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“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.”

This statement concludes “The Dark Knight,” the 2008 Batman movie directed by Christopher Nolan. It is uttered by Commissioner James Gordon, portrayed by actor Gary Oldman. I watched the film last night and, as I often do with things that I see and hear, pondered how it might apply to community managers.

When Gordon makes that statement, he’s speaking to his son, who Batman had just saved from Two-Face, the evil alter ego of Harvey Dent, the former district attorney who the public views as Gotham’s “white knight.” After the younger Gordon is saved, Batman and Gordon briefly discuss the fall of Dent and how it means that the Joker – the film’s primary villain – has won because he corrupted and made evil the seemingly┬áincorruptible Dent.

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For more than 6 years, I have wanted to start a web video show focused on reviewing soda. I love soda and I am passionate about it. This summer, I finally acted on those aspirations when I launched Soda Tasting.

There are new episodes released 5 days a week and views to my videos are rising, slowly but surely. More importantly, I am having a blast doing it. So much fun. I’m interested to see where it can go. I have already released 60 episodes.

I believe that my community management experience aides me greatly in growing the show. In turn, certain things that have happened have made me think of strategies that relate to community management.

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I tend not to look at other online communities as my competitors. I mean, in one sense, they are. We are all competing for someone’s time (community or not). But, in another sense, it doesn’t really matter. Online communities are very different from one another. They are all like their own countries, with their own culture. Different people gravitate toward different ones.

If I looked at other online communities as my competitors, then I help them every day. I helped them when I wrote my book. I help them when I speak at a conference or when I write a blog post here where I offer advice that they can take and use against me. But, I don’t look at it like that. I don’t feel that I am harming myself by being as honest and open as I am about this profession. Though, if you told me that I was, you wouldn’t be the first person to do so.

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Australia: Hanging Out in Sydney
Creative Commons License photo credit: eliduke

Here’s a good test as to whether the guidelines on your community have any meaning: do they apply to people your community doesn’t like, just like they apply to your members?

Many communities have guidelines that speak to respect. No personal attacks, no name calling, no disrespectful comments, etc. But, I find that sometimes, this guideline is actually limited only to people who are a member of the community.

For example, I can’t call a member of your community stupid. But, I can call a celebrity or politician stupid. Or there is someone that most of your community really doesn’t like. Maybe they are a racist or intolerant in some way. And it is OK for your community to bash them to no end, to say whatever they want about that person or group.

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When I write about community management, I speak from my experience managing communities over the last 12 years. What aides that experience is the variety of roles that I have had. I have owned communities, launched new communities and grown them, managed large communities and I have been a moderator for someone else, on numerous occasions. So, I know what it is like to be a volunteer member of staff and to commit yourself in that way.

On December 14, the final SitePoint Podcast was released. That marks an end to my time as a volunteer staff member for SitePoint, one of the largest web development resources in the world. 11 years, 4 months, 4 weeks and 1 day. That’s a really long time. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this period of my life that I spent as a volunteer staff member.

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Over the years, I’ve developed a great respect for Jason Falls, Founder of Social Media Explorer and Vice President of Digital Strategy for CafePress. One of the things that I respect about Jason is his honesty and his pursuit of truth. He doesn’t simply follow trends or rely on what is known or easy. Instead, he has a reasoned perspective that allows him to see the diversity of social media.

To me, the people who really understand social media understand how big it is. Jason doesn’t just talk about Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Pinterest. Or Google+. He doesn’t just talk about the buzz brands in social. He talks about it all. What he really follows is results. He wrote a book about email marketing and has written about forums time and time again. In April, he threw out a startling figure: 90% of trackable discussions around the banking industry happen in forums.

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Google+ Communities just launched, providing a way for anyone to create a discussion group or forum, as part of Google+. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges that the service faces is how some people are hyping it. Let me get a few things out of the way.

Google+ Communities does not change anything. Things are exactly the same today as they were the day before the functionality launched. Google+ Communities is not anything new, except within the world of Google+. Google+ Communities does not, will not kill anything, whether a specific branded platform (like Facebook) or a type of platform (like forums).

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This is a guest post from Richard Millington of FeverBee. For community managers, Richard’s blog is a great source of ideas, suggestions and observations that will make you think. He recently released his first book, “Buzzing Communities.” He has given me 2 copies to giveaway and I have decided to do a random drawing of those who comment on this post. So, if you’d like to win a copy, please comment below by December 12 at 8 PM ET!

Community guidelines don’t change the behavior of your members for one simple reason: your members don’t read them.

You can test this for yourself. Use Google Analytics and measure how many members visit your guidelines page. I bet it’s less than 1%. And the 1% that take the time to read the guidelines probably aren’t the people that are likely to break them.

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When you manage an online community that has standards or guidelines of any kind, you’ll have to ban people. You can only warn people so many times before their actions lead to that result. I don’t ban people, people ban themselves.

When people are banned, or even when they are simply told that they can’t do something, they can look at the community manager in an odd way. They’ll call you names, compare you to some of the most brutal dictators in the world’s history and make judgments on your quality of life and systems of belief.

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