Online community roles: 1. the community editor

The Cohesion Model for Sustainable Online Communities and Social Networks was developed by myself, Helen Whitehead, and Liz Cable over three years, and based on rather more than 15 years of experience in online communities and social networks before that.  It’s also informed by the literature on learning communities, communities of practice, and e-moderating. We’ve found that the same principles can apply across many types of online community, large or small, and our model has been proven to be robust, adaptable and technology-independent.

The model describes three main domains within a community – the Public, the Community or Collaborative, and the Private or Individual level.  The balance of these is different in different communities, but cannot be ignored altogether.  Effective maintenance and nurturing of each of these domains is crucial to the success of the community, especially in its early start-up period (which may be days, weeks, months or years, depending on the type of community and how niche it is!). Thus we have begun to define roles and the tasks associated with them in each domain.

The key role in the public domain is that of the community editor. The editor requires strong writing, communication and editorial skills and a capacity to understand and listen to the members and their needs (and to any other stakeholders). Some of the tasks of this role are:

  • Collecting, collating and making available content
  • Choosing RSS feeds both inbound and outbound
  • Extracting useful information from the community and making it available more widely
  • Sourcing information requested by the community
  • Setting policies
  • Maintaining public information conduits such as Twitter
  • Planning events
  • Setting tone in the sector

Depending on the size of the community this may be a distinct role, or part of a community manager’s role, or carried out by a group of volunteers or a committee of members. Whoever does the job though, the tasks, and their importance, remain the same.

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