Types of community & their characteristics

Hi everyone .


This is my first topic in meta.
I’m a tl3 in another discourse forum that has 11TL4s nine of whom have given and received no likes, most of whom have written no posts visited no topics have zero days seen and even if they have some no day recently… The folk within The forum at tl 3- is 49 people and I’m not sure how to tell how many people have TL2 and 1 but 800 people have received welcome badge and somewhere the admin claims there were 29,000 registered users - I think I see that stat on the all-time users display page

Please excuse typos! I dictate posts (gboard) cuz I’ve only got one working hand and I’m using the mobile phone and life’s too short and too hard to type one-handed on a touch sensitive device!

I saw a post somewhere on here that distinguished a community as either: ‘a first or second line technical support forum’ or ‘a community of interest or practise’. I’m not really interested in either but I might be closer to being interested in a COP COI

I’m interested in a mutual peer support community where the binding force between the participants is an amalgam of a need for companionship, sharing, empathy, and a willingness to spend time providing that for others.

Once upon a time I was a prolific contributor to projects and program management portfolio management benefits blah blah with in LinkedIn’s ecosystem. I got tired of their algorithms making the feed churn the same shallow brainless combative arguments about agile vs waterfall which isn’t even a valid comparison plus I had a dramatic health change. I now inhabit a different forum. I’ve also had experience curating a mighty networks based forum, and I think LinkedIn has the same problems as Facebook and I think discord has its own idiosyncrasies!

At least communities on discord are often focused on something like dungeons and dragons where there is stickiness within the community, some camaraderie and shared interest.

question / discussion topic

So the discussion that interests me I think starts with what sociological entities exist that would find discourse a useful platform for building a community in? Or in fact do the facilities in discourse make a fertile germination ground for the creation of communities that haven’t previously existed

Then what would the essentials for community and possibly the differences in the curation and maintenance of those different community types?

At least one of the questions in my mind is what is the user journey? My thoughts are it’s finding the community joining the community accepting the community and being accepted growing in stature whatever that means maturing as a member of the community whatever that means and eventually departure from the community and the communities grieving or not as a result.

I’m of a mind that a DAO that implements reputational or kudos tokens is a model that could be usefully integrated into a platform like discourse. It extends the badges concept

Then questions that apply are is that framework: correct, useful, the only one, etc?..

Then as curator or creator of community how do you transition people through the journey what facilities help etc. I think there are a few secret sauces for success and a few poisonous memes that can prevent cohesion and sustainment

I see discourses mechanisms for badges and for privileges/ available facilities /restrictions on capability based on trust levels as part of that those mechanisms - is this a topic that’s already been discussed and exhausted if so can anybody point me to some topics that I can read through otherwise or as well or instead will anybody like to reply with some thought-provoking avenues to be explored around the topic of it society/sociological finding binding .

Some thoughts from a couple of years back in my journey are contained in Digitally Enabled Chronic Care Community Networks: beyond '1hr Fortnightly zoom Cafés' Which opens on LinkedIn - sorry about that! :frowning:


Very interesting post! We started building COI/COP in 1999 - so much change and so little in many ways. We are asking the same kind of questions at ethosvo.org now as we embark on another community building projects. In some ways it is back to the what comes first a chicken or the egg question. Does a body of interest/practice exist that brings people together in some ways (football match, dungeons and dragons or a Git repo, or extinction rebellion event). Tech can facilitate, enable and to a certain extent drive our behaviour. You mentioned the filter bubble in LI and FB - I think we all are tired of those platforms that serve us up with rubbish click-bait. I also think that DAO projects will get more primetime - but there are significant barriers to entry. For example I have tried to use theHive DAO - which is great but there are barriers. So meanwhile FB/LI/Discord get millions of users and many of the other platforms are niche and have barriers. I am new to discourse and was excited to see some of it’s functions / metric. Then again I saw that “threaded” was a new feature and so thought OMG really. Perhaps Slack is the way to go in certain cicumstances. Then again like all these things - their new owners will have other ideas on what to do with all those juicy users. What are your thoughts about mastason?


