Communities, at their core, have a series of events that keep them moving. These events can be news, rituals, actions, announcements, and more. They create a community clock (imagine the numbers replaced by these events), and keep the community ticking. Without them, the community dies.
The clock must be powered by either external or internal sources. Externally powered clocks are reliant on organizations, companies, and people outside their community. These events are independent of the community and would happen without it. An example is the many community “cults” with leaders who do an excellent job at powering the clock. Examples include Kanye West, Elon Musk, Vitalik Buterin, and many more. Everything they say and do become events their followers amplify to power the clock.
Other clocks are powered internally by the actions of key members. These members must create events needed to power the clock. The events depend on the community, and wouldn’t happen without it. This causes the community to become reliant on the members creating them. For an individual, this may weigh heavy, but teams can manage it. You see it succeed in subreddits, creator communities, hobby communities, and more. All are reliant on their members to provide the power.
Things happen between events but they are unimportant in moving the community forward. It is anticipation and busy work towards the next event or debate and reviews of past events. The time in-between events doesn’t matter to the long-term survival of the community. As long as the clock keeps ticking, the community will keep going.
An individual can have an outsized impact on a community by identifying the clock and helping it tick faster and louder. Instead of focusing on the between time, help the clock. Most members will not discover the clock or realize its impact. Others luck out on discovering it and be rewarded. With extra effort, this can be you.
Without people working to power the clock, the ticking gets quieter. It is a common problem for growing communities. Newer members fail to see the importance of the clock. They grow distant from the original series of events. Idle chatter and unimportant communication drowns out the ticking. Fewer people work on powering the clock because they see it as less important.
This leads to one of two paths. The good path is the clock is replaced by a better clock. Because communities grow and change, what is relevant at 100 members is not the same at 10,000 members. A new clock, better suited to the community, can replace the old clock and keep ticking.
The bad path is a worse clock or no clock replacing it. A community can reject a clock replacement like a body rejecting an organ transplant. The community loses its core. Members become less drawn to the community. More time is spent off-topic. Nothing happens, and that is a problem.
Communities prevent this by defining their clock early in their lives. They must understand where the events come from and who is responsible for creating or translating those events into power. Everyone must be wary of when the ticking is getting too quiet, and make changes to strengthen it. Work is always necessary to keep the clock ticking, ensuring this work is done and rewarded is a key task.
Like in the real world, a community clock that is built right and well maintained can tick for a long time. All communities are looking for this in some way or another. Those that build it and keep it running will be the strongest in the long run.
Let me know what you think on Twitter.