Community Involvement and Participation Guide

Community Involvement and Participation Guide



There are many ways we can all make a difference in technical communities as individuals and as part of a team, interest group or company. This article provides top recommendations -- actions you can take -- to make a difference in community.

Start now - by making at least one addition to this article today! Continue participating by selecting other activities and then sharing your experiences (and activities)!

Recommendations

Microsoft is active in many different types of virtual and physical communities all over the world and reaching thousands of individuals. To explore Microsoft communities, begin with a visit to Microsoft Technical Communities (on Microsoft.com).

Spend time listening in community

Communities are complex entities. The Active Directory community that coalesces on Microsoft Forums can be dramatically different than the one on Twitter tweeting with the Active Directory hashtag. To effectively participate and understand the landscape, you must listen to the conversation and learn key topics, community norms, communication style, key individuals who "knows their stuff" and who may not, and a host of other clues that will shape how you engage.

Here are some concrete activities you can do to listen (or listen more effectively):

  • Catch up on a week of activity in the top forums visited by your community. One great place to start is in the Microsoft Forums, but there are many, many others hosted by different individuals and organizations.
  • Find the top blogs for your areas of interest and allocate time each week to read new posts and comment. Note popular topics and personalities, both author and individuals providing commentary.
  • Identify the important #hashtags for your areas and spend 15 minutes a day monitoring *buzz* in the Twittersphere. Begin with search on Twitter and then graduate to more sophisticated tools as needed. For example, bing twitter search.
  • Find out where your community has roots in Facebook. Visit community/technology pages and keep up with events, buzz and the community network. Join and friend to get additional buzz.
  • Read top articles about your technology on Wikipedia, the TechNet Wiki, and other collaborative authoring sites to understand different concerns and perspectives. Review article history to get see how the content improved (or not) and who were contributors. If these sites have RSS feeds, you can use the RSS Feeds folder in Outlook to archive/filter these posts.
  • Subscribe to technology-specific distribution lists. Email may be old-school,  but many interesting discussions there can be a rich source of information.
  • Spend a day listening in on support calls for your technologies (if that is permitted in your organization). Or spend a few hours reading the support forums.

Monitor and respond to customer and community feedback

Technology provides many ways to engage. Customers can leave comments, rate material, update assets, or provide direct feedback via email, chat or other mechanism. But even the best technology and most conscientious feedback means nothing (or worse, hurts your reputation, product adoption, or community health) if it is not addressed.

The following activities focus on finding and acting on feedback to your contributions, your areas of interests and/or products, and the community:

  • Act on six feedback comments per month by providing new content or updating existing content
  • Lead by example, and thank the person who provided the feedback, letting them know the action you took
  • Engage in two-way conversation to more deeply understand three pieces of feedback per month

Manage your reputation and the reputation of the host, community and interests

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, reputation management has now become a defining feature of online life for many internet users (Reputation Management and Social Media). Without sufficient reputation, it is difficult to win trust and therefore less likely someone will use/act on your contributions.

Nurture your reputation with the following activities:
  • Update your key profiles (including Microsoft community profile). Letting users see your activity in your profile contributes to community and platform reputation (and trust).
  • Trim spam from "your site" -- blog, web site, etc.
  • List a means to contact you in your profile, an e-mail address for example. Which would YOU trust more? A user id that includes an e-mail address, or one that doesn't?
  • Choose a username that identifies you. Which would YOU trust more: the user named EricB or the one named SomeGuy? Include an avatar to further personalize.
  • Allow comments, and respond to them, if that is an option on your blog/web site.

Integrate community platforms into product and content strategies

Community is not an afterthought. Weave community into your current activities and make them an integral part of your future plans. Be bold!

Many of the activities below applies to the content publishing / information experience discipline but can be adopted to other scenarios:

  • Develop a plan that moves most troubleshooting, error and event, release notes, guides, and other content from static content repositories to open communities like the TechNet Wiki in the next 12 months.
  • Secure stakeholder support for two community pilots in the next six months. Candidates include whitespace identification efforts (using survival guide or other curation-friendly topic), engagement efforts (in externally hosted communities) or formation of advisory council or steering committee with community.

Be a trusted source of information

Build trust through transparent collaboration, relationships build on good intentions, and by contributing valuable nuggets that meet community needs. There are never enough knowledgeable community participants!