@JammyDodger thanks very much for the edit :slight_smile:

I have a question for you in that context: are the phrases " thank you " and “You’re welcome” necessary?

If so why so?
If not why not?

I’ll leave your edit in place so that our shared reality represents both our contributions. If I’d reverted the delta what emotional response would that have evoked. Does leaving it create a different emotional response. is there an implied message either way.

What are the nuances of remote asynchronous digitally enabled community that are present, absent, yet to be invented, anachronisms, elements of style, expressions of personality,…


Hi Robert
Likewise, a thought provoking a reply .

I do find conversation as a mechanism interesting. The perspective I’m thinking of at the moment is that my post and your reply give us some divergence in themes. Hopefully we’ll kick them about and we’ll have some convergence later .

I went off and had a look at ethos. Lots more to look at if I’m to get to the bottom of things but my shallow skim suggested we have toyed with similar questions.
Because agreement has less likely hood of exposing new perspectives ill kick a couple of thoughts off.
One is the hierarchical organisations have stood the test of time because they are very suited to human society, probably that relates in some fashion to brain structure or brain default processes. Secondly that the use of hierarchical structures is too widespread hence mismatches in some uses . However one should not throw the baby out with the bathwater :slight_smile:

Further the pursuit of profit is a proxy for planet and people. Again the need is contextualized balance.
the loss of focus that the three are terms in an equation leads to dysfunction. Where we are is a result of the trajectory that had velocity, momentum & direction developed in the past, to be subject to gravitational pulls in the present to go into the future, has - at least in some quarters - broken the link between people planet and profit as a triumvirate. In history humanity was not capable of significant enough impacts, now it’s impacts are significant the reestablishing of the bonds between the three terms in the equation needs to be brought to the front
thankfully things like TCP/IP and all the protocols on top of it (including blockchain thus DAO) which I guess are rapidly moving towards machine to machine communication provide mechanisms to do that explicit although possibly (indisputably) complex definitely complicated relinking

So that opens up the question “When does society comprise silicone-based algorithms as well as carbon-based emotions?” There are already papers on mixed robotic human teams. Actor network theory already recognises that an agent is any decision making mechanism whether virus human mechanical electronic etc

Ok I’ll stop there that all came from the fact that you put the link in.
everything you said in addition could give rise to equally divergent explorations!

On Mastodon I have little perspective. Twitter is dead, I find that hashtags I would use now contain porn. I heard that Twitter was renamed X? I think mastorDon with its server architecture gives decisions at sign up that one has no context to make and that becomes a barrier so I don’t think it will be the solution for any but the cognasentii which is a fraction of the potential user base

I also noticed that discourse as a platform has been kind enough to list some log entries and not sure where to find the blog It's not a category Is it a tag and the top two are about community One claims there are six types so I've got some reading to do there which will enrich my understanding :-)
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Wow @51mon lots to unpack in your reply! One can spot gaps or similarities. At the end of the day alignment is perhaps an interesting behavioral concept at the heart of COP/COI building. I think that’s what you were referring to when you spoke of kicking something around in order to converge later. I 100% agree with that - alignment already.

For example, If you like sewing and I like football we may not agree on the starting points of a COI around (say) football. And are we talking about soccer or football, whilst we are at it.

I tend to find alignment a good starting place. Not to become on-size-fits-all but to tease out those points of difference and those of similarity. What do we really agree on that matters? What may fundamentally drive us apart over time?

If I apply this to my post, your response and your look at the EthosVO.org website - two really important things stand out to me. “The pursuit of profit is a proxy for planet and people”. I think that really needs to be carefully unpick. Especially if profit is substituted with the words “self-interest” whether individually or organisationally. It is the subject of our COI/COP. The flip side of that statement would be “how can we moderate our self-interests to ensure sustainability and social justice”. Nothing wrong with the pursuit of profit but to the extent that the profit model is extractive, explotative or create social-injustices, we need to take care.

