Cliff Figallo

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This page includes updates to the material--both facts and opinions--contained in the book, links to other Web sites carrying information about or supplemental to the book, and musings by the author (me) regarding the subject of the book.


In this section you'll be able to find at least some of the changes that happen to sites, software and business models described in the book Hosting Web communities. In case you've arrived here from Cliff Figallo's home page, there is a companion site dedicated to supporting the book at John Wiley & Sons, the book's publisher. That site includes links to sites included in the book.

Things change. Change is good. (Now just try to keep up with them.)

  • Chiropractic Online Today has branched its discussions into two forums: a Discussion List and a Message Board. These separate what are meant to be announcements to the community from what are meant to be interactive conversations.
  • Defense News charges $59.95 for an annual subscription to their online version. This is how an industry with plenty of profit potential and valuable information supports a community site.
  • Healthlinks has upgraded their message board to UBBS (Ultimate BBS). Their entire site, in fact, has had a makeover. The improved message board will make a big difference in their community interaction.
  • LiveWorld is creator of Talk City and OnNow. Talk City now claims 1.25 million "core users" which it defines as users who make at least 4 visits to the site per month. It is the chosen chat service for @Home, Web TV and AT&T Worldnet among many other major Web sites. Talk City's backgrounder page tells about their clients and how they present their revenue model.
  • eLine, another San Francisco-based company, has developed a clever new asynchronous discussion system called SmartConfs. It uses a threading structure and has many innovative features that speak to the way people really use (or would like to use) online discussion interfaces.

Links to book-related sites

The Cyberculture editor of Amazon.Com interviewed me about community-building on the Net.

Technology writer and WELL-veteran Mary Eisenhart interviewed me in Salon Magazine about my work and why I continue to do it in spite of the often harsh social conditions that virtual community breeds.

SmartBooks featured my book as its Book of the Week on November 8.

If you'd rather not buy the book through Amazon, you can find it here on Barnes & Noble's site.


Tolerance is a choice that each of us makes countless times in our lives. We each seek a comfort zone in the environments where we find outselves at home, in the office, in school and online. How much discomfort can we (or are we willing to) handle at any given time? Are we willing to trade some comfort for excitement or entertainment or education?

I often describe online discussion communities as being like passengers and crew on a submarine. The quarters are cramped. You're almost certain to run into all of the other passengers regularly, whether you get along with them or not. You're all sharing the same facilities and some of you are liable to be competing for the limited resource of attention from the rest of the population. Some people adapt well to these conditions. Many, though, are not accustomed to such sharing. Everyone must exercise extra tolerance in order to avoid the kinds of conflict that spill over onto everyone else, for it's also difficult to ignore, in confined spaces, the nastiness that boils to the surface between two people who don't like each other.

Tolerance is a quality that must be modeled by the Community Manager and everyone whose role somehow represents the host of the community. Modeling tolerance happens whenever an angry remark is answered with a non-angry response. A sense of humor and perspective is invaluable for defusing escalating emotions. It's helpful to be able to remind verbal combatants in a virtual community that they can simply log off and put their attention into something else rather than subject themselves to high blood pressure and stress over questions that cannot be resolved online.

Tolerance must be actively practiced by the Community Manager and hosts because they are often the targets of the worst of criticism. They are often expected to deliver perfect service in an imperfect technical world, and their judgements regarding social problems in the community are expected to have the wisdom of Solomon combined with a God-like infallibility. To deliver less is to be incompetent and, predictably, a "fascist." It may take years for a Community Manager to grow a thick enough skin and a wry enough sense of humor to fend off the almost daily dose of vitriol that is the product of smart, opinionated people given access to a public forum. Indeed, hosting is one of those "character-building" roles that one volunteers for in life.

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