Try some of the following activities:

  • Commit 10 hours a month to publishing blog posts to a individual, product team, feature-based, or open blog.
  • Spend 1 hour a week partnering with MVPs and others to bring new information to community.
  • Write 6 articles for the TechNet Wiki per month. Use your blog, Twitter and other social media accounts to share links to your efforts (and request feedback and updates)!
  • Curate a survival guide, getting started guide, or other resource link-oriented article by adding at least 2 commented links to 5 different articles.
  • Moderate a group of articles, tracking revisions and keeping them up to date. Add new content, delete inappropriate content, reach out to contributors, and point community to the content.

Join community governing councils, advisory boards, and other bodies -- or create one!

Make a difference in the community by shepherding planning and feature discussions, managing rules and codes of conduct, organizing grass roots efforts, acting as an ambassador or serving where needed.

Be a change agent. Here is how:

  • Join the TechNet Wiki Advisory Council. Allocate six hours a month to participate

Get to know the MVPs and other community influentials for your areas of interest

Microsoft Most Valued Professionals are already well-known community participants and Microsoft technology supporters. Many MVPs and other influentials are community activists, providing help, guidance, unique program extensions and new applications, and scenario-based information based on real-world experience online and in person at community and industry events.

Reach out using the following activities:

  • Find the MVPs that represent your key products. You can find them on the MVP site and through different profile systems (for example, on the TechNet Wiki and Microsoft Forums).
  • Reach out to one MVP per month through social media channels (or their blog or primary web site). Break the ice by commenting on a blog post or adding great content to an article they published on the TechNet Wiki.
  • Collaborate on an article, script or code project.

Support students and other future influentials

Spend time providing content and support to those learning technology and joining technical communities. Community is valuable because it is diverse; without it, community and the information it provides will not evolve. Students represent the future of technology and will shape information for the next few decades.

Here are some actions you can take:

  • Students, identify 5 topic ideas, focus areas, or information gaps for technologies you follow or for the community experience all-up. For example, are there missing deployment scenarios or is a hosted community not well represented by students? Take action!
  • Invite future influentials onto governing boards and committees as equal members.
  • Collaborate with students and academics to provide 3 articles specifically for college classrooms or other academic uses. You might use PHP to demonstrate SQL techniques using SQL Server or make a short video of a Azure web application deployment.

Spread the word

Are you a seasoned contributor? An active participant? An enthusiastic first-timer? Help grow and sustain community by encouraging your friends and colleagues to join, listen and participate!

The activities below can help expand the reach (and impact) of community:

  • Help three of your colleagues join community -- forums, wiki, Facebook, Twitter, local user groups or wherever community meets.
  • Encourage your social networks to contribute one update to the TechNet Wiki, one answer in the forums and three micro-blog messages pointing to great technical content in community.
  • Provide feedback about your community experiences to the companies you work with (including Microsoft).

See Also

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  • Carsten Siemens edited Revision 29. Comment: Fixed misspellings and added tag: has TOC

  • Zoltán Horváth edited Revision 28. Comment: adding some space after TOC, correcting typo

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  • Ed Price - MSFT edited Revision 22. Comment: Added Spanish

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 16. Comment: draft done; needs references/pointers; might need an overview/introduction section

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 15. Comment: I had rolled over previous contributions; this should have all content properly merged

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 13. Comment: update format, added some content back in

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  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 1. Comment: Microsoft section content is in

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 3. Comment: text in other sections, ready for sharing (BUT NOT COMPLETE)

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 7. Comment: tweaked title

  • Excellent explanation!!!!

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 8. Comment: reformat, part 1

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 13. Comment: update format, added some content back in

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 15. Comment: I had rolled over previous contributions; this should have all content properly merged

  • Eric Battalio edited Revision 16. Comment: draft done; needs references/pointers; might need an overview/introduction section

  • Ed Price - MSFT edited Revision 22. Comment: Added Spanish

  • Horizon_Net edited Revision 25. Comment: added language tag in title

  • Zoltán Horváth edited Revision 28. Comment: adding some space after TOC, correcting typo

  • Carsten Siemens edited Revision 29. Comment: Fixed misspellings and added tag: has TOC

  • Carsten Siemens edited Revision 30. Comment: Fixed misspelling

  • Ed Price - MSFT edited Revision 31. Comment: Added See Also

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