Second on hierarchy - nothing wrong with that per-se. Again if we need to get something done, whether a software project or a new building, we need a team and teams need leaders or in the case of agile, product managers. However we can also see work as communities of practice and interest. We can see work as peer-to-peer. Open source as per Github and so on. As always there is no right or wrong but seeking alignment, understanding gaps, moderating, collaborating - these are all things we need more of. Seasoned community moderators are well seasoned at this I would think?

Would welcome your thoughts.


Well there was a hell of a lot to unpack in your first post. there’s a lot in the reply too.too many possible themes to explore them all :slight_smile:

I think we have alignment or similarity of concern when we talk about people planet profit. You Use the word extractive, if I substitute it for destructive or unsustainable then I agree. I’m always mindful that for example the oil companies have very strong health safety and environment cultures. I’ve no doubt that there are some in those companies who are focused on it simplistically. I also think the boards of those companies see a strong HSE performance as being prerequisite to being allowed into areas like Antarctica, or maintaining customer / brand acceptance because the product is one of the most substitutable on earth who others about the brand of petrol / gas that one puts in the tank.

So if your wasteful with the planet you might make a profit today but you won’t wait make one tomorrow. this is the territory of Kaplan and Norton - balance score card - but over generations - which hasn’t been necessary until perhaps the 20th century and wasn’t a set of concerns that had a practical response until perhaps the beginning of this century. Likewise the hierarchical organisation is absolutely right for production operations and probably absolutely wrong for design and research etc etc

The need is not for a rule but for a meta rule about the decision about which rules apply!

I’m not going anywhere near the question of agile It’s so full of garbage and baggage, relabeling of well-known paradigms, ignorant dismissal of tried and tested techniques and other sorts of ‘scent marking’ to create religion for the agile industrial complex to make profit out of being esoteric in the correct use of the word. It’s a wonderful extension when properly understood and merged to traditional paradigms that together are perhaps 60% of what we need.

Where I will go with it is it’s a marvellous example of one form of community - The invention of vocabulary makes comprehension something that you have to be one of the cognizante to participate in it creates identity, belonging. I think that’s a mechanism that discourse as well captured with badges.
agile has been a religion with zealots who are rude and intolerant of those who are not cognizantii. Likewise army cadets are trained in squads with a sergeant major who shouts at them and becomes the enemy because forming a cohesive community it’s easier when you give them a common enemy - that may play directly to survival instincts that are inbred into our species from perhaps 10 million or more years ago.

In general I think the formation of digitally enabled communities should not be based on a common negative. I also think all the definitions I’ve seen on this platform are what community is are written from the perspective of technicians, software developers, of which I was one for a couple of decades a couple of decades ago. I’m not now. The extra 20 years has led me to think that the definitions lack a whole perspective. I’ll start a thread on it at some point or post a comment to the other threads.

It was probably more divergence to throw up and kick about. They’ll then be enough themes to be convergent over. My suspicion is that converging will include themes of recognising individual rights and values and contributions and rewarding them equitably in whatever currency is relevant to the individual. Also recognising societies of sociological entities have identities that is some amalgam of the individual not an average not typical but representative.

Then I think that we have the mechanism for defining community types, then I think we have the lens for identifying the qualities that must be supported in the dialogues that those communities support .

I wonder if community actually means willingness to share a dialogue?

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What a great post! Perhaps a little harsh on the agile folk. We are mostly harmless! Even those of us who grew up with great waterfalls, gantt charts and who came across equivalent religious types who worshiped early version of M$Project :wink: We are perhaps now way off topic but I would love for you to unpick a little more about what some of those principles you refer to towards the end when you say:

My suspicion is that converging will include themes of recognising individual rights and values and contributions and rewarding them equitably in whatever currency is relevant to the individual. Also recognising societies of sociological entities have identities that is some amalgam of the individual not an average not typical but representative.

Then I think that we have the mechanism for defining community types, then I think we have the lens for identifying the qualities that must be supported in the dialogues that those communities support .

