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When you have a unique level of experience in a certain area, have written a book about it, author a blog on it, speak about it at conferences and events and regularly offer thoughts on the topic on other platforms, often when asked, there’s a lot of good. But, there are also a few unfortunate side effects.

I want to talk about one in particular today, which is that when you recommend something, some people take it as you saying that your recommendation is the only way to accomplish said task. And if it doesn’t match with what they do, they are offended and feel as if their knowledge and their skills have been challenged.

When, in reality, all you did was make a simple, general recommendation for a certain set of circumstances, they take it in a polarizing way, believing that you are saying that all other methods of accomplishing the goal are garbage.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it.

In honor of the day, I thought that I would take a moment to talk about a few things that I am thankful for right now, as they pertain to managing an online community.

I have a lot to be thankful for, both professionally and personally and this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. Just some things that popped into my head as I pondered the question, “what, related to what I do with online communities, am I thankful for right now?”

Online Community Management as a Maturing Industry

When I started, the Community Manager role didn’t really exist. 99% of the platforms, tools and software that are now available – were not available.

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Today is my birthday and, as with every birthday for the last however many years, I have received a bunch of email messages from communities (seemingly all powered by vBulletin) wishing me a happy birthday.

I no longer visit most of these and the email didn’t make me visit them again. Some of them I simply registered on to post a quick thank you or ask a question.

This got me to thinking about how you can celebrate member birthdays on your community. To celebrate it, you have to know it – so, you have to ask your members for the month and day of their birthday in their profile.

Year isn’t important and even if you have it, you don’t want to wish someone a “Happy 56th Birthday,” just a “Happy Birthday.” People can be sensitive about their age.

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Scott M. Fulton, II of ReadWriteWeb wrote earlier this week (care of my friend Jared W. Smith) about the debate in technology media circles about the value of device specs in tech reviews.

The discussion is centered around this question: when it comes to reviewing a device, just how important are the specs to a potential buyer?

Devices with good specs can have poor performance. Devices with seemingly inferior specs can perform better. And now, with some of the heavy lifting being offloaded to the web through cloud services and more, the specs inside of the box you are holding or looking at have, potentially, become less important.

One of the devices that has spurned this debate is Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet (which my parents gave me last night as a birthday gift). Many are billing it as the iPad’s first legitimate competitor. But, the reason they are doing that isn’t on specs. The iPad 2 is clearly superior in that metric. No, that claim is based on three things.

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No time for photos (35/365)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars P.

In my last article, I discussed the danger of letting community guideline violations slide and how, if you let a violation go without the proper attention, you may be risking one of the most important elements of community management: consistency.

On Google+, Justin Kozuch, Lead Researcher at Pixel to Product, Community Manager at OSL Marketing and Host of 49Pixels Live, shared the article and started a discussion, asking community managers, “what tactics have you employed to create a consistent experience for your community members?”

I took the question down the moderation route, because that was the subject of my article and, also, moderation is, perhaps, the most important thing that we can do to ensure a consistent experience.

When it comes to moderation, there are a number of things that I do to help this process. Here are some of the big ones.

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Coloured Slide
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

If you manage an active community, like I do, violations to your guidelines can be a dime a dozen.

Most of them are probably fairly simple – your garden variety spam, duplicate posting and what not.

Mix that in with some copyright infringement and some culture setting guidelines, like those to do with disrespectful comments and vulgarities, and you have a majority of what you have to deal with on a regular basis.

In the sea of violations, it can be easy to think “what does it matter if I let this one slide?” Some common scenarios where this may occur:

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With community efforts, sometimes there is this temptation to offer your members a lot of different touch points with which to enter some form of content.

Not only do we want forums, but we want sections for specific types of content, like reviews, formatted in a different way that fits reviews best. And we want deep user profiles and the ability to comment on profiles. And we want microinteractions, so that people can simply “like” a post without replying to it. Among other things.

These things can all be great, but they are only great if people are actually using them and that can be a challenge. It’s nice to have dedicated sections, for example, but if it having reviews be just forum threads means that there is actually activity, then that has major value.

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In forums, I have met the majority of people that I consider close friends. One of my best friends is Jared W. Smith.

I’ve mentioned Jared here on ManagingCommunities.com numerous times, including in my article on how much I love when people who have worked under me go on to do great things.

I have known Jared for over 10 and a half years. Last Saturday, he married Stephanie Coccaro in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and I was there.

I drove 4 hours to Raleigh, North Carolina, flew to Charlotte, North Carolina and then to Savannah, Georgia. Finally, I drove another hour in a rental car to Hilton Head Island. I really wanted to be there.

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We’re getting toward the end of of the latest round of new staff members on KarateForums.com, which is an established online community that I have run for over 10 years.

Many communities, mine included, feature a staff of volunteers, who complement the person or team that is primarily responsible for the community. Volunteer staff members have low requirements placed upon them and they join the team for differing reasons.

The biggest, and perhaps most important, reason is that they themselves have derived benefit and enjoyment from the community and now they want to give back and help maintain the thing that they enjoy. There are other positive benefits, as well.

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