Community management insight at

Lost Stool
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is an emerging technology conference. Since I’ve been going, the internet has been very ingrained in whatever has constituted “emerging technology.” As such, the conference has been very internet centric.

And yet, when I was down in Austin this year, connecting with people and visiting with friends, it reminded me (as it always tends to) that it’s important to keep the internet in context. This is especially true for online community professionals because our work is almost entirely online.

The danger here is that when you work online all day, you tend to get too caught up and place too much importance in your own world. Oh man, this is a big situation. This server is down. That member is angry. Activity dropped this month. Catastrophe! Noise, noise, noise.

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David DeWald and #CMGRHangoutHow do you welcome new members to an established, active online community? That was the topic of last Friday’s #CMGRHangout, a weekly Google+ Hangout presented by My Community Manager.

The panel discussion featured hosts Jonathan Brewer and Sherrie Rohde, alongside Brian Fanzo, David DeWald, Whitney Klinkner and me. This was my second time on the program and, once again, it was a pleasure.

By using different strategies and tactics, you can definitely have an impact on the percentage of people that join your community, that choose to contribute and that stay. There are many different ways to go about that and we discussed a lot of them.

In order for you to know what to expect, here are the questions that the panel answered:

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ICANNYou will soon be able to own a domain name, thanks to ICANN’s New Generic Top-Level (gTLD) Domain Name Program.

In case some explanation is needed, ICANN is the organization responsible for the domain name system. A top-level domain (TLD) is what comes after the period in your web address. .com, .net, .org. These are all examples of top-level domains. The new gTLD program has been in the works for years, with applications initially opening in January of 2012.

During that period, many companies and organizations applied for gTLDs, for different reasons. For example, Amazon applied for .amazon. They also applied for .book, .movie, .author and many others. But .book and .movie both have multiple applicants, so Amazon will be one of several companies vying for them. Applications aren’t cheap – $185,000 each – and that doesn’t include the ongoing costs tied to maintenance and whatever goes into managing a TLD from the applicant’s end.

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Handcuffed , Tokyo
Creative Commons License photo credit: mskogly

I had a member, who recently joined our community, create a post to criticize a martial artist they had encountered and, among their many gripes, they claimed that this person had stolen $800 of equipment from the dojo where they practice. And they named the person – first and last name.

There is an issue with this. To say that this person stole $800 worth of equipment from you, you are claiming that they have committed a crime. It is a criminal accusation and it is serious. For a very long time, I have had a policy on my communities against specific criminal accusations being made of individuals.

The reason is simple. If the person stole from you, call the police. Don’t use my community as part of a smear campaign, which is what a majority of the people who use forums for this purpose are doing. Either that or they’ve called the police and the police didn’t agree with them. Regardless, my community is not the place to make criminal accusations – it just isn’t the right venue.

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swimming in the rain
Creative Commons License photo credit: clarism_4

For many years, I have been celebrating April Fools’ Day on my communities. This year was no different.

On, we announced that we would begin accepting new posts via postal mail, even releasing a form for people to use. While it was a joke, I can’t say I’d be disappointed if a few members decided to play around and mail in a submission.

A month in advance, I like to start a conversation in the staff forums, share my thoughts and see if any of my staff members have any suggestions. This particular idea came mostly from a brand new member of our team.

Did you do anything for April Fools’ Day? If you did, please let me know in the comments.

Movie ForumsI’ve known Chris Bowyer for at least 14 years, which is as long as both of us have been managing online communities. Like many people, I found him thanks to forums. In 2000, he launched Movie Forums and he has run it ever since.

Movie Forums had the same design for a very long time and I knew this because I’d occasionally bump into it online. When I saw his announcement that he had launched a brand new design, it caught my eye because it is very challenging to redesign a forum that has had the same design for a very long time. I was impressed by the fact that the community was widely adopting and praising the design, which itself was quite nice. It’s not easy to achieve this and I knew Chris was responsible.

After the new design was launched, I reached out to Chris to ask if he’d write a guest post here, walking us through his process. How did he achieve such a positive result? What did he do to involve the community? How did he reduce the shock of changing a design that the community had been used to for so long? Chris was kind enough to share the details.

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This is not a political article. I cannot stress that enough. Our comments section should remain free of general thoughts about President Obama, the Affordable Care Act or any topic that is generally political and not related to community management, moderation or the circumstance I am about to describe. Thank you.

President Barack Obama joined Quora earlier this week. His first two answers, posted Monday, were both to questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (answer 1, answer 2). They were of good quality, in my estimation. They both answered the question asked and did so thoughtfully. The only negative is that both included brief messages encouraging U.S. citizens to sign up for health insurance prior to next week’s deadline.

Those statements take up less than a quarter of the overall message and, since the discussion is ACA related and this is the President, I can understand how they may be generally forgivable. A tradeoff for getting the President on your platform.

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Billy-Blob's Codicils
Creative Commons License photo credit: epiclectic

Bill Cosby did a show down at South by Southwest. I was at the conference with my brother Sean, and we wanted to go because it’s Bill Cosby, the legend. We decided that we wouldn’t get in line 3-4 hours before the show, like some people did. Instead, we would get there with 1-2 hours to go and, if we made it in, great.

We took our spot in line about an hour and 15 minutes before he was scheduled to go on. At that point, our odds of getting in looked pretty bleak. But we decided to wait it out. We met Anthony Lux, who was in line next to us, and ended up talking with him for much of it, and hit the food trucks with him after the show.

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SXSW 2014If you are a regular reader, you know I’ve missed a few days of my usual Monday, Thursday schedule. Sorry about that. I think this is the first time I’ve missed a day since September of 2011. I take the schedule pretty seriously.

There are two big reasons for my break: South by Southwest (SXSW) and my health. SXSW was great once again. My health, not so great. I caught something, as can happen when you travel. I’m getting better slowly, even if it is still hanging on.

I’m working on getting back into the swing of things and I thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the community management professionals that I met in person, for the first time, at SXSW. That way, you can check out their work and become familiar with them, as I have.

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“Self-praise stinks,” my grandfather used to say. He said it countless times during my childhood. I don’t think I really appreciated it until I was older.

The message is that no one wants to hear you praise yourself. Praise is always best when it comes from other people. When the best community managers receive praise about their community, they masterfully redirect it in another direction.

When I’m in that mode, when I’m in that community manager mindset, my job is to shift praise away from me.

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