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Former Threadless CTO gives 5 tips for building communities

10 July 2011

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Here’s a very interesting and inspiring talk by Harper Reed (“Probably one of the coolest guys ever“), former CTO of the pioneering t-shirt company Threadless. Threadless is a community-based company that crowdsources t-shirt design and selection, which means that people can (1) submit designs, (2) vote designs up/down… and (3) buy t-shirts! As more and more companies try to leverage communities, let’s listen at someone who succesfully did it. See the (funny) video after the break.

#CVE20: 5 Tips for Building Better Communities from Navanti Group on Vimeo.

What makes up a good community? Reed lists 5 points: Authenticity, Purpose, Safety, Empowerment and Trust. “A community has to have a purpose, it’s very hard to build a community when you try to project a purpose” he says about the second point. But I’m tired of pointless lists; they’re only there to make articles (and the tweets that refer to it) more appealing. What I think is more interesting is that he’s quite humble about it:

It’s very hard to build a community … even the veterans, we don’t know how to do it

He participated in building this successful community of thousands of novice/amateur/professional designers, but still admits you can’t learn to actually do it. You can acquire experience in dealing with problems that almost every community-based platform has: dickheads, community empowerment, moderation, trust etc. I’d love more people to talk about their communities rather than about their business and/or turnover… Have you seen this one?

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