Managing Online Forums, a manual for the community admin
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One of the reasons that words matter so much is that different words prompt different emotional reactions from people. If you call someone a spammer, they are more likely to react defensively than if you said that they were advertising. Even though, when it comes to the action, these are the same thing.

Let’s take this post for example. I would be willing to wager that, based on title alone, a good portion of those who open it will be predisposed to disagreeing with me, even before they read what I had to say, simply because I used the word censorship instead of “removing bad content” or “banning members.” Not everyone will have this reaction, but some will.

This post is partially inspired by a survey conducted by The American Assembly at at Columbia University (via Jonathan Bailey via Government Computer News). Spurned on by the SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) legislation, they asked 2,303 adults in the United States a series of questions.

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Friday will mark 4 years since the launch of ManagingCommunities.com.

In honor of this occasion, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has been supportive of this site and me. Thank you to those that read this blog, subscribe to it and spread the word by passing along my writing. What I am most proud of is when someone utilizes what I share here to improve the way that they manage their community.

In the last 4 years, I have come a long way and the online community profession has, too. It has been fun to watch and to be a part of. This space means a lot to me and I look forward to seeing where we can go in 2012.

Thank you for visiting and supporting ManagingCommunities.com.


Determination
Creative Commons License photo credit: SmithGreg

I recently had a member on one of my communities start a thread to review a book, which he criticized. Most of his review was fair, but there were some parts that I felt were a little harsh. Still, it was appropriate for our community.

As an author, I do sympathize with other authors because when you really invest of yourself to write a book that means something to you, there is a vulnerability in that. I also don’t want our community to be known for unfairly harsh reviews so while the review itself was OK, I went ahead and replied to steer the topic toward productive discussion.

The next thing I did was to invite the author of the book to the community. I told him about the discussion that was occurring on the community and made clear what was being said. I explained what our community was about – that it is a friendly, respectful community – and encouraged him to join to offer his thoughts.

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The third annual Community Manager Appreciation Day, originally started by Jeremiah Owyang, will be celebrated on January 23.

In honor of this event, Dell will be hosting an hour long Google+ Hangout on their Google+ profile, starting at 1 PM ET (UTC/GMT -5). During the hour, there will be a set of three live panels, organized by Connie Bensen, a Senior Community Strategist at Dell.

I will be featured on the first panel, “Chief Company Pinata & Cat Herder: Beyond a Day in the Life of a Community Manager,” alongside Amy Muller, Co-Founder and Chief Community Offer at Get Satisfaction and Mark Harrison, Community Manager for Google Earth and Google SketchUp. Following this session, others will speak, including Bill Johnston, Director of Global Online Community at Dell, who will be featured on the final panel with Owyang.

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IMG_4162
Creative Commons License photo credit: jsmjr

In the United States, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, in honor of the late civil rights leader.

A few days ago, NBC News released a full episode of “Meet the Press” from March 28, 1965, which featured Dr. King. It is embedded below.

If you watch it, you’ll notice how calm he remains throughout. Despite the very personal nature of the topic and the fact that, at multiple times, he is essentially asked if he is a communist or a hypocrite, he remains calm. This trait was undoubtedly one of Dr. King’s strengths and one of the reasons that he was such an influential leader.

Though his cause was one of vast importance, far more than the management of an average community, a community manager is a leader and leaders of all stripes can learn a great deal from Dr. King.

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Stream from Foot Bridge
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gord Bell

If you are like me, you have many different social streams of information that you pay attention to.

These streams usually contain information from people that you have subscribed to in some way, whether you call it friending, following or something else.

When we interact via platforms that have some sort of relationship system, where people can add you to the list of people they want to pay attention to, you can add them to your list and we are notified when people add us to their list, there is a personal dynamic.

This is because we all like to have people pay attention to us. When we say, “hey, I want to pay attention to you,” and that person then tells us, “awesome, I want to pay attention to you, too!,” it makes us feel good.

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4/365 Merlin
Creative Commons License photo credit: carterse

I received an email from a reader who has managed a good sized community for a number of years. It is the largest within it’s focused niche, growing to host meetups not only online, but also in person.

This reader will remain anonymous because although he wrote me to suggest that I write about this topic, he has not given me permission to mention who he is. But, to keep things simple, we’ll call him Robert.

Robert started the community because the topic that it is based around was a new hobby that he was passionate about. He is a web development veteran. It wasn’t really meant to make any money, as these things often start, but it did lead to him cultivating a relationship with many of the players within the business industry that exists around the topic of the community. He began to generate some revenue, though not very much.

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Josh Barraza asked if I would talk about how you can revive a “dead” online community. That’s a great suggestion.

Before we talk about the how, there are a couple of simple truths that we need to keep in mind.

The definition of “dead” will vary by person, by community and by person running the community. You may look at something as “dead” when someone else sees it as fine.

If you are running the community and you consider it dead, then that is one thing. But, otherwise, be careful how you view, and judge, other communities. They aren’t always intended to have regular activity or to grow on an activity basis. Everyone has different goals.

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Fall scene in Forest Hills Cemetary, Madison, WI, October, 2011
Creative Commons License photo credit: ra_hurd

I like Quora. I really do. But, why is it that I can’t go more than a few days without seeing someone asking, on what is essentially a forum, why forums are dead, how forums can be saved, why people don’t use forums or something similar?

I can only answer this question so many times. There is not enough time in the day for me to tell you that forums are not dead. I have other things I want to do.

That may be one reason I created areforumsdead.com. Day or night, 365 days a year, you can check to see if forums have died yet. It’s updated in real time.

Jokes aside, forums are not dead and they are not dying. Forums will only die when we no longer wish to have threaded, text based discussion. Since that is part of the backbone of most community and social platforms, forums are doing fine.

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