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Laurie Pattison, leader

8 attendees

Many companies trying to get some of their writers to deal with the community.

To motivate writers, make them realize that they can enhance their skills by learning from the community.

Find people who show a natural propensity for dealing with communities, such as already blogging.

Must accept that your users know more about your product than you do. You also want the community to validate your work.

In one security-conscious organization, a facilitator made people more open to communicating rather than keeping information secret, by finding out who they already talk to and encouraging them to share with them.

You can define the job to include a commitment to dealing with the community. A writer can be assigned to monitor a wiki, where the writer is the managing editor. The wiki can be private, with selected customers invited to contribute. There are ways to make the transition gradual. Easy start: create an FAQ and ask for help adding both questions and answers.

When overwhelmed with too many topics to cover, look at where the needs are. Pick one spot to do a good job on, and the documentation can expand from there.

Community won't take care of itself, particularly if there's a company in charge of the product being documented. Users expect a badge of approval from the company for content.

Invite MVPs to do articles, guide them along the way the first time. They can also monitor the content, may enjoy that if you encourage them. A company writer can be a mentor for a community member.

Some community members like to be acknowledged publicly and some don't. Rewards for writers in the company also differ; some want to be public in the community and some just want managers inside the company to know what they've accomplished.

Style guides turn off some contributors.

Interaction with sources--both things you use as input to your own work and articles with which you disagree. Consider contacting the source of the article you disagree with; start a conversation.

Slight digression into journalism: should you take a publicly neutral stance, or be transparent and explain what your preferences are?

When a corporation thrusts its writers into the community, are there implications for liability and public image? A company needs clear standards about a writer represents the company. But let the personality of the writer show through.

Community content tends to be small pieces and therefore fragmented. Writers can find useful community content and highlight it: point to useful content, refer from one piece to another (things that readers can go to for background or more advanced techniques), etc. Summarizing can be useful.

Useful links

Conversation and Community by Anne Gentle

Community documentation (Andy Oram)

Redoing media blog

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