content – the forum posts, tweets, status updates, blog posts and comments and all that stuff? That’s community poo. It’s the leftover sign of community interaction having happened. It’s fertile and creating it is good and healthy, but if you’re fixating on it too much then you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t look a pile of poo and call it a nice meal. Don’t look at a heap of forum posts and call it a community. In either case, you’re looking at what’s left over after the best bit’s happened!