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Creative Commons License photo credit: digika

In sporting circles, especially in the National Football League (NFL), the idea of a coaching tree is fairly well known.

According to Wikipedia, a coaching tree is “is similar to a family tree except it shows the relationships of coaches instead of family members. There are several different ways to define a relationship between two coaches. The most common way to make the distinction is if a coach worked as an assistant on a particular head coach’s staff for at least a season then that coach can be counted as being a branch on the head coach’s coaching tree.”

In other words, if a coach works as an assistant under one head coach, and that assistant goes on to become a head coach, that assistant is a member of the head coach’s coaching tree. The Wikipedia page for NFL coaching trees gives the pre-eminent example of Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

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It was three years ago today that I launched ManagingCommunities.com. Since then, it has become the primary vehicle through which I share community management information, as well as my related experiences and thoughts.

This is a space that I care deeply about. I have been directly managing online communities for more than 10 and 1/2 years now and I am thankful to have the opportunity to talk about the subject here.

In recognition of the milestone, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading this blog and to thank everyone who subscribes via RSS, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

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There is a reason that politics and religion are the two main things not to discuss in polite company. Few topics can divide a room faster. And, as a community is not all that different from a group of people in a room, it can have the same effect online.

Rarely can subjects be as divisive as those two – rarely do subjects lead to people holding each other in greater disdain.

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When it comes to identification on an online community, usernames tend to be the convention of choice, providing people with the option of identifying themselves as they choose (within the community guidelines, of course).

But, for some communities, it may make sense to require real names or, at least, the display of real names. This can be both detrimental and beneficial and there is no right or wrong answer – it all depends on your unique situation.

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Mustard
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The forum software space is very strong. There are numerous and plentiful options, both free and paid, that are backed by resourceful communities providing hacks, styles, graphics, customizations, tutorials, support and more for free or for an additional cost. This is a great thing.

Back when I started, in 2000, this wasn’t the case. Software wise, the space was extremely young. forum-software.org’s timeline of forum software definitely takes me back. At that time, some of the major players that are well established today, were brand new.

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Extraterrestrial on visit
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Sometimes, things seem a lot more difficult than they are. This is often the case when a company wants to engage in an online community that they don’t own. For example, a martial arts gear manufacturer that wants to start posting on KarateForums.com.

Online communities can be scary because each one is like it’s own civilization with it’s own social norms, laws and belief system. What if you don’t fit in? What if they get mad at you and never want to buy your product again? It’s a legitimate concern, but if you hold yourself to a few personal standards, chances are that you’ll do fine.

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On Quora, this question was asked: “Why haven’t web forums evolved over the last 10 years?” The person who asked the question elaborated by adding: “I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. Most forums are partying like it’s 1999.”

This isn’t, necessarily, an uncommon belief. Some people see forums as this archaic beast that is lingering and (in their mind, if not in reality) declining. They see Facebook, Twitter and, yes, Quora, as something completely new and fresh. But is it so?

I would suggest that forums have evolved in the ways that they should.

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98!365
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One of the subjects I was good at, back when I was in school, was math. I liked it and I tested well at it. It serves me well in my life. But, when it comes to online community, I find that math can sometimes be destructive, especially when it is relied upon too deeply or held up as a precise standard. As cliche as it may sound, the majority of online community is about people.

One question I hear asked in online community spaces, with some regularity, is: “What is the ideal moderator:user ratio?” In other words, how many moderators should I have for every X active users. Is it 1 moderator for every 20 active users? 100? 500?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: ritcheyer

I wrote this post before I published the “Maybe it’s My Fault” post. At first, I thought that I might include this, or something like it, as a sort of disclaimer or at least some form of context, at the end of that post. But, then I thought: why weaken my words or their impact by disclaiming them when there really was no need?

I wanted to allow people to interpret that as they may, as a reflection of themselves and their experiences. So, instead, I decided to write this post before that one was published, and then publish this one – regardless of how that first one was received.

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