Many of the panels here at SXSW have to do with organizing communities, managing communities, and dealing with a lot of the hassles that comes along with such an "job." First, a little background. These communities can form around hundreds of thousands of different issues, items or interests. Blogs like dailyKos and Wonkette, who have large consistent followings, are one form these communities take. Second Life is another. Or Facebook and Myspace communities that have since sprung up with thousands of "friends" and supporters.
What's different about these new online communities is that they are increasingly pushing transparency, user empowerment and a strong collaboration with their community members and users. How do you get users?
Jenna Woodul, Co-founder of LiveWorld says that, "its the people stupid."
At the very beginning you HAVE to know your people. If you do establish that rapport with folks when you do hit problems they will step forward to help fix them.
It's also about the conversation you have with your community members. So often, we forget that a relationship is built on a conversation that is goes both ways. You can't simply talk at your members, you have to include them in the conversation and hear their opinions, perspectives and concerns, even if it hurts you to listen. Betsy Aoki of Microsoft (hold your hisses for a moment please) says:
"you can find people who have huge opinions, and they want to share them. They are the ones you want talking to folks, i.e. your customers and supporters. Its not so much incenting people to write, as much as its allowing them and giving them tools to express their ideas, concerns and beliefs around the topic."
By ushering in all perspectives (whether or not they are deemed legitimate or spam is up to the community or the host) the community gains a sense of trust. That's when the community starts to create its own rules or laws which further builds trust and camaraderie. And trust is a key building block to any relationship, online or off.
As the community elects leadership, for instance in the form of a rotating advisory board made up of dedicated community members, the community may also begin to gain power and be legitimatized outside of its niche. For instance, the DailyKos community (who refer to themselves as Kossacks) has emerged as a key power among the liberal left for fundraising progressive candidates running for office. In this way these communities begin chipping away at the power that normally would be held by someone or something else.
Maybe not world domination but collaboration for sure.