CCW #12 – The Dark Forest Theory

Why the interest is like a dark forest and the rise of community

CCW is a newsletter about building and growing communities, featuring collected tweets, posts and thoughts from various community leaders.


❓ Question of the Week

What is your community onboarding process? What can new members expect to receive once they join your community?

Reply with your thoughts on the QotW for a chance to be featured in next weeks email!

Last week's question was "New Year, New Community. What are your biggest plans and goals for your community in 2020?"

9 of you replied and our favorite response was from Chris Detzel, Community Manager at Imperva.

His company's community just went live in October and he has big plans for new year, including: "Adding new customers to the community, building a robust content strategy that helps our customers get product questions answered quickly, build a engagement strategy that includes badges, customer spotlights, 30-60-90 day automated emails and more."

Feel free to reply directly to this email, or join our Slack community (linked at the bottom of the email) to chat with us and other community builders.


🌳 The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet

It’s been a fun year publishing Community Chat Weekly. We appreciate you subscribing, submitting Tweets, answering our questions of the week, and sinking your teeth into our weekly community content. To kick off the new year, we're diving into an important trend that is shaping the internet!

Yancey Strickler, the Founder of Kickstarter often talks about how the internet is becoming a dark forest. In the early days of the internet, you could find a forum or chat room for virtually any hobby, interest or profession – from software development to Lego building. Then the social media giants redefined the internet landscape – grouping users, publishers, content creators and everything in between into single collective pools, blurring and removing the boundaries that used to define niche communities.

But now, social communication on the internet is going back to it's roots and is experiencing a fundamental re-fragmentation. According to Strickler:

"In response to the ads, the tracking, the trolling, the hype, and other  predatory behaviors of social media, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream."

Further fueled by lower barriers to content creation, the internet is experiencing an explosion in mediums such as blogging, podcasting and newsletter writing. The dark forest trend is also accelerating the launch and growth of new communities. In fact, some would say that community is the epitome of "away from the mainstream."

Community offers a safe retreat to closed spaces such as private chats, groups, and forums – and community builders and community leaders are at the forefront of this new internet paradigm. Say goodbye to the algorithm driven feedback loops in traditional social media, community is shifting power away from the machines and back into the hands of human community managers and content curators.

The Community Chat team is excited to host our own little 'dark corner' of the internet, while also providing a platform for this new wave of internet leadership. And in the spirit of helping community managers everywhere, in 2020 we'll launching a curated resource library and community knowledge base, as well as interviewing community managers about their community building journeys.

If you'd like to have your story featured, or have ideas you'd like to contribute, reply to this email and let us know!


🐦 Tweets

Simple yet powerful advice for structuring forums, and chat-channel based communities like Slack.

Is your community paid or free to join? This Tweet thread discusses the trade-offs, as well as tactics for solving the 'cold start problem' of charging for community access when you have no members.

Passion is what gets a community builder through the tough days.

From our friends over at CMX – Know a community professional or a great community? Nominate them!


📝 Blog Posts

A handful of recommended readings from the past week.

Can Community Darling Meetup Survive WeWork? (2 minute read)

One lingering question after WeWork's sudden fall from grace is what do with it's subsidiary Meetup.com. After a failed attempt to monetize by charging event attendees, the dominant in-person community platform is looking for a new home – can it's CEO find the right buyer?

Section 230 Could Threaten the Very Existence of Online Community (3 min read)

Transcript quotes from the most recent Podcast episode Community Signal. Section 230 is a US law that grants companies and community operators broad immunity from civil disputes over the content that users publish on their platforms. As legislative talk heats up about repealing parts of this law, there is much discussion around the implications for community managers and the burden of moderation.


💬 Join the Community!

Did you know that Community Chat is more than just a newsletter? We have two communities, one on Discord and one on Slack, where community leaders and builders connect with each other and share tips and tricks.

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Have a suggestion for a piece of content we should include next week? Email us and let us know!