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Eyeing John Marshall Law School
Creative Commons License photo credit: swanksalot

It’s natural that members of the community that you manage may want to interact with you on other social sites. Facebook is an easy example here, because of its massive userbase and because many profiles are private. But, certainly, other similarly structured platforms would apply just the same.

If your name is known to your members, as is commonly the case, then your profile may be a simple Google search away.

Should you accept and encourage friend requests? Or should you discourage and ignore them?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: davidkn1

Communities often see downswings in activity around specific holidays or even specific seasons.

For example, you might see less of some people during the summer, when they are more freely able to go outside and take vacations. Of course, summer occurs during different portions of the year, depending on where you are based. If most of your visitors are Australian, you’ll see it in December through February. If most are from the U.S., then you’re looking at June through August.

The same thing can happen on weekends, especially 3 or 4 day weekends that include holidays. In the U.S., it is Memorial Day weekend. I asked for ideas for today’s article and my friend Ted Sindzinski suggested that I discuss seasonality. Specifically, “How can communities thrive through slow seasons, even leverage users going offline?”

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Imagine this situation: you are contacted by the wife of a member of your community. The member registered six years ago and has made hundreds of comments. She tells you that this veteran member of your community is dead. He has committed suicide. For any community manager, this is a moment of sadness.

But, you are still the community manager and you probably know that people fake this stuff. So, you do what little research you can, without doing the unthinkable and asking the wife if she is making it all up.

You may not find enough details to be completely satisfied, but you also can’t find anything that makes you think, with absolute conviction, that the wife’s story is anything but true. And you can’t afford to be wrong with that sort of accusation because it is simply too cruel.

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Gluttony...
Creative Commons License photo credit: susivinh

I’m a big believer in leaving moderation to moderators and in having a word with any member that attempts to act like a moderator.

By act like a moderator, I mean that they try to tell other people what they can and cannot post and where and when they can do so. Even if they are correct, I don’t want them telling other members what to do.

In the long run, I believe that this sort of thing does more harm than good. I want members to respect one another and treat each other kindly. I don’t want them to manage each other or to feel as though their fellow members are watching over their shoulder, waiting for them to slip up. I want them to enjoy the community and each other and leave the management to the recognized staff members within the community.

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Recently, a new member on PhotoshopForums.com posted a request where they were looking for someone to take a picture of a paper sign with some girls name on it and then make it look like a guy in a different photo was holding it.

They said that it was for a prank. The way he explained it was that he and his cousin prank each other back and forth and he wanted to get her back for her last prank, which was to go up to him when he was talking to an attractive girl and act like a rude ex-girlfriend.

What he did was create an account (presumably on Facebook, but could it could be any social site) to pretend to be this guy in the photo, who his cousin finds “hot.” In his act of pretending, she asked for him to hold a sign with her name on it to prove that it is really the guy. Hence the request.

That’s a scary thing to me because while I joke around a lot, especially with my brothers and close friends, that’s the type of thing you read about kids committing suicide over. Is it possibly over dramatic for me to leap to that thought? Perhaps. A person can commit suicide over anything – any perceived slight or insult, no matter how meaningless. If it were to happen in this case, however unlikely that is, reasonably, it wouldn’t really be my fault. Even though, if it were picked up in the press, it is possible that I would be scrutinized.

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Recently, Jason Falls shared an interesting fact with me. According to his research, collected through NetBase, 90% of the trackable conversations occurring online around banks and bank products were in online forums. Ninety percent!

5% related to consumer reviews, 3% on blogs and less than 1% in each of the four categories: microblogs (that’s Twitter), social networks, comments sections of some form and the all-powerful “other.”

Furthermore, it’s not just banks. In a companion piece for Entrepreneur Magazine, where I was quoted, Jason said that he checked how forums stacked up against other industries, to see if banking was a fluke. It wasn’t. Forums were #1 or #2 for every sector they analyzed.

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Cannellini, Mushroom, Leek, Celery, Carrot, Zucchini, Pasta Minestrone Soup
Creative Commons License photo credit: avlxyz

Once in a while, I run across an article that uses the word “forums” or the term “online community” in a weird, misleading way. What disappoints me most is when someone does this when they are claiming to have expertise in this space – they have community in their job title, they are a community platform publishing an ebook or white paper, etc.

A simple illustration of this would be an article that I read where the author listed everything they thought was bad about online forums and said those things were what “forums” were. Everything they thought was good about forums, that was what “online communities” were. For example, they made the statement that online communities are managed and forums are not. Any community management veteran would double take at that sentence and dismiss it as a riddle. Well, that’s not fair. Riddles are usually puzzles with a solution. This was just nonsense.

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Vampire / Lion
Creative Commons License photo credit: outcast104

On PhotoshopForums.com, we don’t allow people to link (outside of their signature) to tutorial sites that they are in some way affiliated with. Even if the tutorial answers a question that has been asked.

To some, this may sound strange. But, for us, it speaks to the intent of participation and the quality of engagement on our community.

If we allowed people to link to their tutorial sites, they would. In massive droves. It’s all our community would be. A mess of people jockeying to post links to their tutorial sites.

Not only do people post their tutorials as answers and as new threads, but they search for threads where their tutorial may be relevant or where it may answer the question and then respond, regardless of how old the thread is. We’ll even have people who will look for questions, specifically so that they want write a tutorial on their site, rather than replying in our forums, and then link to it.

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I recently backed a project on Kickstarter for the first time. The project was for “A Show with Ze Frank.” It was successfully funded (raising $146,752, well exceeding the goal of $50,000) the new series from Mr. Frank is well underway.

I have loved his past work and was excited to see him back doing a regular series. Beyond just supporting the idea, I also received a package of the 10 most popular episodes of his last series, “the show with zefrank,” in m4v format, all songs from “the show” and my name and photo on a special web based thank you wall. So, it wasn’t just a donation to something I liked or wanted to see happen, but I actually received others benefits, similar to a purchase more than just a donation.

This got me to thinking about Kickstarter and crowd funding. I think it is awesome. People are tapping into their audience, the people who love their stuff – their community of people – and funding their ideas and offering value. Most of the stories about Kickstarter are centered around content and product creators, not individual websites or online communities. But, I think that this is something that an online community is uniquely suited to benefit from.

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