Week 1 of #ODCB1: Office hours, Fireside chats and AMA sessions

My learnings from the community engagement rituals at On Deck Community Builder's cohort!
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Pramod Rao
June 21, 2021

We had a jam-packed Week 1 and I have barely been able to keep up with the tempo. There is so much to learn from the On Deck team on how to build a community. Week 1 was a mix of office hours, fireside chats, AMA sessions, small group dinners and 1:1 conversations.

Below is a summary or key notes from the sessions that I could catch-up on (I’ve missed a couple as well but hopefully should catch up with them later on).

Office Hours w/ Lais around Character Development

Illegible Notes That I Penned Down
  • Identity + Connectedness = Organic Growth
  • Values defines the decisions we take which leads to actions => Culture
  • Our role as a community builders is to create a space for people to resonate with each other. It is also our role to tell our story, why are we here, why should you be a part of the group, what do we stand for...
  • When thinking of your story, think about:
  • What is the external view of you (you = you/your brand/community)?
  • What characteristic contradicts that view?
  • What is the one flaw that makes you human?
  • What values do you stand for?

Fireside chat w/ Courtland Allen (Founder, Indie Hackers)

  • Self-taught coder, went to MIT, then got into YC. Decided to do his own thing after.
  • “If everybody is doing something, I’d rather do the opposite.”
  • Before Indie Hackers, had started six other companies. Today, Courtland still leads what might be one of the most successful cases of "community exits" in the world.
  • Internal dynamics of communities are often invisible to the people on the outside.
  • Was an indie hacker himself and not many were doing it, so went out to find his tribe online. Stories were scattered all around the internet but were not streamlined, did not have all the info. Gave birth to the idea of Indie Hackers as a place to share stories of other Indie Hackers.
  • Key insight: most asked question to indie hackers on Hacker News and other forums were how much revenue they were making, how did they get to $10k? etc. Focused on building Indie Hacker with rich stories and with revenues disclosed.
  • Mailed 180 people individually to share their stories and disclose their revenue numbers. Most rejected. ~10-15 said yes and that’s how Indie Hackers went live.
  • The above ties in with the point Erik makes (later on in this article) about doing things that don’t scale to get the community off the ground.
  • For a community to succeed, it is important to (just including some of the key points I noted down):
  • Make every member feel welcomed and help them derive value.
  • Guard the values of the community as you scale.
  • Be transparent of any changes with the rationale and listen to feedback.

Fireside chat w/ Hila Roth (Global Group Manager, Waze Communities)

  • Community helps Product team listen to their end users.
  • On measuring impact: everything is measured and outcome driven. Impact goals are defined (e.g. 20k edits needed in March) and you work backwards.
  • Key metrics: monthly active editors, new editors acquired, # of monthly edits
  • Metrics depends on the country and community size. Can’t benchmark against external metrics.
  • Used to run 100+ offline community events every year. With COVID, everything had to move online but the opportunity to meet Waze staff, developers and other community members (few hours every week) was incentive enough to keep the momentum going.
  • No one tool used for interactions. Centercode for beta testing community, Waze forum for editors, FB groups for car pool, Google Groups for partnerships.

Mexican Dinner with members and 1:1 connections with other members

Was the highlight for the week. Connected with a couple of members 1:1 over coffee chats and I also got to be a part of a dinner-table catch-up with 7-8 other cohort members. It was a free flowing discussion around what community meant to us and how do we see communities shaping the world ahead. Quotable quotes from the dinner:

  • “When the internet first came along, it was all about tooling, engineering, data, and transactions. But now we are shifting to focus on people, belonging & communities.”
  • ‘’Communities are a lot about helping the helpers; empowering and enabling members to assist others where they can, creating a sort of virtuous flywheel in the process.‘’
  • "We can leverage technology to create more safe spaces for communities to exist and make them more accessible to people."

AMA with Erik Torenberg (Co-founder, On Deck)

  • Community: group of more than two people w/ a common sense of identity, who participate in ongoing, shared experiences to meet their needs and build relationships with each other in the process. Great communities are aligned around value (utility) and values (identity, shared mission).
  • Community vs network: Communities are about identify, loyalty, service, commitment, and active participation. Networks are about utility, interoperability, flexibility, people with common interests but not necessarily common values, history or memory.
  • Communities don’t happen accidentally. It takes a lot of inorganic work to make it look organic.
  • If you need to scale your community, you need a buy-in from your community for it to scale well + decentralise ownership.

That’s it for Week 1. Will be updating again coming week.


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