Creating common knowledge

Creating common knowledge creates a network effect. All companies in Silicon Valley want to build network effects, but few have followed Barton’s path despite its effectiveness. The more people use and trust Glassdoor, the more companies must take it seriously. And as users see more people contributing to Glassdoor, they can be more confident they’ll stay anonymous when they add their review. There are virtuous loops in common knowledge.”

Making Uncommon Knowledge Common (kwokchain)

My hobby from high school through college was to work on gaming fansites and forums.

In those early days (mid 2000’s) it was up to us, the devoted webmaster crowd, to compile information into comprehensive guides and resources for other gamers.

Our guides — usually written by one or two people — drove a fair chunk of search traffic and links. But the vast, vast majority of our traffic came from the forums.

Our forums were a well of common knowledge, deep discussion threads probing all angles of the games we covered.

That arrangement was good for a while. Our sites offered the coherent walkthroughs and references; the forums offered everything else.

Then “Web 2.0” happened.

With that came the rise of Wikia (now Fandom) and Giant Bomb, sites that leaned heavily into user-generated content (UGC). We couldn’t keep up.

Fun fact: It’s immensely difficult for a couple of hobbyist writers to compete with crowdsourced content.

Still, our forums held strong, and to this day they’re still driving a healthy volume of traffic. The sites? Not so much. They’re there, but they’re an afterthought.

I haven’t done anything with those gaming sites and forums in years — I just poke my nose in now and then to see what’s up.

Still, the lessons I learned from working on those projects carried on.

The playbooks I write for work are influenced by the gaming guides I wrote in high school and college. My approach to online communities comes from dealing with our forum members.

The audience is different — prospects, customers, and colleagues instead of adolescent gamers — but common knowledge is the shared thread running through all of it.

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