Community Platforms

Dion Hinchcliffe has a good overview of the leading technology platforms for communities of practice, ranking Joomla and Drupal at the top. I’ve used Mambo, from which Joomla developed (forked) and have used Drupal in several cases. I find Drupal to be exceptionally powerful but it requires a skilled team to implement it. If Joomla is like Mambo, it’s easier to get up and running but is not as flexible as Drupal. Anyway, it’s not really about the technology, but good tools can help the community grow and get its work done. Hinchcliffe also offers this example of the lifecycle of a CoP:

I’ve seen communities and members at these various stages and this is a good analogy. In my experience though, progression is not linear and people can depart from all levels. Here are some conclusions from a community of practice/interest I worked with five years ago:

  • A sense of community cannot be forced;
  • communities are self-defined;
  • communities are conversations; and
  • communities evolve over time.
  • Face-to-face contact can be the impetus for online conversations, while online contact can be the impetus for face-to-face meetings.
  • Communities of individuals have stronger bonds than communities of companies;
  • blogging helps to define dispersed communities; and
  • password-protected web sites do not encourage conversation.

Choosing a suitable platform can make your job easier but any technology will constrain the community in certain ways. It’s best to put off the technology selection to as late as possible, once you’ve got the pulse of the people, the work, the values and the vision.

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