The evolution of online communities? February 12, 2008 8:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a post I read here — at least I think I did — concerning the natural evolution of online communities. The conclusion talked about population growth leading to divisive groups that clash with each other leading to the decline of the community... or something along those lines.

I did try to search for it, but it's either not here (possible, but I could've sworn...) or my search-fu is failing me. If someone could help point out where I saw this, I'd be grateful. Anyone remember this?
posted by empyrean to MetaFilter-Related at 8:01 PM (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Why do you ask?
posted by timeistight at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a related discussion with a friend and wanted to share the link with them.

Why do you ask? :)
posted by empyrean at 8:14 PM on February 12, 2008

There's a famous six-stage thing called something like the life stages of online community (or mailing lists), but I can't seem to find it.

It goes something like this:
1. group is small, trying to figure itself out
2. starts gaining steam, people enjoy it
3. hits a critical mass, giant growth
4. early members start to leave, talk about the good old days
5. signal to noise ratio plummets, users flee, new users replace them but without the community norms
6. Community hits some equilibrium of new users joining and older users leaving, community generally happy with how things are going, group goes on for years and years like this.

The point of it is usually to argue if you're at stage 3 or 4, or if you've slipped to 4 or 5. I often hear described as stage 6.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:26 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Five posts down, mate.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2008

posted by grobstein at 8:39 PM on February 12, 2008

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy?
posted by MetaMonkey at 8:44 PM on February 12, 2008

I can't wait for the snark of Metafilter at entropy.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:55 PM on February 12, 2008

ARGH I know exactly which post you mean, but I can't find it in my favourites, so I guess I didn't mark it (which surprises me).
posted by loiseau at 9:13 PM on February 12, 2008

MetaMonkey, that could be what I'm remembering. I think I possibly have seen a post discussing that and another source, though. Thanks for finding it for me!

Matt, I have seen that before and it's also relevant, so thanks for the summary.

grobstein: hopefully nobody will stab our leadership anytime soon.
posted by empyrean at 9:16 PM on February 12, 2008

I think you might be talking about this thread.
posted by Malor at 9:16 PM on February 12, 2008

Lifecycle of Public Participation Fora.

1. Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot about how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).

2. Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the list, and brainstorm recruitment strategies).

3. Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads develop, occasional off-topic threads pop up)

4. Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than others; lots of information and advice is exchanged; experts help other experts as well as less experienced colleagues; friendships develop; people tease each other; newcomers are welcomed with generosity and patience; everyone---newbie and expert alike---feels comfortable asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions)

5. Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader; people start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1 threatens to quit if *other* people don't limit discussion to person 1's pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed)

6a. Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame everyone who asks an 'old' question or responds with humor to a serious post; newbies are rebuffed; traffic drops to a doze-producing level of a few minor issues; all interesting discussions happen by private email and are limited to a few participants; the purists spend lots of time self-righteously congratulating each other on keeping off-topic threads off the list)


6b. Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants stay near stage 4, with stage 5 popping up briefly every few weeks; many people wear out their second or third 'delete' key, but the list lives contentedly ever after)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:50 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

This isn't a MetaFilter thread, but you might also be interested in Jason Scott's post You've Ruined Everything, where he runs down some of the roles that people play in online communities, followed by a series of "critical events that happen in most communities."
posted by bevedog at 9:51 PM on February 12, 2008

The lifecycle of an online community closely mirrors that of the grieving process. Denial, anger, acceptance, all that jazz. :)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 PM on February 12, 2008

Bevedog: In that case, we should also consider "Flame Warriors".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:52 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't claim to be talking about the post you reference, though I do recall it, but a good brief article that may be of interest is
Caught in the Web, a WaPo book review. The book, worth borrowing from a library at least.
posted by dawson at 1:02 AM on February 13, 2008

I can't wait for the snark of Metafilter at entropy.

Luckily for you the future is now! Now get off my lawn!
posted by loquacious at 3:23 AM on February 13, 2008

Is this the post you were looking for?
posted by Prospero at 6:23 AM on February 13, 2008

The lifecycle of an online community closely mirrors that of the grieving process. Denial, anger, acceptance, all that jazz.

I wish we could finish up with the acceptance stage already and start planning the stage production, then. Dibs on O'Connor!
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2008

Sounds a lot like Forming-storming-norming-performing of the business world adapted for the internets.
posted by at 9:07 AM on February 13, 2008

My own experience of MetaFilter (my own personal lifecycle, if you will):

1.) WHOAH! This place is FUCKIN' AWESOME! A place where we can share great links and discuss them! Sign me up!

2.) Proceed to post and comment prolifically.

3.) Community changes. More and more energy that could be spent on sharing great links and the discussion thereof is wasted on 800-comment MetaTalk pissing matches and facile OutrageFilter. The quality of the comments goes into the toilet. People don't read the links; they use them as springboards for one-liners.

4.) Still participating but more out of habit than anything else.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:36 AM on February 13, 2008

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