sasCommunity:A collaborative online community for SAS® users worldwide
The Main Page states that sasCommunity.org is A collaborative online community for SAS® users worldwide. This statement, or minor variations of it, has been on the Main Page since sasCommunity.org began in March 2007. In many respects it is the mission statement for sasCommunity.org. So what does this statement mean and what are its implcations? How about we pull it apart and analyse it word by word.
The word "A" is an indefinite article. It implies the sasCommunity.org is not intended to be the only online community for SAS® users. It is only one among many. There are other online communities for SAS® users ... some are (a bit) like sasCommunity.org, others are different.
This is a place of collaborative work. That is a team of people, not just individuals, are involved. In the Wikipedia article on collaborative writing, the various methods of collaboration in the writing process are outlined. This implies that the various people contributing to sasCommunity.org have to co-operate with each other so they can work together as a team. While an individual might take the lead in writing on some topic, the team has oversight. Individual contributors are not free to do as they please, they need to be guided by the advice of the team.
The Meatball Wiki suggests that participants in an Online Community "have almost zero opportunities for face to face interaction." And that it generally means some form of 'Net presence. They also note that a Wiki Community is a special form of online community that uses a wiki as a collaboration system and that these communities develop special communication cultures, or social rules, in order to cope with the complexity of the medium.
In saying that sasCommunity.org is an online community, one needs to be mindful that this community has developed from, and been sponsored by, a real word group of SAS users who do meet face to face from time to time.
The word online implies being connected to the world, via a computer or other electronic communications device, possibly all the time. While this may be obvious to some, it means contributors to sasCommunity.org need to be aware that what they contribute can be seen by the whole world. Also, it means that contributors should communicate about their contributions openly online too, so others might understand what is going on.
While contributors might choose to collaborate offline or via a private channel about their own work, when it comes to a third party's work it is most appropriate to do this online, even if it is just the summary of any decisions made offline. This is so other contributors can be informed.
Contributors to sasCommunity.org are not just individual people who have logged onto a website but a collective group of people with a shared interest. The group remains, even if some of the individual contributors are no longer participating in the group.
Also, because it is a community, the group develops some social norms, that is acceptable behaviours and ways of interacting. These are sometimes codified into a set of rules, sometimes not.
However, there needs to be a critical mass of active contributors before a wiki website becomes viable. If an article only has a single contributor then it becomes more like a blog. Articles with only a couple of contributors are more likely to become a discussion or perhaps an argument if viewpoints are held strongly. Also there needs to be some form of peer review being exercised. A single dominant voice answering questions is more like a lecture or else an oracle or preacher if the dominant viewpoint is not challenged by the students asking questions. Three active participants with differing views is probably a minimum for achieving a consensus for any one article. And that is just for a single article! For a wiki like sasCommunity.org there probably needs to be ten to a hundred times that many contributors.
For SAS® users
The contributors to the sasCommunity.org are SAS® users, as is the audience. This implies what is contributed to sasCommunity.org is going to be written for SAS® users, and it will be written by SAS® users.
The word for implies that the target audience need to be valued ahead of contributors and that contributors are contributing their knowlege for the benefit of others, not themselves. This suggests that sasCommunity.org will tend to value content ahead of community. Since developing content is valued ahead of developing a community, individual contributions by novice contributors should be encouraged and the community needs to be tolerant of mistakes and false starts.
This is a global effort. It is not confined to one country, or even one language. Although a lot of the existing sasCommunity.org content is in English, some of it isn't. While reading the sasCommunity.org in one's own language is a lot easier these days with such things as Google Translate, being able to read text that was written by another human in one's own language is even better. Where appropriate, pages should be translated into languages other than English, and perhaps also translated into English where they were originally written in another language.