What is Community Intelligence
PJ Hagerty, Guest Author
May 12, 2022
When it comes to managing or working with communities, there is often an image of a borderless organism that spreads and moves on its own, without discernible leadership or direction. We often think of an amoeba, purposeful but with a need to figure out what is going on.
In some ways, this perception is caused by our need to get information we can take action on, especially in the Developer Relations (DevRel) space - but all we have is data. While data is great, we can’t take action on it - we need information.That’s where Community Intelligence comes in.
What is Community Intelligence
In some ways, we can say Community Intelligence is a lot like Military Intelligence. It’s information that informs us on the needs, wants, intentions, and directions of a community. While that is pretty straightforward, it is somewhat simplified.
Understanding the needs and wants of any given community can be difficult as we look to abstract what those things might be from various sources. These can be directly related to your organization, like when people talk to you at an event or comment on an internal blogpost, or indirectly with unsolicited feedback in a Hacker News thread for example. While generally good indicators of sentiment these don’t always tell the whole story.
Getting a grip on the intentions and directions of a community can be even more difficult without Community Intelligence tools. A simple count of contributors with up or down indicators isn’t always a good telling of what a community might intend to move on or be excited about. Some of those engagements come from trends in different areas and require some social listening to gauge. Community intelligence can provide that information and allow you and your Community Team to take action.
Why is it important to DevRel teams
The world of DevRel is difficult to monitor and metric-ize. Until tools like Peritus came along, we navigated by instinct and anecdote - making decisions based on non-quantified experiences. This was less Community Intelligence and more being intelligent about communities - but in a non-organized way.Community Intelligence gives DevRel practitioners the ability to back up the claims they’ve made based on anecdotes and conversations. This helps us move from the world of “hugs and high-fives” to understanding all the things a community wants and needs.
With new tools we can actually deliver the proof that our “gut feelings” were correct. No one can guarantee that will be true one hundred percent of the time, but good DevRel folks are in-tune with their communities - we just needed modern Community Intelligence tools to make it clear to others.
How can we leverage Community Intelligence
When it comes to using Community Intelligence to make decisions the possibilities are only limited by the scope of the organization collecting that information. This is where the classic “it depends” answer comes in.
Some organizations use Community Intelligence to inform the direction of their software - especially in the Open Source space. Often, with Open Source projects, the community is the driving force behind the direction of what it should do and the direction it should take, many times even deciding if a project should end or be truncated.
Other organizations might use Community Intelligence as more of a community health check, ensuring the ship stays balanced with their product or service. This is more of a sentiment recognition situation, but again, raw data can’t help here - community intelligence is needed to get what we want and understand what we need to do.
The potential to build more intricate and informative systems to let us know how that great, amorphous organism that is our community functions and what it needs to thrive, is never ending. We can use our current tools and match with the knowledge gained from great practitioners of Developer Relations to reach for the sky and really understand how to best service those who use our services.