In The Art of Community, Jono Bacon tackles the task of explaining how to attract, build and maintain productive collaborative online communities. Bacon has had impressive credentials to author such a book and draws from his experience skillfully. With over ten years experience in the open source community he has the hands-on experience with initiatives such as community manager for Ubuntu, KDE and OpenAdvantage.
The book is organised logically with a healthy selection of applied chapters in designing a strategy, understanding the sociological aspects behind community formation, through understanding community health and dealing with issues that arise. Bacon freely admits that this is an absolutely fluid non-science in constant evolution and stays well to the principles couched in his own experience.
I like the lyrical style of the book. Bacon keeps the prose surprisingly light for the nature of the topic (i.e. he could easily fall to using too much jargon to impact a scientific palour — he effectively avoids this). I like his constant interjections from personal experience and informal language. Sections are kept shorter and readable and he has made an attempt to distill learning into a series of specific and focus points. Additionally he carries a useful thread through his narrative reminding the reader at regular instances of what has been covered and where we should be at in the process of understanding. Notwithstanding this he does not attempt to imply that there is a tried and proven process that will lead to success, instead suggesting that he is sharing one path of many. The definition of this path is well illustrated and logically delineated. The basis is provided for each and thus allow for individual adjustment or judgement of whether it is applicable.
This book effectively combines the philosophical with the technical specifics. Although generally aimed at the strategic level in the chapter on ‘Supporting Workflow with Tools’ for example, Bacon provides constructive and useful real world examples of hands-on use with specific tools, and consistently ties these to the larger principles of change management process in light of the wider principles of assessment and response.
This a useful book not just for those directly charged with the the emerging task of community manager, but also those that have the vision to realise the importance of maintaining community whether they are on the financial or marketing side of the organisation.
I would further recommend this book as a less detailed read for those hoping to quickly grasp the importance of the task and the evolution of the marketplace in the era of Enterprise 2.0.
Also…check out the companion website to the book.