In responding to this question about inducing someone who would moderate an online forum to learn how to be a good moderator, I suggested, based on advice on The Workplace Stack Exchange, introducing authoritative references, such as books, on the topic. Unfortunately, I don't have experience with any such books myself, to be able to recommend one. Fortunately, we're in a community of experts on the subject who likely can.

Can you recommend an authoritative reference work, presumably a book, on best practices in online community-building? The book should be accessible and persuasive to people with limited background in interacting with online communities, and should include practical advice based on real-world experience.

Please explain how the reference work you're suggesting is a good fit for these requirements and, if possible, whether and how you have found it useful in being a community builder or teaching someone else to be one.

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    I voted to reopen this question because based on my experience with book and other recommendation questions, this one is one of the rare kind that works on Stack Exchange: it's sufficiently specific not to admit an unwieldy number of answers, and it has a concrete purpose in mind which allows answers to be scoped and rated. Cc @Andy Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:58

3 Answers 3


I am currently reading Building Successful Online Communities which is most definitely an authoritative resource for online community building.

The book draws from academic research in social sciences and examples of real online communities to provide evidenced based "Design Claims". The design claims "follow a scientific paradigm, seeking to state general claims - that under certain observable conditions certain outcomes can be expected." For example, one design claim is "Verified identities and pictures reduce the incidence of norm violations." The claim is supported by several studies and some concrete examples in Wikipedia and Twitter. The book is accessible to practitioners (it's not overly academic) while also pointing to an extensive list of references for those wanting to dig a little deeper.

This is definitely a resource that is most helpful for the architects and admins of online communities and may be of less help to moderators since it is offering suggestions on how to design the community rather than operate within it.


I can recommend the Art of Community as an authoritative reference work. The book is written by Jono Bacon, previously Github and currently Ubuntu's Community Manager at Canonical.

The book is even useful for people with limited background in interacting with online communities: It starts from the very beginning telling the reader the social and anthropological elements that bring a community together.

The book includes a Community Case Book showcasing interviews with some of the most important community builders like Linus Trovalds (Linux), Mary Colvig (Mozilla) just to name a few. Besides, the author shares his own experience in building the communities he's managed on his career.

I found it very useful in being a community builder: It presented a framework to be followed, cleared a lot of misconceptions that I had and put in words things that I sensed but had not enough evidence to conclude what was fact.


I also like the resources that are available on CMXHub and the Community Roundtable websites. If you want a group that really focuses on technical community building (like around Git projects/docs), then I would also recommend the Community Leadership Summit.

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