18 August, 2018
“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” as the saying goes. Not that other people are necessarily the enemy, but your plans for a perfect community might not be unchanged when you run into reality.
So let me go over a few ways that a community might have to change after it’s formed. We’ll look at some of the decisions you might not have to make up front, but that might be forced as the community grows.
Below are some different philosophies, often two extremes. Of course, not every group will fit into one extreme or the other. Most of these are a continuum, where most groups will rest somewhere in the middle between the two far ends. It’s up to a leader to figure out where the group should rest and make it explicit via the rules
Inclusive vs. exclusive
A lot of people focus on inclusiveness these days. For example, developers want a wide variety of players in their game. The industry also has a problem with including people who don’t fit the specific archetype of a young, single, middle-class, educated, straight white male. The idea is that we want a variety of people, as much as we can. Bigotry and exclusion based on things like skin color have no place.
But sometimes you don’t want to accept just anyone. Again, we can look at the example of a high end raiding guild to see an example of this. Such a guild may want to draw only those who have the ability and commitment to raid and gain clears of the content. Inviting anyone would dilute that focus, and potentially weaken the commitment to the guild. Or an RP group may only want people who share their RP philosophy to join in order to main cohesion in the group. In these cases it makes sense to exclude some people who don’t fit as well into the group or share it’s goals.
Safe space vs. free speech
This is also a bit tricky, as these are two conflicting principles that many people hold dear. A “safe space” often gets ridiculed, but it has a purpose: to people people who don’t fit well in other spaces. For example, you might want a safe space for kids because your group has a lot of adults who want to play with their children. In this case it’s reasonable to restrict speech to what’s appropriate for children; no profanity, lewdness, etc. This lets your group accomplish its goal of letting parents and children playing together.
But if you don’t have a specific reason, most people are going to assume that there is some freedom of speech in the community and may chafe under restrictions. But it can be useful to restrict speech depending on the community you want to build. Attracting older people may mean you want to cut down on the lewd stuff… but not always! Likewise, an RP group may want people to type in full sentences to maintain a certain atmosphere even in OOC spaces. Finding the right rules for your community will take communication. You might start with relatively unrestricted speech but add more restrictions as neeeded.
Deep vs. flat hierarchy
This is one of those things that doesn’t matter when you have few people. It makes no sense to have five different levels of hierarchy when you only have 4 people in your group. The default is to have a flat hierarchy: Leader and officers, the majority of people, then maybe a rank for newcomers or probationary members. But as you grow, especially if you’re doing something complex, it can make sense to have a deeper hierarchy. A raid group might have class leads who are above the main group of people, but not necessarily to the level of officers. Or they might be the officers if they handle other problems.
Choosing the hierarchy that makes sense is important, and this may adjust and evolve as needed. Especially as a group gets larger, everyone with an equal voice can start to make it feedback feel like a cacophony rather than useful feedback.
Collaborative vs. individual
The final dimension to consider is if your group is collaborative or if responsibility lies with the individual. In a collaborative group, the group takes care of things for everyone. Using our raid group example, you might have crafters to make gear or raid buff items for everyone, perhaps with help from others who do gathering. The group takes care of everything so that individuals can focus on what they need to in order to succeed. But you need people willing to pitch in and do this to help the group; some people will balk at the idea of having to help others without some sort of compensation.
On the other end you have a focus on the individual. Again, in our raiding group you might have people responsible for their own gear and raid buff items. Crafters in the group may require payment for their services, seeing that they put in extra effort to work up crafting, they will expect to be paid for their work. You could also have different people with different expectations: One crafter is generous to guildmates, another wants to be paid and may even get mad at the first. So you want to make sure expectations are managed here.
What do you think? What other elements might change as the group changes? Any other major features like these that I missed?