John Coate: Managing Online Communities

by Plutopia News Network
John Coate

“John is the guy who made the WELL into a community” -Howard Rheingold

John Coate has spent much of his life managing and building online communities, including the seminal online community, The WELL. John also created the first major online news site at He’s currently doing community management as part of the European Commission Next Generation Internet initiative.

On managing online communities

“My approach to online community building is to focus on the specific relationships of the people involved, both personal and professional, or both. The computers are just a medium that serves it.

“One thing I try to teach about the online environment, with all its built-in limitations is to ‘oversupply understanding.'”

On promoting The WELL

“I couldn’t afford to do anything, really, except go to these fairs and whatnot. And I thought, “How am I going to market this thing, grow this thing?” And I wasn’t there very long when I could see – because I had access to some of the admin tools, where you could see who was online, what was the dynamic. You couldn’t see what they were saying, but you could see a dashboard in real time. And that these people were hooking up with each other in all sorts of ways. And it just hit me that the best thing that I could do would be to make this experience as meaningful as possible to everybody using it, so that they would be enthusiastic about it and get their friends to do it. I couldn’t think of any other way to do it. So when I realized that, then I very quickly saw that the key to the whole thing was the relationships of the individuals. Yeah, you want the software to work well, but at its core, it was really about the relationships between the people, and helping to build them.”

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