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Design for Community Paperback – August 9, 2001

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

In light of recent world events, many people have been reaching out for the sort of closeness and supportive reassurances that can come from friends "met" in online communities. In an article written for, Design for Community author Derek M. Powazek notes that in the days following September 11 new sites sprang up and message board activity went through the roof. Message boards and chatrooms allowed people to connect with others--so crucial in times of trouble--to share breaking news, find ways to help, or post personal stories.

Of course, online communities are not only for the bad times: Web stores feature user-posted reviews, bulletin boards build up around all types of issues or shared experiences, celebrities answer questions in live chat sessions, and singles with Web cams check each other out.

"Web communities happen when users are given tools to use their voice in a public and immediate way, forming intimate relationships over time." Powazek should know; he created and and has acted as a consultant on Web community features for Netscape, Lotus, and Sony. Design for Community offers thorough (and entertaining) discussions on all aspects of building and maintaining a Web-based community. There are chapters on choosing content (including Powazek's recipe for encouraging positive communities), designing ("How do you present a discussion system that encourages friendly conversation?"), deciding on the backend technology necessary to run a site (whether server-side software or free Web-based tools), setting up rules, hosting, moderating, and even someday "killing" your community.

Each chapter features an interview with an expert, like Steven Johnson of on design and Emma Taylor, host of, a "community of thoughtful hedonists," on setting barriers and enforcing rules. Powazek maintains a companion site for this book at, with excerpts, more essays, and, of course, a forum for discussion. If you're even considering building an online community, you must begin with this book. --Angelynn Grant

From the Back Cover

Behind the glass of your monitor lies a world of real people who have something to say. But giving them the power to communicate with each other on your website means beginning a much more intimate relationship. And like any relationship, it can be the best thing that's ever happened to you _ or the worst.

Turning your static content/commerce site into a dynamic community takes more than a few CGI scripts. Inside you'll find priceless advice, personal stories of success and failure, and time-tested solutions for fostering positive web communities.

Design for Community is a book for anyone with a website - from the smallest personal project to the biggest corporation. Don't put a post button on your site without it.

Featuring interviews with: Matt Haughey of, Steven Johnson of, Rob Malda of, John Styn of, Emma Taylor of, Matt Williams of, and Howard Rheingold of

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Waite Group Press (August 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735710759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735710757
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,743,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Andrew B. King on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Heard this lately from your boss? "Hey, let's add some community to our site. Our traffic will explode!" or "Let's make a blog, how hard can it be?" The Web is by its very nature interactive, so one-way broadcasts are out, communities are in. Community add-ons and sites are all the rage, but how do you do it right? Derek Powazek's book shows you how.
This book is not a technology book on the intricacies of blogger or Manila. The focus is on the design and moderation issues that arise when you add community features to your site. You'll learn what works and what doesn't when building and running virtual communities on the Web.
The author should know. Derek Powazek, a journalist by training, has helped build many pioneering virtual communities for HotWired, Electric Minds, Vivid Studios, Netscape, and his own and (love that site). He writes with wit and wisdom on what works on the Web when creating and running thriving online communities.
Each chapter focuses on a specific issue of community building on the Web, from moderation to intimacy to using email. Each chapter ends with New Riders' signature interview with an expert in that particular area. They include:
Matt Haughey (, Steven Johnson (, Rob Malda (, John Styn (, Matt Williams (, and Howard Rheingold (
One of the things I learned is that in some cases it's a good idea to "bury the post button." By making users read through your entire article, and *then* supplying the "post your response" button at the end, you automatically filter out all but the most interested readers. Your discussions will stay on topic and have higher signal-to-noise ratios.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Crowe on February 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm in the process of retooling an online community myself, and Design for Community has given me a lot to think about. It's extremely useful. No one should try to build an online community without reading this book first.
While it is not difficult to find the software tools required to build an online community, experience and insight is harder to come by. Powazek draws examples from his own work and interviews some of the leading lights of online communities to show what has worked, what doesn't, and what you should look out for.
This book invites its readers to ask themselves some questions about the online communities they want to build. Why do you want to build it? What are you trying to accomplish? What relationship do you want to have with your visitors? And how do you plan to keep order, maintain decorum, and enforce the community's rules? These are questions, I'm afraid, that many webmasters and site owners have simply never asked themselves, and boy does it ever show.
Case in point: In my very, very small corner of the web, just about everybody with a small home-based business and a two-bit web site wants to set up a mailing list or discussion board to go along with it. They don't appear to have done much thinking about it, apart from a vague notion that a forum would be cool and would draw traffic to their site. In fact, the biggest site/portal in the subculture I inhabit sells itself by saying that its discussion forums draw traffic to the hobbyist/small-business home pages it hosts and the advertising it sells -- i.e., its forums are its content. Meanwhile, the quality and tone of discussion on those forums is a constant source of grief. These people need to read this book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Amidst all the ruble concerning the Internet as a destroyer of lives and just another pointless addiction, there is one jewel concerning its' role in bringing people together. Amidst all the senseless conversations and other garbage of people whose lives seem to be pointless, groups are getting together to share experiences, both of sorrows and joy. Some of the most interesting sites that have appeared are those that are formed around a bond of shared experiences. They are commonly referred to as community sites, where people hang out to find support and solace and the most effective ways to start and maintain such sites is the topic of this book.
Such sites are needed, but tend to burn out the moderators very quickly. The sites tend to provide a degree of anonymity that some people need if they are to expose their emotions to others. With so many challenges to overcome, it is clear that most people who create them do so out of a personal passion or commitment rather than a desire for glory. When reading this book, I found myself emotionally moved, a rare experience for one who reads computing books as a profession. The tales of woe and joy are simultaneously uplifting and depressing.
All emotions aside, this is the book you must read if you are considering the creation of a site designed to allow people to hang out and talk. By reading the related experiences of others, you will learn the best ways to develop such sites. They certainly are needed, as the breakdown of physical communities has led many to search out an alternate in the cyber realm. People still need people, whether they be physically or virtually nearby.
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