LIMS/Laboratory Informatics LinkedIn Group: Part 2

As part of my effort to shed as much light as I can to you regarding the LIMS/Laboratory Informatics group I started in LinkedIn, I began by giving you some history behind it and talked about my goals for the group in this posting: http://outonalims.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/limslaboratory-informatics-linkedin-group-part-1/

Now, let me talk more about some of my expectations (and things I don’t expect), why this group is different than most other LinkedIn groups, and some thoughts of the future.

Reality Check

Here are some expectations I had before I even started this group and some that I’ve learned along the way, especially from other LinkedIn group moderators.

  • I don’t want this to be “my” group. I started the group and I’m working to involve others in this group so that it’s something for all of us and not just seen as “Gloria Metrick’s group.” This is a long-term effort and I’m working on it.
  • This group is my “problem.” What I mean is that, I did start this. I do want to involve others, but I realize that I started this and I have to be willing to make a long-term commitment to it. In my efforts to involve others, I want to make it more interesting an useful, not to abscond from any of the responsibility I’ve taken on.
  • Just because people are now “empowered” to provide content doesn’t mean that they will. There are many reasons for this. Most discussion groups need moderation to keep them fresh and on-topic. This hasn’t changed just because we have new tools to do it.
  • The people that need this group the most still won’t see it. Over the years, I’ve realized that, even though the large companies need these types of resources, too, the mid-sized and small companies have the greatest need. They are the hardest to make contact with and, as such, will be the least likely to stumble across this group.
  • Some people will not be happy and will go elsewhere. So, this group will never literally be the place for “everyone.” Some people will not like the group and go elsewhere.
  • I never expected zero competition. When I started this group, there were no other groups for LIMS, ELN, CDS, SDMS, or laboratory informatics, in general. Of course, other groups formed as other people got the same idea I did. And, I noticed a large surge of “me too” groups when our group got larger and more successful. Some of them want to capitalize on our group’s success by creating a competing group, sometimes one that charges for advice. For this reason, I’ve been especially hard on advertising other groups within ours. This is in an effort to allow us to grow unimpeded by commercial competition.
  • Even a non-commercial group has commercial overtones. Each of us brings our own perspective, where some people have more of an end-user view, others a commercial view based on selling things to others in the group. This isn’t a problem. By sharing all our views in conversation, they’ll balance each other out.

The Difference Between This and Other Groups (This Group’s Success)

There are quite a lot of complaints that LinkedIn groups aren’t useful – that they either end up entirely silent or become full of spam. In my discussions with other group moderators, we’ve realized that the biggest problem is that it’s so easy to create these groups that many, many people get the “bright” idea to start a group but find it’s harder work than they thought. They start it and end up doing almost nothing to manage it. This seems to be the case with the majority of groups, giving the LinkedIn groups a bad image. I don’t plan to let that happen to this group. Here are some things I’m doing to keep this group as successful as it’s been:

  • I’m not trying to make everyone happy. Not only do I welcome feedback, but I’ve gone out to get advice from other experts on how to run the group. With that said, the goal of this group is to be most useful to the most people, not to try to make everyone happy.
  • We welcome most people, not “everyone.” I review the profile of everyone that wants to join the group. I admit almost everyone. But if a profile seems to have no link with what we do, I send a message to the person asking them why they want to join, to see if they might have misunderstood the goal of our group. By doing this, I not only make sure people are coming to the right group, but I keep out the people that are only joining the group to advertise something unrelated to us.
  • I’m taking this seriously. To do my best in managing and guiding the future of this group, I’ll remain active in my discussions with other LinkedIn group moderators, continue to ask advice from others who’ve run discussion groups and professional groups, and to look for opportunities to find ways to make this group interesting and valuable. I never took a “build it and they will come” attitude toward this and I never will. This takes effort and I always knew it.

The Future

When I started the group, I had a long-term plan on the phases this group would go through.

  • The way the group is managed and its rules will change as the group gets larger.
  • I’m working on involving other people in various aspects of the group. I want to keep this a volunteer effort so that we stay non-commercial so that we have a collection of views not that of specific commercial interests.
  • I do not want this group to become like other LinkedIn groups, where there are few postings, or where it’s just advertising with no real information or interaction. In that respect, I will continue to work toward making this group the best that I can and am inflexible in that quest.

Gloria Metrick, GeoMetrick Enterprises, http://www.geometrick.com/

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