Communitizing the community with community tools

With this game of social interaction, some tools can be hugely helpful in helping to grow your community, and I want to highlight many of the tools I use regularly in my own community work.
Written by Jono Bacon, Contributor on

Some time back when I was doing LugRadio, some snarky bugger on there made a comment that I mention the word community a little too much in all of my excitement about building communities. Said person referred to my work as communitizing the community with community tools and the joke stuck throughout the history of LugRadio and to the present day. In an effort to prove that the stereotype is entirely and emphatically accurate, today I want to share some community tools that help me to communitize my community better.

I have always been of the belief that building a great community is all about tone, attitude, strategy and approach. Community management is a game of social interaction and creative thinking as opposed to a logical puzzle with a set collection of pieces that you can manipulate with tools. But with this game of social interaction, some tools can be hugely helpful in helping to grow your community, and I want to highlight many of the tools I use regularly in my own community work. I am going to cover a small selection of tools today and may follow up with additional tools if you folks are interested.

Of course, some of you may prefer alternatives to these tools, and many of my tools are specific to certain platforms, such as Linux. Some of you may even go as far to tell me that my tools are pants, and that is fine: feel free to leave your feedback in the comments.

And hence, onto the tools:

TomBoy - rocking note-taking and synchronization - I love TomBoy so much I am tempted to name my first born Tom if we have a boy. TomBoy is a devilishly simple application that lets you take notes, organize said notes into notebooks, and link notes together as simply as typing in the name of a note in another note. Tools for formatting, saving and synchronizing notes with a web server or service such as Ubuntu One are all built in. I use TomBoy to manage my TODO lists, manage my team, note down ideas, scribe musings and other work. This is a must-have in my world.

Launchpad - rocking development forge for making development more collaborative - Launchpad provides a simple yet powerful online development forge. It provides code hosting, bug tracking, specification tracking, simple online translations, issue tracking, handling merge proposals, linking bugs with other bug trackers, awesome source control support with Bazaar, great APIs for rolling your own tools and more. We use it extensively in the Ubuntu world and I have personally used it for many projects, such as Lernid and Jokosher.

Ubuntu - rocking free Operating System - it will come as no surprise that my platform of choice is Ubuntu. This simple, powerful and extensive Linux distribution includes a great collection of tools built in for office productivity, web browsing, email, calendaring, social networking, communications and more. Great hardware support and thousands of applications only a click away seal the deal. Ubuntu has become a powerful and widely used distribution not only because of its technical and usability foundation, but also our diverse global community. Well recommended.

Google Groups - mailing lists and archiving made rockingly simple - if you need a mailing list for your community, and want an easy to manage administration interface, Google Groups is awesome. Not only is it simple to set up a group, but it is also simple to promote it to your community, with widgets ready to plonk right onto your website. I use it for the Community Leadership Summit mailing list.

Gobby - rocking real-time collaborative text editor - if you are running a meeting, summit discussion session or other collaborative event, one of the hardest elements is taking notes and having them represent the discussion. These notes are critical for referencing agreements and concession and sharing the discussion with others who could not attend the session. A great solution to this is Gobby: a collaborative text editor in which all attendees can work on the document together, watching each other's edits in real time. This is a tool we extensively at our Ubuntu Developer Summits to great success. Well recommended!

Twitter and identi.ca - the new way we rock - Twitter and identi.ca are key tools in the growth of modern communities. They are great ways to build awareness, built a feedback loop around your community, develop a following and message news and events to your followers. The success of these sites has spread far and wide and there is huge opportunity to harness them to develop interest in your community. I use Twitter (@jonobacon) and identi.ca (@jonobacon) extensively, and you should too, my friends.

Wordpress - build rocking websites easily - if you want to put together a good-looking, interactive website without writing code and having to learn the in and outs of web design, Wordpress is for you. I have used Wordpress for many, many, many websites and I find it simple, configurable, has great theme support, great features and has a huge library of extensions for dealing with all manner if different use cases. Importantly, Wordpress is not just for blogs: it is perfect for setting up simple showcase websites for your community and having them interact together. Examples of my wordpress sites include Shot Of Jaq, the Community Leadership Summit, jonobacon@home, Jokosher, and Art Of Community.

So there we have it: our first installment of some essential tools. What tools are at the heart of your community building? Do share in the comments!

Editorial standards