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The vast majority of online communities are anonymous. The word “anonymous” can trigger all types of reactions. On one extreme, you might have some lowlife bullying and threatening another person. On the other end, whistleblowers. Most of us live in the middle.

But these communities aren’t anonymous as much as they are “share what you want.” Frequently, people will share quite a bit. This is very common, especially in niche communities.

I manage a martial arts community and, in general, many of the members that stick around, and become invested in our community, are the same members who share a lot about themselves.

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Community Manager in Residence

Posted by Patrick on July 27th, 2015 in Community Careers

Residence PlansEntrepreneur in residence is a role that you typically find at venture capital firms. It can take different forms. Generally speaking, this is a respected entrepreneur who is working on their next company or trying to identify their next opportunity.

It’s a short term role, where the firm provides the entrepreneur with a salary and resources, like an office and access to smart people who work at the firm. The entrepreneur in residence may help the firm by offering feedback on potential investments and lending insight to portfolio companies they have already invested in.

The arrangement is really about the firm recognizing what the entrepreneur brings to the table and wanting to back those talents financially. Either by funding the entrepreneur’s next company or by placing them with a company the firm plans to invest in.

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Money, Power & Respect by The LoxMoney, Power & Respect, the 1998 debut from The Lox, is a great album. I’ve been listening to “Let’s Start Rap Over” a lot lately. I love that record.

Advancing your career is a challenge, to say the least. It’s tough to land a new job. It may be just as daunting to go to your boss and ask for more. And yet, for many professionals, that’s exactly what is required for you to move forward.

When you are pushing upward, remember three words: money, power and respect. When I urge community professionals not to sell themselves short, it’s these three things that represent advancement. Because if it’s not about money, power and respect, it’s just words.

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The communities that I manage are monetized via display advertising. I only work with reputable companies and have restrictions in place to ensure that the ads served meet my standards.

All networks worth your time will be actively protecting their publishers from ads that serve up malware. That’s obvious. But they’ll also provide you with filters that you can set to restrict the types of creatives they serve and the content of those creatives.

For me, this means no popup ads. No ads that expand automatically. No ads that play sound automatically. No ads related to sexuality. No ads related to gambling and betting. And there are other standards, as well. AdSense is very good about this, as are most networks you’d want to work with.

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“Free speech” and “freedom of speech.” These are terms you should never use to describe your community. It’s a common mistake made by people who mean well, but are brand new to community management.

What they generally mean: you can say whatever you want, as long as you follow these guidelines.

But that’s not free speech. Free speech doesn’t discriminate. Free speech isn’t just what you want, it’s what you don’t. There are some exclusions to free speech that exist in the law, but they don’t relate to most of the issues that you’ll face when working with a community.

What people will think you mean: I can say whatever I want!

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This whole reddit thing is interesting. Not just what happened on reddit, but all the analysis of it. For the most part, people are focusing on what reddit did wrong in 2015. Not many are talking about what they did wrong in 2005 or 2006.

Whatever you think reddit’s issues are or have been, know that they are foundational in nature. The culture of reddit is deeply engrained. How reddit responds to change now is a direct result of choices reddit leadership made early on. They wanted to create a particular type of environment, and they succeeded.

But the reddit situation really doesn’t offer us any new lessons. All of this is really old community business, handed down to us by the ancients.

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reddit Alienreddit is currently the talk of the online community world. For me, it’s a lot of old lessons coming back to the surface, yet again. Which is why I haven’t written much about it. But I saw a great comment on reddit by Slickdeals chief product officer Bryant Quan. I’m a long term user of Slickdeals, and I found his executive-level perspective to be quite compelling. His thoughts are re-published here, with permission.

I was one of the original founders, former CEO and now the Chief Product Officer, and as such I’ve had the opportunity to put a lot of processes in place, as well as help ask the right questions whenever we do things. Naturally all communities have their nuances and differences, but in the end, it boils down to respect. Respect the community: honor your users and content contributors for the work and effort they do.

Often this results in us taking a tradeoff in what we call “technical debt vs. community debt,” where instead of creating friction for our users, we take on a technical burden instead. For instance, we launched a redesign recently, and instead of forcing everyone over, we maintained a classic version of the website. We told ourselves that we would maintain two versions of the site for the foreseeable future and do our best to improve the redesigned version to the point that it compels people to switch (“lets make it so much better that they willingly switch”).

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“Don’t read the comments” is a common refrain these days.

Many comment sections – and communities, forums, Facebook pages, Twitter hashtags and wherever else we’re talking – are full of terrible things, thoughts and people. Terrible in the mind of the beholder, anyway.

“Don’t read the comments,” they say. “Never read the comments.”

That excites me.

To me, “don’t read the comments” is an opportunity. Because I know great comments and great communities are possible. I’ve spent my entire career building them. I’ve participated in them. I’ve met some of my closest friends in them. I want others to have that same experience. It’s not far-fetched at all. It’s very possible.

While there is magic in a great comments section, there is no magic to creating them. The answer, as always, is moderation, which is simply a mix of tools, people and strategy. You need all 3.

“Don’t read the comments” shouldn’t discourage us. It should be a rallying cry. There is work to be done. Let’s go do it.


Fifty Shades of GreyOn Monday, Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James participated in a Twitter chat, hosted by @TwitterBooks, using the hashtag #AskELJames.

“It went horribly, horribly wrong,” writes BuzzFeed. USA TODAY says it was “catastrophic.” The Yahoo! News headline reads: “Twitter users eviscerate … James in Q&A.” That’s only the tip of the iceberg for media coverage. There is even a local news story about a Twitter user who received a lot of retweets.

What does this say about how we measure the success of a Twitter chat? And who should hold one? Should a celebrity or major brand ever create or endorse a hashtag? After all, hashtags can be used by anyone. Even if you host a Twitter chat without a hashtag, people can just use Twitter search and/or create a hashtag of their own, which others may adopt. Less likely, but possible. Then what?

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European Court of Human Rights Credit: James Russell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: James Russell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Delfi, a leading Estonian news organization, could be held liable for comments posted on its website by readers.

That, in itself, is a scary prospect for community professionals. But the judgment is even worse when you consider that Delfi’s comments weren’t a total free-for-all. They may not have had the greatest moderation strategy in the world – far from it – but they did have comment guidelines, a report comment function and a notice-and-takedown system in place. The day the aggrieved party reported the comments to them, they removed them.

However, the party wanted more than removal of the comments: they wanted financial compensation. When Delfi balked, a lawsuit was filed and, 9 years later, we arrive at this judgment. The Court not only placed the liability on Delfi, but was critical of the simple existence of anonymous comments and provided confusing guidance on how Delfi could have avoided liability; outside of not having comments at all.

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