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10. Don't Automatically Archive > 10. Don't Automatically Archive - Pg. 74

74 Design to thrive: Creating Social networks and online Communities known facts that exist on Subject A or if they want to go "data mining," then they shouldn't be looking for it in communities and social networks. As I've said several times now, the key to providing long-term remuneration for users is pro- viding them with the experience of creating meaning together. Private archives maintained by individuals are a different issue. As shown in the next chapter, one membership type known as "collectors" use this archiving behavior as their primary means of contributing to a community so that private archives can be encouraged. I don't mean to suggest here that you shouldn't ask questions in a community and that a community isn't a great place to go to get information about a topic. In fact, that's probably one of the most important things that social networks and online communities do. Sharing information and crowd sourcing are major reasons that people participate in communities. What I am arguing, however, is that community managers and social networking administrators should not maintain keyword searchable, public archives if they want to ensure the long- term health of their communities. Yes, I understand that maintaining an archive does allow the elders in a commu- nity to tell newbies to check archives to the same old questions that tend to be repeated over and over again in a community. But my point is that convenience comes at a cost that is too steep. In the communities that I maintain, newbies do ask the same questions and topics do reemerge, but conversations about them aren't always the same and the community doesn't address them in the same way each time. Each time the discussion comes up, new voices contribute to the conversation. New facts get added. New spins are put on old topics. In fact, peo- ple address the topics in more creative ways because they've seen them before and because they're trying to make the conversations more interesting and engaging. In short, the knowledge changes even though the questions remain the same. Publicly accessible archives can also have a chilling effect on creativity in a com- munity because of users' concerns about how their messages might be used in the future. We will discuss users' need to control how messages are used in more detail in the chapter on Influence, but the point to be made here is that mem- bers of a community are less likely to take risks and to post potentially contro- versial approaches to a topic if they have to be concerned that their messages might be entombed in a publicly accessible archive where they can always be resurrected at some future date and out of context in an embarrassing fashion. In terms of remuneration, however, the more important point is that archives don't contribute anything to the long-term health of the community. Public archives are only good for the people who want to get in, get their answers, and get out without giving anything back to the community. Public archives are like banks that you set up as targets for knowledge thieves. Archives are static. They're not dynamic. They don't grow. And they don't give back. Archives precipitate what experienced community managers call "scraping." Scrapers are automated data mining tools that steal from a community. As Patrick O'Keefe in his book Managing Online Forums notes: You need to be able to protect your content and take down those that steal from your site. Besides the obvious matter of principle, part of what is appealing about the community is the unique voices within it. You