I attended and very stimulating meeting yesterday morning with the Flightglobal team discussing the future of navigation on the site. It’s a hard topic, and nobody has all the answers anywhere, partly because web publishing is still an evolving medium. However, a lot of progress was made and some general principles agreed which I’m sure will make a huge improvement to the site in time.
One of the ideas discussed was that at the core of the site would be a wiki-like resource which allowed for a basic inventory of (in this case) aircraft, to which much of the site’s content would link. This made me start thinking that probably this should be at the heart of all good community sites – although what information is collected will obviously vary from industry to industry: it could be buildings, chemicals, people, companies, or just about any collection of “things” that makes a particular industry tick. And in some there could be more than one core information base required.
Up to now this has tended to be the “job” of the site managers, building key content landing pages for the most important “things” in a market – usually driven by the need for more search engine reach.
However, I think the key will be to open up this process to the audience and to encourage the collaborative building of the ultimate resource for the particular industry.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be a role for the journalists and site managers. For one thing they will need to seed this enterprise and keep in on the straight and narrow as it grows (hopefully helped by an army of industry super-user volunteers).
But the other key role will be in the building of topic wiki pages which will become the other core foundation of the community site of the future: this is the “story so far” wiki page curated by journalists, but open to contribution by all, as described by Jeff Jarvis. The idea is that stories evolve over time and the old fashioned “story” approach does not reflect the realities of the new web.
With these as it’s root, a community site should be well on its way to defining and reflecting its community – provided it continues to do all the others things well.