Building a User Community

It’s not an easy thing to get a community going and to be self-sustaining.  It takes very long term and dedicated effort to maintain the momentum.

Kathy Sierra has written a wonderful blog on building communities!  It’s chock full of fresh ideas for the SharePoint world.  In it is a link to Building User Communities Part 1 that is well worth the read.  She highlights the gaps in the community building process and how to resolve them.  What I really loved is the “there are no dumb answers” angle she has.

Before the self-professed experts have a fit at the “no dumb answers” thing, read the entire article.  There are many levels of expertise in SharePoint and many of the long term specialists are not are suited to community work.  So that leaves a gap in expertise.  Her approach is very empowering.

There are plenty of strong SharePoint community people around the world that can benefit from her thoughts and share them with their communities. And if you’re new to the SharePoint world and looking for ideas, it’s a great place to start. It’s something we’re going to leverage in SBW for sure.

Kathy Sierra - Building a User Community

– This image belongs to Kathy Sierra –




4 responses to “Building a User Community”

  1. Veronique Palmer Avatar

    Hi Tom,

    That’s why I said that not all people are suited to community work, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It breaks my heart too when I hear things like that. I’ve been on the receiving end of it my entire SharePoint career, so I know how it feels. Even now, there are literally 2 people that I would dare ask a technical question to because I know they won’t make me feel stupid. It’s very sad.

    It takes a very special person to be able to say the same thing over and over and over, and over again without losing patience. And that’s what the beginners need isn’t it. It’s not their fault the question’s been asked a 1000 times. That’s the job of trainers, mentors, community people – to be endlessly patient and supportive. (A new blog on this subject is in progress, watch this space).

    You’re lucky to have met Kathy. She has’t posted in a while, understandable after the abuse that was hurled at her. But I think she must quite the interesting person to talk to.

    Thanks for the lovely responses! Hope you’re having a great weekend!



  2. Tom Avatar

    And on a side note… Kathy’s Head First book concept rocks. I picked up Head First Java when it first came out, and it was the book and learning style I had looked for forever. I had some great interactions with her and O’Reilly (the publisher). I blogged about it on my main blog,, and O’Reilly would send me (literally!) cases of books to give out during conference sessions I’d speak at. I’m not sure if they remember anything I said, but they remember my props and the fact that they won a book that made a difference for them. 🙂


  3. Tom Avatar

    One of Kathy’s best articles (and there are many), and one I usually end up laughing about on a regular basis. For the last 15 years, I’ve been very active in the Lotus Notes/Domino world. Speaking, writing, answering questions, sharing with others, building stuff, etc. But for whatever reason, I never have thought of myself as “the expert” on any of it. I’m just willing to share what I know if it’ll help someone save time or avoid some pain I went through. I’ll also admit I found out I get a rush from being up on stage. 🙂

    Now that I’m starting the move into the SharePoint world, I’m relearning what it’s like to be a newbie and to ask dumb questions. It also reinforces the fact (as I’ve seen from some people who answer) that there are ways to make the questioner feel really stupid for asking, and it will shut them down from any further participation. I understand that if they spend all day trying to answer questions, it can get frustrating to answer the same stuff over and over, as well as feeling like people just want you to do it for them (giving them the fish) instead of learning it for themselves (teaching how to fish). But I think there’s also a small subset of people who simply want to show off how much they know, and they prefer to do it in a way that makes everyone aware of the huge gap that exists between their expertise and your obvious lack of knowledge.

    I don’t like those people. 🙂

    It makes my day when someone pings me to ask something, and it starts out with “I have a really dumb question, and I’m asking you because I know you won’t make fun of me…” I wish people didn’t feel that second part was necessary if they where to ask that question of anyone.


  4. […] It’s not an easy thing to get a community going and to be self-sustaining. It takes very long term and dedicated effort to maintain the momentum. Kathy Sierra has written a wonderful blog on building communities! It’s chock full of … Continue reading Read More… […]


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