Exploring Communities of Practice

cpsquare110CPsquare, the Community of Practice on Communities of Practice, is doing a month-long exploration of platforms supporting communities of practice, called Long Live the Platform.

It’s an interesting exercise.  So far, there have been two presentations, one by our own Bill Bruck on Q2’s xPERT eCampus and another by Bob Doyle who has put together a wide range of tools for the DITA users group.

What is emerging, unsurprisingly, is that what makes a platform a good choice for supporting a community has EVERYTHING to do with the goals of the individuals in the community.  DITA users are technical writers who meet regularly face to face in regional user groups – what they seek online is generally the opportunity to ask technical questions of each other, and to access references and tutorials on the DITA standard.

Q2’s customers are more heterogeneous, but a large part of our business revolves around providing training opportunities and shared workspaces to people who are not co-located.  What they are seeking is a way to do collaborative learning and work together on projects without being together at the same place, or at the same time.  The affordances we build in to facilitate online conversation are essential for our users, but not of interest to folks who can have their conversations in person.

Some newcomers to the CPsquare conversation are asking for a list of essential features in CoP software.   As usual, that’s a question which has to be answered with another question – what are the members of your community trying to accomplish?