IdeaScale Community Archetypes

Building successful communities requires understanding of the people and their needs, as well as setting up the proper technology and policies to match the characteristics of users and purpose of the community. In this blog article, it is presented the results of a research I co-authored with Dr. Marcos Báez, Dr. Carlos Rodríguez, Dr. Gregorio Convertino, and Grzegorz Kowalik and published at the 2016 Conference on Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS 2016). In the study, we conducted on IdeaScale communities we aimed at understanding how and by whom IdeaScale are used in practice. We explore these questions on a dataset of 166 openly available IdeaScale communities and derive a set of community archetypes, which tell us how and by whom IdeaScale is used. All data were collected using the IdeaScale API client, IdeaScaly.

In the study, we categorized 166 communities according to type of organization running the community, the domain in which the community is operating, the scope or location of the target contributors (local, global), and the purpose for running the community. We have observed that the majority of communities are run by companies (Business 48%) followed by self-driven communities (Community 21%), i.e., communities without the backing of a formal organization. Closely behind we have communities run by non-for-profit / non-governmental organizations (NGO 17%), and by governmental organizations (Governmental 14%). Most organizations running the communities are related to the Technology domain (54%), followed by Civic (15%) and Education (10%), with fewer communities from the other domains. Both local and global communities were frequent.

Communities appear to be somehow equally distributed between local and global audiences. Local (57%) communities are the most common, mostly consisting of civic communities, while the Global (43%) ones are more technology-oriented focusing on product and services available worldwide. The dominant purpose of the communities is collecting Feedback (65%) followed by Innovation (25%) and to a lesser extent Discussion (6%) and Coordination (4%). For example, a common case is that of communities focusing on software products where members report bugs and request features (feedback).

The results of the categorization were then used to cluster the communities based on emerging archetypes, i.e., groups of communities where tuples of values tended to co-occur frequently among the dimensions. Seven community archetypes have emerged from the study. The first and most frequent archetype (ARCH 1, red flow in the figure) is composed of communities run companies in the technology domain that seek feedback from users and customers on their technology-related products and services (70 out of 166). A  representative example is QuestionPro Feedback. Communities in the second archetype (ARCH 2, greenish-blue flow in the figure) are run by companies in other domains (leisure, retail, food & drinks, civic, education). This archetype clusters the remaining communities run by companies (11 out of 166). For example, the The Beerenberg Family Farm is a community run by a food processing company on its products.

IdeaScale Community Archetypes

Figure. Alluvial chart illustrating the emerging community archetypes. The percentage represents the distribution of communities for each dimension of the coding scheme.

Self-driven communities on the technology domain compose ARCH 3 (green flow in the figure). This archetype represents communities without the backing of a formal organization, run by its own members, on topics related to technology (13 out of 166). These communities are similar to communities of practice, a type of communities frequently investigated in previous research [28]. This cluster combines the community-driven nature with the dynamics of software products and services. As in ARCH 1, the dominant purpose is feedback, although we also observed a much higher number of cases with a focus on discussion. An example of this cluster is Vivo Open Source, a community on an open source software managed by the community itself.

Communities without the backing of a formal organization, run by its own members and focusing on topics related to their civic life, education and other social themes are clustered in ARCH 4 (pink flow in the figure). This archetype combines the self-driven nature of the communities, focus on social impact, and local scope (16 out of 166). Here, we see innovation as the predominant purpose, followed closely by feedback. An example of this cluster is Rescatar a Lois, a community run by concerned citizens on how to save a local factory from a crisis.

ARCH 5 (blue flow in the figure) consists of communities driven by a formal organization focusing on civic, education and social domain.  This archetype groups communities run by either governmental or non-profit organizations (Governmental, NGO) on topics that relate to the civic life, education and other social causes. This is the second most frequent archetype and it combines the local scope with the presence of governmental or non-profit organization as drivers of the communities (30 out of 166). Innovation is by far the most dominant purpose here. An example of this cluster is HoCoInnovations, a community run by a county on ideas to improve the school system.

Groups communities run by either Governmental or NGO organizations on topics that relate to financial, legal, political and military matters are part of ARCH 6 (yellow flow in the figure). These are local communities that tend to have very structured contributions around campaigns. In some cases they have more complex organizational structures: the median number of campaigns per community in this archetype was higher (median=6) than in the other archetypes (median=4). An example of such communities is Martellago Cinque Stelle, a community run by a political party in an Italian town on local programs and actions.

In the last archetype (ARCH 7, purple flow in the figure), we grouped communities un by both governmental and nonprofit organizations (gov, ngo) on technology-related areas (9 out of 166), in contrast to ARCH 1 and ARCH 3, which are run by companies or the communities themselves. However, similar to ARCH 1, these communities are predominantly focused on feedback. This cluster combines the nature of technology-related products and services, with the dynamics of NGOs and governmental agencies. An example of such communities is API Developers Forum, a community run by the US Census Bureau on the API for accessing their data.

The above archetypes give us some interesting insights about how and by whom IM systems are used. First, communities related to technology largely focus on incremental or corrective feedback. Second, communities on social themes tend to seek for more innovative ideas. Third, communities run by its own members tend to incorporate more discussion. Finally, communities run by organizations on “bureau” tend to have more structured campaigns. By gaining a better understanding on how organizations and users make use of IdeaScale, the platform can better accommodate its designs to serve these needs and facilitate the management of the overall community.

For more details about the study and the archetypes please refer to the publication and the website of the study. The dataset and the R scripts used in the analyses are available at the following Github repository.

This is a guest post from researcher, Jorge Saldivar. 

Jorge Saldivar
University of Trento, Italy

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