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Addressing a Community or its Members: Levels of Communication

There are four main levels on which a central persona can communicate with a community or a subset of its members.

Broadcast Level

Generally this is top level, one-to-many communication around which the community is naturally organized. The broadcast level often consists of a blog, TV show, video blog, a welcome message, announcements, mailer, or a splash page.

The broadcast level is the primary place where a central persona expresses opinions and shares information. It is also where a central persona can reflect a simplified image of the community back upon itself.

Structural Level

The structural level includes the organization, format, rule sets, design and layout of anything within the boundaries of the community. Changing any of these elements can be considered communicating on the structural level.

Communication on the structural level can be used to:

:: signal new opportunities for community activity (opening a “current events” forum, adding voting, comments, etc..)
:: alter the framework of community identity (creation of sub groups, rankings, private areas)
:: accommodate wide spread requests or complaints
:: co-opt rogue sub groups (creation of new labels/ status to accommodate the group)
:: intervene in a crisis situation with a small group of members (changing status, modifying avatars, banning)

Structural communication is the most direct display of power available to a central persona... e.g. “Playing God".

Community Level

The community level includes all the tools that the community uses to communicate: threads, comments, reviews, gallery uploads, response videos. A central persona should avoid communicating at this level if it is possible to use a structural approach. For example it is better to append an existing comment/thread with a remark than it is to post a new/separate comment under the moniker of the central persona. In my opinion the central persona is not a member of the community, but rather is part of the structure of the community.

Personal Level

The personal level includes any direct communication with a member or small group of members that is not visible to the rest of the community. This is best used as a means to organize high level community members, or to reach out to valued community members in times of crisis. A central persona should avoid using any personal level communication beyond valued/trusted members.


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Comments (4)

So how do you propose this holds up for a community without a central persona?

(From Ze: this is specifically about how a central persona can communicate with a community . Most communities have a central persona of one kind or another. Moderators, senior members, bosses, councilmen, heroes. Central Personas don't have to be individuals, nor do they have to be the same people at different times )

At what point does something become a community? (e.g. A person has a blog with a readership that is regular. Is that a community? Or are you referring to a larger kind of entity. If this is the case, how do you quantify or qualify the point at which something is community and not just interaction.)


I think in the online world (and probably that) you can’t really avoid the central persona since someone needs to own the space. Someone needs to start the group, someone needs to maintain the peace, someone decides to put matters to a vote and so forth and just from logistical stand point a central authority is needed.

This was a fascinating read and I’d imagine should be required reading for someone who either choose to or becomes a central persona.


wait, before I say anything is this entry part of the model? What level access do I have at the moment? Who's in charge here!

kidding, kidding, I love hierarchical structures, they’re so neat and orderly and almost always nearly dependable.

So let's see if I hit on anything good here or if I'm just off my rocker.

Broadcast Level:
Detached, So Persona nooooooooooon grata
(as I mourn the old and distant and soon out of touch)

Structural Level:
The Bee Hive
(sweet sweet honey)

Community Level:
Everything In Its Place
(order out of chaos, the overlords, Titans)

Personal Level:
(Core engineers, the elite, top dog(s), they whisper all the good things that trickle down from the heavens)

This particular line caught my attention:
"A central persona should avoid using any personal level communication beyond valued/trusted members"

Now isn’t that the smart move in such a litigious society? Like Julius Caesar I bet Rod Blagojevich is rethinking that one.

transiit: "So how do you propose this holds up for a community without a central persona?"
Ze: "Central Personas don't have to be individuals, nor do they have to be the same people at different times"

I’m beginning to hate the word community almost as much as I hate tofu; except when it’s smother for hours in tomato sauce and spices so I can’t tell what it really tastes like. The word community seems to have it’s owe secret little language like, there’s no "I" in team (but there is one in tribe), the word consensus, oh, and all those endless meetings, but isn’t that where the collective "we" are headed? There’s no escaping getting along. The problem is we all don’t get along and we, at least in the past, Americans valued the individual and what I want to know is how can the individual breath with all this getting along going on? In a structured and limited medium like computers and internet communication how do you avoid all those right angles? If overt flexibility squashes the individual; "the true being of who you are," while on the other side the individual is being subjected to the constraints and limits of the medium itself, it makes life far more complicated than it has to be because both sides are so non organic, they wish to control all that cross its path. OMG, I'm smothering, someone open a window quick!

Just kidding. I realize this is a sound and common sense structured brick house that keeps the big bad wolf at bay, and the deeper our imaginations or microscopes go the scarier things can get, but, what, I, think, is most important, regardless of who gets to play God, above all else is the intent behind the persona(s). The rest… pretty much details to give everyone a sense of safety, control and order which survival craves; and I might add, can also help to build revolutions. Anyone living up in Alaska or on a farm knows how important common sense and community are, well, almost everyone, okayokay let's forget Alaska and say Minnesota.

I guess I could have avoided the whole dialog above by just saying, I think the intent on behalf of X, Y, and/or Z is important, but as a human being I’m riddled with contradictions; I hate being left out of the whole community thing. Hey, I even went to an Obama House Party, that guy really knows good cheese!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 17, 2008 7:06 PM.

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