In thinking about “community types” I have been thinking of being quite passionate about creating a community whose baseline is a set of values people can agree on (values not community guidelines). Social Justice and sustainability are two that come to mind in a paper I am drafting. So if we could agree on what we mean by those terms we would have less violence and more ability to build long-lasting relationships than if we just came together because we liked football. I may like football as a means to engage in random acts of violence. You may come to matches for different reasons! Carrying out some form of whoami in terms of an individuals back story might help also in terms of community cohesion. We used to do much more of an “introduce yourself” in times gone by!

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I’m having a difficult time fully understanding your posts in this topic, but I find the question I quoted above really interesting. Especially the part about whether Discourse could be used to create types of communities that have never existed.

My understanding is that Discourse provides a tool kit for creating online discussion communities. That is even implied by the name of the company that develops the software: CDCK (Civilized Discourse Construction Kit.)

As long as you are willing to work within the limitations imposed by the software, it should be possible to create new types of communities with Discourse. I find myself suggesting this from time to time. Recent examples include:

I’m sure others can come up with better, more viable ideas. The biggest difficulty I see with creating a new type of community is getting beyond the idea stage and actually executing the idea. Possibly a new type of community could be developed to help with that issue.

In practice, I’ve seen Discourse successfully used by educational institutions, non-profit organizations, professional associations, open source projects, academic research groups…

Somewhat related, who would ever thought this idea would get off the ground:

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Hello Simon ,
(Great name :smile: )

You give no clue as to where you’re difficult(s) lie, and you say “in this topic”.
Thus I start with two confusions/ thoughts: this seemed the most appropriate category on meta for the topic I’m trying to explore, the topic I’m trying to explore is what I believe the “community explorer” ‘wheel segment’ labelled “community” could would or should contain (life cycle={creation curation sustainment termination}, qualities={ culture character vibrancy),… )?

I hadn’t so far tripped over the name of the company that provides the software. The fact that it’s first word says “civilised” gives me great pause for thought. That will have to be hived off to a separate topic.

Next: no I’m not "prepared to work within the restrictions of the software” I rather see the software as a stepping stone on the path to the evolution of a future, not of having arrived at that future. So I’m in the mode of identifying & examining the restrictions and proposing which ones need to be morphed to facilitate desirable evolution of any of the myriad contexts that can be imagined

Within the whole melee of possible communities the one I most closely identify at the moment are ones with medical needs - see

And here one of the shortcomings of this (and many other) software is it is not of a grade that would be recognised as suitable for patient information. An avenue down which lives a whole paradigm shift in the delivery of care in chronic conditions. Another is there is no data interchange standard formulated (yet)
The above heralds a change in the landscape equivalent to what the introduction of mobile phones was to the sale of almost all leisure products in any class (all marketplaces have seen impact on their growth or have even shrunk as disposable income shifted towards handheld devices and the purchase of services run on them) or a shift equivalent to what the invention of refrigeration and railway was to the ownership of cows and the whole of the now extant dairy farming industry

I’m racking up things on the reading (& writing thoughts) back log but your papers linked above I’ve just been added. I’m not sure whether my stack operates as a lifo, FIFO or filo! There’s too much serendipity :slight_smile:
I have heard Jim Ruff talk about future systems of democracy. And I definitely think of the press while in shining important roles through freedom is a more significant driver of poisonous memes

I agree your identification of difficulty but not your attribution of “biggest difficult”, I don’t say you’re wrong I just don’t know. I did see a really really interesting YouTube within the last couple of weeks that sets Malcolm gladwell’s tipping point arguments aside and gives a new explanation for how an idea reaches critical mass; that is it spreads in the periphery of a landscape through multiple concurrent germinations and eventually overwhelms the central highly connected influencers influencences (as anchors) on the late adopters and laggards

Interesting that somebody is now charging 40 bucks for accountability through zoom. oodles of stuff to explore in that one - but If you read my LinkedIn article above (the bitly link) you’ll see that a very significant motivator is peer accountability for engaging in boringly repetitious physiotherapy because the link between action in the moment and goal at the end of the journey is intellectually compelling but visceral motivationally ‘urgency’ lacking in the moment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and increasing the range of diversity of ‘components on the table’. At some point we will have enough to start seeing convergence, emergent threads from which it will be possible to draw conclusions - this will be the resolution of complexity to meare complicatedness and then in the future to simplicity

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The difficulty may be that my level of reading comprehension is somewhat limited. If we were speaking in person, I’d stop you from time to time to make sure that I was correctly understanding what you were saying.

