Books on community building

In the post explaining “What do user trust levels do?@codinghorror references the book ‘Communtiy building on the web’.

I just started reading it and found it very useful on a meta level. Sadly the examples used are grosly outdated as the book is from 2000. (geocities is used as a prima example of how a thriving community works :smiley: )

One nice other book I found myself is

The Art of Community Building by Jono Bacon

So I was wondering which books people like and found useful to learn the art of online community building.


Richard Millington’s “Buzzing Communities” is hugely recommended :slightly_smiling:


Highly recommended. Includes plenty of references to go deeper on the topic.


Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” and “Cognitive Surplus” are both great reads (and are best read in that order). They’re primarily about self-forming communities, but that’s really a key ingredient to any community; some are just helped along more than others.


@alefattorini mentioned one of my favorite books on the subject; consider this an extra :+1: for Buzzing Communities. @HAWK helps helm the companion community, Feverbee.

The following two personal suggestions (and favorites) are considered “dry” reading.

That, for someone like me, means “really insightful text requiring tenacity of the subject to digest in a gleeful hyperfocus”.

If you are into community management, these two books are engaging, no matter the diction.

Design To Thrive focuses on creating community culture. Cultivating Communities of Practice may entice intranet communities for corporations and those communities built around a subject with a lot of valuable user-driven information lasting beyond the community itself.

And, while this next suggestion and personal favorite is not a book on the subject of community management, it is highly relevant as a logical tangent.

How to manage yourself among a lot of users and staff.

It focuses on three general options when it comes to someone in your life you feel you can “do without” (air quotes). Choose one.

  1. Attempt to change the someone.
  2. :dealwithit:
  3. Place the someone out of your life, or at least knock them down the lower digits (ie, away from single digits) on your life’s priority list.

This is a very general summary that only teases by a glimmer to the wealth of personal and highly self-empowering info contained in the book.

Also, how to possibly understand situations involving “problem” users. Replace “you”: People can’t drive your community crazy if your community doesn’t give them the keys.


Thanks for the book recommendations.


There’s a single author I always come back to: Howard Rheingold.

His book The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier was published in 1993. Don’t let that stop you from reading it!

He wrote extensively about technology and online communities. I’ll recommend two articles:


Another interesting book on the topic. It has an updated guide to the approach.


Not really a book, but the presentation of Joel was pretty nice:


This presentation references Clay Shirky’s A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy.
@codinghorror used this title to blog about Kuro5hin and the importance of moderation 11 years ago.


I just looked at Amazon’s “online communities” search results, then found this thread on Meta and realised people read books about community building :upside_down_face:

I do believe real practice will work as a good book: by doing before even reading you gain subtle knowledge that you cannot describe in words. Sometimes you just know you should do this and that and it will work.

Still, I’m a big fun of books and wanted to say thank you to everyone who posted their recommendations here.

I’d like to also recommend reading the Discourse use-case blog post series and moving from Facebook to Discource. Even though these are mostly marketing material, there are plenty of interesting things and ideas to take out of the articles.

There are also online communities where people mostly share their experience in building, well, online communities (e.g. FeverBee). As well as the whole #community category here at Meta. Not sure why but intuitively I always believed that reading about real people’s experience and failures will teach you a lot and is more diverse than reading about online communities in books. Now, since this thread is quite old, and there are some people who read one or more books, one thing I wanted to ask you is to share your feedback: did the books turn out to be useful in practice for your work on community building? Asking for something aka post-mortem re reading those books.


Managing Online Forums: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards by [Patrick O’Kee].

Other than the technical bits, i think the book will help us newbies learn how to manage our platforms without feeling like our heads are about to burst.