the simple fact that you have a community around your service or a readership around your blog means that you’re doing at least something right, and that people want to participate. at the same time, however, the participants aren’t always necessarily happy or as happy as they could be. what amazes me about this situation is not only how easy it is to make these people happy/happier, but also how many people fail to do this.
as james surowiecki describes in his book the wisdom of crowds, according to the human-relations movement led by sociologist elton mayo, people are not only happier, but also more productive when they feel their concerns are being listened to. it’s rather simple, really: just listen to what your community has to say and the next time you make a decision, take their thoughts into account. if you end up implementing one of the suggestions, go ahead and give credit where it’s due. but before you do this, you need to have a system in place that easily let’s your community get in touch with you, and create a culture where the community actually believes that their concerns won’t fall on deaf ears.
it seems foolish to me (if not self-sabotaging) that socially driven news and content sites in particular have managed to get millions of people to participate in the process of submitting, voting, commenting, and sharing content, but have failed to institute a system to allow the same community to recommend improvements to the sites and discuss the best way to go about making those improvements. do we honestly think that the 15 people at digg know more than the site’s million-plus users know about where the site needs to be going and what improvements should be next? the same applies to all other social media services. in fact, i find myself wondering if these sites even know the first thing about the very phenomenon they are presumably taking advantage of (the wisdom of crowds). so far, the only site i’ve seen that allows people to participate in the process of site improvement is reddit, where you can submit self-referential posts pertaining to the site (and they’ve usually been implemented fairly speedily).
as for the argument that digg or any other site may not want community input because they want to make decisions which increase the sellability of the site the direction where many claim they are going), i think its impossible to differentiate between features that the community wants and thinks will improve the site, and the features that make a site more sellable. lastly, fevote is a site that allows people to make suggestion boards around communities (for example, here’s one for digg), but ultimately, for any such system to work, it has to be hosted on the site itself, and be instantly available to the entire community.
so help your community get one step closer to nirvana, listen to the very people who are responsible for your success.
this post is a part of my journey through james surowiecki’s the wisdom of crowds.