Review of “The Art of Community” (2nd Edition)

It took me much more time to finish The Art of Community (2nd Edition): Building the New Age of Participation than usual, due to my recent lack of significant commuting as I had no spare time to read much. However, I did finish it and I want to share my two cents about it.

I started with no prior knowledge of the author, Jono Bacon. My initial fears about the author were quickly removed by reading the first chapter. Jono has good story-telling skills and the prose is never boring or too verbose. The entire book is packed with real-life anecdotes and references and it’s not hard to read, even if you are not a techie type.

This said, in some parts I felt that the book was leaning too much on the “open-source software community” side of things but even that is understandable, given the author experience in those communities. I felt that although he tried to write the book for all kinds of communities, the most compelling examples were the ones he drew from his experience. If there’s one thing to improve in the book, it would be this one.

I run a user group, so I was eager to find quick tips and tricks. I did not. The reason was that the book taught me that raising and running a community is neither a one-shot thing nor one-man endeavour. Jono outlines a strategic approach to the community that makes you and your fellow members find the higher purpose for the community, make the long and short-term goals and then enable collaboration and communication to achieve these goals. The book is not a recipe book but a “make your own recipe” book. I really enjoyed the breadth of topics that follow the strategy for a community: how to make decisions, how to contribute, how to design the processes and streamline them, how to manage the conflicts etc. I learned a lot from these chapters.

One of the interesting chapters for me was the chapter on running events. Even if I have some experience in the event organization, still I found very important pointers in it.

At the end of the book there is a collection of interviews with fellow community managers, providing real-life supplement to the theory present in the book. The people interviewed are very different, from Tim O’Reilly (yes, the O’Reilly guy) to Dries Buytaert of Drupal.

All in all, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the book for any current or aspiring community leader/manager/founder/wannabe, even despite the occasional open-source software community bias. The first version of the book is available as a free download, so you are not far away from the reading experience!

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