Yes, this is the correct category for this type of discussion.

I think I’m following this correctly, but could you try rephrasing it?

Ignore the word “civilised” and focus on “discourse construction kit.” The world has changed somewhat since the early 2010s. “Civilized” may now be a loaded term for some people. Maybe “civil” would be a less loaded word. The essential idea as I understand it is that Discourse is intended to be a tool kit for facilitating online discussions. I also think the community aspect of Discourse has been significantly prioritized since it was first launched.

You should have a look at the sites listed here: https://www.bensfriends.org/community-list/. They are all using Discourse.

I believe that is a common issue with healthcare related forums. I’ve seen issues related to HIPAA compliance come up a few times. I assume other jurisdictions have similar regulations. It might be worth getting in touch with someone from the Ben’s Friends sites to see if they have any ideas about that.

Well it’s my biggest difficulty. Generating ideas is easy. Executing them hard.

I thought of that service as more related to the exchange of attention than about accountability. What interests me is that someone has turned such a strange idea into a viable business.

You might be interested in looking into Discourse’s support for screen readers: Discourse with a screen reader.


Hi Robert
No harshness intended for the majority. But the aic & the zealots who propagate an us and them division deserve to be analysed.
There is no doubt that the agile movement prospered in the early years by virtue of having those characteristics which ultimately proved to be one of the barriers to wider and faster more pervasive adoption and thus is properly material for discussion within the context of establishing sustainable community.
They are also the Drawbacks that allowed existing power centres like the PMI to subsume much of the uniqueness into its offerings. the worlds churches pioneered the discovery of the same memes but they have about two and a half to 3,000 years history in observing and moulding social organisation on their side

Maybe there’s an irony that this forum is called meta because I think that your recipe for community needs another level of indirection. Conflict and competition is a necessary prerequisite for evolution. Your (maybe) proposing a set of values that engineer it out. So maybe you’re architecting a culture that is non-self sustaining?
For example there is an arguement that says operating system design is enhanced by the presence of viruses and mal-actors. So if you proposed a process by which we choose the values that we embody I would agree with you but when you say we have a process to pick a set of values by which we have reduced conflict I can’t agree that that conclusion about conflict is desirable in anything but the short term .

There is another dimension to this. In any population there is only a minority perhaps those above the 95th percentile who are interested in the governance questions. The rest want concept and principle turned into concrete instructions and rely on the equivalence of a judiciary to resolve the contradictions between concurrent valid interpretations

We have an example of that in this forum. It turns out the FAQ that says you don’t need to sign your posts is actually enforced by admin as a “we will flag and remove posts that are signed”. I think the principal, I am guessing, was that there isn’t a technical need. I suggest there is a stylistic choice that should be the freedom of the individual to make not the fiat edict from on high that is judged as an absolute. The absolute has been described as an ‘etiquette’ - arguably wrong because it’s not customary but mandated!. Personally I don’t yet hold out much hope that there are ears to listen to and then evaluate the arguement. I could be wrong I don’t know yet.

The subject of code of conduct and psychological safety which is a misnomer and should be expressed as the sociology of community is a dimension of this whole topic - I previously explored one aspect of it in this YouTube of a presentation to a PMO conference.

My personal choice, as well as an etiquette (sic) established certainly for all my life and way before in written material is that one signals the intended end of a communication via conventions which are de-facto outlawed here but that localised imperative is not highlighted as being different from the general case. C’est la vie! Which is probably a phrase because of the difficulties involved in all people knowing all the exceptions at all times!!

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Hi Simon

In reverse order…

Discourse with a screen reader was interesting from the perspective of additions that are being made to the delivery of service. But not an augmentation that I have a personal need for.

