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Zoned For Growth

When people first sit down to play the city planning computer game SimCity (www.simcity.com), they usually assume that they’ll be able to control what happens in a predictable way. Think again! Experienced SimCity players know that, to build a long-lasting city, you have to choose your initial conditions carefully, adapt quickly to unexpected changes, and give up on trying to please everyone. Building a Web community teaches the same lessons, and a key part of your job is to create the struc-tures, policies, and feedback loops that will allow you to manage growth flexibly.

Start Small and Focused

After all we’ve said about subdivisions and taxonomies, you might be tempted to create a wide variety of different gathering places, with the hopes of attracting a large and diverse audience. Maybe the people who are financing your community are eager to see a quick return on their investment and are pressuring you to make a big splash right away. It’s best to resist the temptation: successful, long-lasting Web communities usually start with relatively few gathering places and a minimal feature set. This bare-bones approach to community building may be born out of necessity—such as a small staff or a restricted budget—but like so many things in life, it’s likely to be a blessing in disguise. Consider these examples:


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