FoundationsOfFeedback

From The Art Of Community by O'Reilly (http://www.artofcommunityonline.org) by Jono Bacon

The Foundations of Feedback

There are lots of easy ways to measure communities—the number of members on a forum, the number of contributions to a shared project, and so forth—but it’s not so easy to find meaningful measurements. We want our measurements to feed into our interpretations of what we’re doing and to trigger changes that can further improve our work. Unfortunately, many community leaders obsess a little too much with the act of gathering information as opposed to gathering meaningful information. The goal here is not to construct an enormous vacuum cleaner to suck every tiny detail of your community into a graph. The goal is instead to identify what we don’t know about our community and to use measurements as a means to understand those things better.

Measurements without meaning are simply annoying. Randomly sucking in statistics is intensely time consuming—not only for you, but also for the people who provide you with the input. Most of us reading this book will be building volunteer communities in which time is a precious substance. Don’t waste it. Each time you engage with your contributors to gather feedback, there is an unwritten yet implicit social contract: as a result of the feedback they expect change—hopefully positive change. When positive change does not happen, frustration sets in. If your measurements have purpose and you are willing to make change based on those measurements, your community will be satisfied.

Defining Purpose

Earlier in this book we constructed our strategic plan, which included a vocabulary identifying the key features of our strategy. Let’s have a quick recap:

  • We first created a mission statement that outlined the broad aims of the community.
  • Based on this statement we produced a set of high-level objectives. These are the major achievements that together form our mission statement.
  • For each objective we have a set of goals. Each goal is a near-term outcome that we want to achieve. When we complete all the goals in an objective, we can consider the objective achieved.
  • For each goal we have a set of actions. When we complete all of the actions in a goal, we can consider the goal achieved.

As you can see, the different parts of the strategy are nested inside each other. They look something like this:

  • Mission Statement Objective
    • Goal
      • Actions
      • Actions
      • Actions
      Goal
      • Actions
      • Actions
    Objective
    • Goal
      • Actions
      • Actions

Our goals are the target of our feedback. They are what we want to measure. They are the purpose and the reason for our work throughout this chapter. Inside these goals we are going to build an extra feature into this hierarchy: hooks and data. These features will help us gather important feedback on how well we are achieving the goal. With a clear set of goals, each containing meaningful measurement facilities, we will be able to take a snapshot of the internals of our community that shows us how our strategic plan is proceeding. If the measurements show a lack of progress, we may have to alter actions, goals, or even objectives.

BuildingCommunity/FoundationsOfFeedback (last edited 2010-09-02 05:38:19 by itnet7)