I’ve mentioned before that I co-moderate a LinkedIn Group and participate in several others.  I’ve also questioned the value of such groups.

Ask, And You Probably Won’t Receive

This week, a someone in one of the groups I’m part of posted a question.  To avoid embarrassment, I’ll disguise the question, but it went along the lines of:

I am creating a template for Project Status Reporting.  It needs to work for all IT projects and programs.  I’m looking for suggestions about parameters to choose, ways to quantify Business benefits in cost terms, and ways to track value.

Please share your experience and/or any templates.

Give, And You Will Surely Get!

I watched the post for a few days, expecting no response – which is exactly what happened!  Eventually, I sent a private message along the following lines:

I doubt your request will generate anything useful.  There is a protocol to getting the most out of groups such as ours.  I might summarize it as follows:

  1. Get to know and be known by the group – become a contributor, not just someone who is ‘taking’ ideas.
  2. Go through all the posts so far – you will find a great deal of discussion on the topic you are inquiring about – show that you’ve taken the time to understand what the group has already shared on the topic.
  3. Don’t just ask – give.  For example, if you had gone through all the posts on this topic, you could summarize those for the group – say, “This is what I’ve found so far, please help me add to this body of knowledge…”
  4. Offer something in return – “Once I’ve collected all the information, I will make it available by…”

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

There’s nothing new here. These ideas were explored in depth in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric S. Raymond’s seminal paper analyzing how and why the open source movement works so well.  Eric wrote about the culture of the communities and forums and the importance of ‘hanging out’ long enough to learn the ‘unofficial’ protocols of participation before you can be accepted as a credible member of the community.

Graphic courtesy of Linked Training

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