Nancy White pointed me to this excellent post by Kathy Sierra which describes how the online community, javaranch, was built on the principle of members “being nice” to one another. That probably sounds a touch idealistic but highlights the issue of whether norms should simply arise or be nurtured in a direction? My experience suggests you need to be explicit when the community is large and diverse.
What was really interesting about the post was the explicit use of a metaphor—the community as a dinner party where participants were guests—to affect member behaviour. Kathy makes it clear that the community was never a public place, rather at javaranch you were an invited guest. As a result people respected one another, great conversations ensued and people wanted to spend time there—to the tune of 500,000 unique visitors per month.
What other metaphors could we use to support community development (online of f2f)?
This could go on forever. But what would be useful?