HIPPA compliance equivalents are needed in every jurisdiction. The first world has defined all sorts of standards and the second and third world have adopted /adapted them for their own usage so something is needed everywhere. In fact we’re in a funny situation where things like date protection acts and GDPR are not understood by the public and used by corporations and institutions as an excuse for not doing anything they don’t want to. They’ve become a new bogey man. People are doing quite benign things which are technically illegal and they’re not doing things that would be very useful out of fear but they might be illegal.

Soon a gathering of experiential data in the sort of chronic care communities are I’m interested in will have the potential to link known but not correlated useful interventions but none of the data will have been gathered with that as a defined usage and so that genuinely useful usage will be technically illegal - perhaps practicality will intervene and people will ignore that dichotomy or contribution
The sudden outbreak of a rash of common sense nah!

Ben’s friends - omg!
Are they responsive? I think I will write to rose and CC Ben - what a board of directors!! did you read my LinkedIn article? I’m talking to a number of people in the UK about the extension of community through digital means, the integration with therapists, with therapy products that combine AI and robotics etc ben friends could be a relevant interchange. Their community on Central pain is a link I’ve already shared with friends in the stroke community !! :slight_smile:

Civil as a term to imply compliant to a selected set of social norms I can fully embrace. Civilised I wasn’t happy with because for example the global oil industry is civilised Christianity and Islamism are both civilised and also a major source of war-mongering, institutionalised inequity etc - it’s irrelevant diversion but are you aware of the doctrine of discovery h a mediaeval right conferred by the pope on explorers to enslave free communities around the world in the name of being civilised!?


(And @robertpye this may expand the " value in a relevant currency for an individual stakeholder” point above .

Let’s try this: imagine a future history “I read the stats on a global network of servers that show a vibrant community of folk who are enjoying sharing value”

Now back casting - what of all the necessary prerequisites that were required to get to that? First of all was all the technical infrastructure, global network, servers, software, metrics gathering &metrics definition, metrics completion etc etc also there’s all the challenge in defining / knowing what vibrancy is cross something as diverse as a community, what value is in all its diversity and enjoyment is etc. there’s explicit need to recognise that different people in the community interact in different ways and value different things.

For example a community I’m in the biggest topics are " name a,… EG geographical location - that starts with the next letter in the alphabet". As far as I’m concerned there are complete waste time. I’m much more interested in topics like “what upper limb rehab techniques have you found effective” but I recognise that both threads are needed to maintain the interest of the body of people that makes a vibrant community in total.

The two paragraphs above illustrate for me at least characteristics of life cycle of a society and of its members membership and the qualities that need to be demonstrated or present

if I haven’t got to clarity for you yet ask again and I will have another attempt

And finally yes comprehension through reading is incredibly difficult!


I was thinking it might provide some means of hands free navigation, but I think the focus has been on keyboard navigation for users using screen readers. That said, a modified keyboard that allowed you to click your keyboard’s modifier keys with a foot switch, combined with Discourse’s keyboard navigation might it easier to use the application with one hand.

Yeah, there are potentially a couple of levels to this. For example, if a hosting provider is used to serve your forum, they will also need to be HIPAA compliant. I’m not sure if that’s even possible. Maybe encrypting all medical data on the forum would be a potential way to comply. There’s a potential Discourse solution for that here: Discourse Encrypt (for Private Messages).

Regulations that end up promoting the opposite of their stated purpose is a bit of a personal pet peeve. That’s getting off topic though. In some cases accepting the risk of ignoring the regulation is a reasonable approach. Otherwise you’ve got to find a way to work with it.

Yes, I believe they are. That sounds like a good approach.

Yes, I read it closely enough to determine that you’ve identified a real problem that Discourse could potentially help to solve. In some ways I think you’d get better traction on this topic if you edited the link to your article into the topic’s first post. You might even want to start another topic specific to the article, asking for suggestions about how Discourse could be used to create chronic care networks.

Only related to the final section of your post, I’m still not sure I’m quite following it. Sticking with Discourse (because that’s what I know), it would definitely be possible to display statistics for a network of sites that demonstrate whether or not people are getting value from the sites. It would be up to you to determine what metrics should be used to demonstrate value.

The tools that are available for this are the Discourse API, the Data Explorer plugin, and potentially Discourse AI.