There are no good substitutes for understanding.

Successful online community design patterns

Communities taxonomy:

  • Feeling-oriented: there's a core aesthetics, people are there to get the feels, then alt-tab to somewhere else. Eg reddit /r/aww
  • Outcome-oriented: has explicit goals, people are there to contribute to make it happen [ref]


I will be focusing on outcome-oriented communities here exclusively.


Successful outcome-oriented communities have:

  • A platform, which is conductive to ideas, and design patterns below, and makes the trade-off for the community, even at the expense of the platform
  • No single platform currently on the market fulfills all of the desiredata below. Specifically eg Discord, and Slack are useful for real-time-ish interaction, trading off long-term culture-building. Generally, a combination of 2 platforms tend to work best: one for high-frequency communication, one for maintaing&building a persistent, resiliant culture.
  • Ingestion channels aimed at the sort of people who would thrive in that community. Bad leadgen here leads to significant noise & rot in the community (eg getting featured in nyt can kill you)
  • Meaningful barriers of entry, which filters for people
  • A vision statement, "This is what we are, this is what we do". This operates as a compass for "true north", where the community is heading; and gives rough guidelines on values
  • An onboarding doc, which describes what the channel/community is for
  • Member introductions, so we can get to know eachother better
  • Upgrade docs for newcomers to get them up-to-speed, and build common scaffolds of understanding
  • Byproducts which generate value to the community; eg "this is what we've tried so far, these are the things which work"
  • A Trophy Room, which shows off the "best of" the community (on reddit, this is /r/subreddit/top?t=all ; in demoscene, this is eg 's top of the month, and all-time top)
  • Community moderation, which filters out drama, etc. Moderators to have full buy-in of the values of the community. Related to this: have a conflict resolution system, with quick decision-making process, and enforced power.
  • As size of community goes up, enforcement costs increases. Solutions to this include: distributed moderation (eg stackoverflow, reddit), community-empowered moderation, AI, or hired moderators (facebook)