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Transparency and DNA

Transparent: Easily seen through, recognised, understood, or detected; manifest, evident, obvious, clear.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

A healthy online community is self-aware and self-organising. Community members consider that they are the true owners of their community, and that the host is just offering server space and facilitating interactions1.


Ask First

Forcing plans or new organisational structures upon a community will only be met with resentment and antagonism unless the proposed changes are discussed with the members first. Transparency is therefore essential. If the Editors intend to change a structure or a rule, it's important that they spell out their precise intentions to the community first. They must answer the questions: 'What are we proposing to do?' and 'What do we hope to achieve?'

It's important for Editors to encourage discussion and debate amongst community members. They should enter the conversations and answer each question as it arises, and should listen to what people are saying and take their concerns seriously.

Once they've discussed the issues and worked out a scheme that is workable in the eyes of the community, they can go ahead and implement the changes. This may seem like a lot of unnecessary effort, but it really is more time effective for the Editors to discuss changes with the community beforehand, rather than to deal with the flak that they risk incurring if they implement a badly thought-out scheme.

Remember: the community belongs to the members, not to the Editors.


Tell the Truth

Being transparent means telling the truth. As in real life, lies are either detected immediately, or they come back to haunt you; inconsistencies in responses are gleefully pointed out by some of the more scrupulous community members.

If the Editors are asked a difficult question by a community member, then they should answer truthfully, even if the answer is 'I made a mistake'. If they give evasive or misleading answers then they won't be trusted. Building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect is essential if the Editors want the community to co-operate with their team.


1 One way to describe the relationship between the hosts and the community members is that it's similar to that between landlords and tenants. The landlord takes care of the building, but that doesn't entitle him to dictate or intervene in the lives of the people who live in his buildings.

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Article Data
Article ID: A787223 (Help Page)
Edited by:
Peta

Date: 15   July   2002

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