The Role of Big Brother In Community-Building

Big Brother is everywhere.  He knows everything, controls everything.

Does he belong in your communities?

The biggest fear I come across when building communities for clients is the loss of control over the content.  What if my competitor comes into my community and spreads lies about my product? What if the people who participate don’t know what they are talking about and they cause one of my clients to do something wrong?  What if the community I am building becomes a depository for all that’s wrong with my product?

They think the answer is building “controls” to make sure the information in the community remains “pure’.  They resort to censorship.

Censorship has no place in the community.

It only takes a few incidents of censorship for the community to vanish.  If a negative entry is entered into the community, and it magically disappears – they will notice.  And they will stop contributing.  It is the same if you have moderated messages. Why would you have the right to control the conversation?  Either you let it flow, or you don’t provide the platform.  You have to trust your community to be self-policing and self-healing.

Alas, you can only hope your community becomes the repository for complaints about your product.

Take Dell as an example, while they continued to ignore the complaints from their customers on quality, shoddy technical support, and long delays, their clients built their own communities (to the tune of, or or others I cannot print here).  At that time, they lost total control of ability to do something about it.  It was only when they brought the conversation to their own servers that they succeeded at making the necessary changes.

You have to realize that you cannot control the community.  It grows organically, and it remains independent.  Else, it dies.  You have to sacrifice control to gain insights and feedback.

Are you willing to cede control to the masses? Or would you rather fail?

4 Replies to “The Role of Big Brother In Community-Building”

  1. As always, love your blog. What’s interesting is that companies would rather fail than concede control. When I teach leadership in the Pepperdine MBA program, I ask students to keep track of the “stupid things their company is doing” at the end of the week, the month, the semester- they are stunned. Seems companies would rather keep doing stupid things than ask, What would be better if…” but to do that, to hear that, you have to concede control.

    Do things the same way and expecting different results– is the definition of insanity and– in the near future — the demise of stupid companies that do stupid things. My advice. Knock it off. Understand the power of asking questions and getting feedback. Asking is the secret to life.


  2. I have found that instead of deleting/moderating content if we are able to either counter the false allegations or accept ignorance & promise to get back or gracefully accept a mistake and promise to rectify it or at least show proof that we have tried but failed, it goes a long way to build the confidence of the community in us & many a times helps in thwarting the trolls. I have had my community defending me against some vehement trolls & anonymous cowards with a vengeance!

    Of course my 1st hand experience has been with an unofficial community, not an official one. My role as the moderator was limited to deleting spam messages & reminding people to maintain the decorum by sticking to the spirit of the community guidelines.


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