Have any tips on how to build honest & collaborative community online?

Cojourneo ‏@Cojourneo: Have any tips on how to build honest & collaborative community online?


When I was implementing stockpickr I was trying to build a community that reflected exactly my ideas of how investing should work. I wanted ideas for making money without any news to cloud it. Most financial communities are all about news. I think most news is filled with lies, entertainment, fear, and sex (perhaps the only part of news I like).

There were already many financial communities, particularly the message boards on Yahoo Finance.

After a few months of building my community (I quickly got up to 1,000,000 unique visitors) I went over to Yahoo Finance and showed them my site. This was in 2007. The first comment from the head of Yahoo Finance, “how come people aren’t bashing each other?” Yahoo Finance had an excellent community in size but unfortunately everyone trashed everyone else many of their message boards degenerated into people just trashing each other.

Here’s what I did:

A) first I seeded the site with a lot of useful data. So no matter where you went on the site, there was investing ideas.

B) No friction. You didn’t have to sign up to use the site. And it was very easy to sign up. And no email verification. No friction at all.

C) I interacted on the site as much as possible. This way people understood there was some degree of moderation and they also understood that if they asked a question, they would get an answer.

D) Not only did I have a forum section but I had a Q&A (think “Quora) section. And I kept track of who answered the most questions so there was gamification involved in being as helpful as possible.

E) The system recommended “friends”. If you entered in your portfolio it would recommend other users whose portfolio was similar to yours.

F) I ruthlessly deleted people who brought mud into my house. If someone was abusive at all, I deleted their account. There’s other things I did to people who would then log in with new accounts after I had already banned them. I usually was able to track them down through their emails and I would call them at their place of work. I would explain to them on the phone (which added a touch not usually found on the Internet) that I was trying to make a living with this and they were ruining my hard work so I hoped they would stop. 99% of the time this worked. When it didn’t I would resort to other tactics that I can’t talk about online.

G) I asked my friends who were bloggers to use and review my site. This set a high tone for the site. Not only was I watching but all of these respected bloggers were.

H) Because of the above, the first level of people to use the site were highly pre-qualified. Community comes from the top-down. My site was relatively small but think of the most successful social media sites. They all have highly qualified or respected users who started off the first community. Facebook had Harvard. Quora has high quality CEOs and venture capitalists. Myspace even had local musicians that would set up their pages and then their fans would set up pages. Myspace only fell apart after being acquired. Smaller sites like Stack Exchange, or new.ycombinator have top programmers and software company executives and venture capitalists.

Cojourneo I can tell is a great site. I have some suggestions but perhaps that can be another post. I encourage people to try your site out by clicking the image below.