The Deadly Jelly Baby

4 Jan

There is a scene in Dr. Who (Tom Baker incarnation) in which the Doctor is about to be attacked and by the inhabitants of some planet to which he responds with “Now drop your weapons, or I’ll kill him with this deadly jelly baby!” This scene is amusing, or rather at least I find it amusing, because the audience knows that threatening someone with a jelly baby is ridiculous, but since the inhabitants of the this planet lack the appropriate context, to them it is a credible threat.

It strikes me that there is a great deal of similarity between this scene, and the way that many associations launch online communities. It often seems as though the association says to its members: “Prepare to be excited because I’m going to engage you with our new online community!”

People have an intuitive sense of what it means to be engaged and they also have ideas about what online communities are, but they lack the context to be able to connect these things together in a way that seems even vaguely exciting.

This shouldn’t really be surprising. Your members’ experience on online community is likely to be rooted in sites like Facebook and Twitter which have come to dominate our thinking about social media. And if that is you conception of what online community means, it is not unnatural to wonder “How is sharing what I am having for lunch with the other members of the association going to be useful to me or to them?”

Most people are not accustomed to thinking of an online community as a place where problems are solved or where knowledge is generated. But that is exactly what an online community for your association should be all about. It should be a place where members come together to share their experience and their knowledge. And that is exciting.

So, when you launch an online community for your association, you have to lay the groundwork so that your members will understand how they will benefit from it. You have to make sure that there is interesting and relevant content there. You have to make sure that you have respected members of the community in place as leaders to help foster discussion and answer questions. Then you can go from “deadly jelly baby” to healthy online community.


3 Responses to “The Deadly Jelly Baby”

  1. Nikki Jeske January 5, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    I love this post. Not just because it’s about community, but because you reference Jelly Babies! And Tom Baker! He’s my second favorite Doctor (first place going to Peter Davison). Awesome link between the two, Terry!


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