Community-building tip: surprise is the opposite of engagement |

Community-building tip: surprise is the opposite of engagement

A person who looks surprised
Image by :

Subscribe now

Get the highlights in your inbox every week.

In the interview with Chris Blizzard I posted last week, near the end of the article Chris attributes a phrase to Mozilla CEO John Lilly:

"Surprise is the opposite of engagement."

This may be one of the most simple, brilliant things I have ever heard someone say when it comes to creating engaged, active communities.

When we talk about building communities the open source way, we often mention transparency and openness as critical elements of any community strategy. But when I saw this quote, it reminded me why transparency and openness are so important.

When we are open with people, we avoid surprising them. We keep them in the loop.

Nothing kills someone's desire to be an active contributor in a community more than when they feel like they've been blindsided. By a decision. By an announcement. By the introduction of a new community member.

Few things help a community get stronger faster than simply engaging community members every step of the way. Asking them for input first. Ensuring they are "in the know."

When thinking about the community you are trying to create, maybe start asking yourself questions like:

"How can I minimize the number of (negative) surprises?"

"Will this decision surprise community members?"

"Am I maximizing the opportunities to involve the community in decisions?"

"Has the community weighed in on this?"

It's a very simple equation, and therein lies the beauty:

Surprise = less engagement

If you've seen examples of situations where a big surprise has reduced community engagement, please feel free to share them below.

And thanks John Lilly (and Chris Blizzard) for the tip!


About the author

Chris Grams - Chris Grams is the Head of Marketing at Tidelift and author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World....