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GeniusGenius, the popular service best known for its community-sourced explanations of song lyrics, launched in October of 2009. They are powered by user-generated content (UGC), where anyone can simply highlight a passage of text and add an annotation. They have raised at least $56.9 million in funding.

It took them 6 and a half years to add a report abuse button. On March 31, they did so. But only after a member of congress asked them if they would.

For a reputable community-driven site of this scale, that’s unheard of and hard to believe. It casts the service in a bad light and speaks to priorities that run counter to community.

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When a new member enters your community, what should they do first? What will encourage them to contribute and help them feel more comfortable in doing so?

Online community onboarding efforts vary. Frankly, a lot of new members are effectively thrown right into the community. Some communities might go a bit deeper. Perhaps they make a bigger deal out of welcoming people, pointing them to an area where they can introduce themselves. Maybe they make new members click through a guide to the community. Or they prompt them to fill out their profile.

But if the primary goal is to have them contribute to the community, your best move could be to help them make their first post in a no pressure way. Community software vendors could have a big impact here by offering sandbox-like functionality as an option by default.

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I am wary of people who talk about building online communities, social apps, and related services, in an “addictive” or “habit-forming” way, as if these are respectable goals. Speaking for my own personal responsibility, I am not comfortable with it.

If you do a Google search and read about addiction, terms related to it and the stages of it, you might be reminded of what some people have written about how you should build your communities and get people to stay. I find that a little frightening.

You can’t use these words and then feign innocence or say it was just a catchphrase to reel people in. Those who have seen the damage of addiction know otherwise.

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You may love your onboarding process. It might be a beautiful, well-thought out series of steps meant to make people feel more comfortable and begin their journey as a contributor.

But if I can’t skip it, it’s a mistake.

Last weekend, I found myself on a somewhat well-known social media platform (and online community, of sorts), going through their onboarding. It started off simply enough: with a list of suggested topics I could follow.

Here’s the thing: I virtually never do suggested topics or follow suggested users. I skip. I don’t want to pick suggested topics because suggested topics lead to notifications via the site and email. It clogs my feed and my inbox. I don’t want any of it.

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We Recommend You Follow… Us

Posted by Patrick on December 14th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

I opened Instagram the other day and there was a list of suggested accounts to follow at the top of the app. The first account listed was the official Instagram account.

That just seemed odd to me.

A case can be made that the account is an important follow. That it connects users to important news, new features and service-related announcements. But I wouldn’t make that case. I’m not even sure the account should show up on the suggested follow list at all, let alone at the top of it.

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Your Community Has Holidays, Too

Posted by Patrick on November 26th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

Just like different countries and cultures have different holidays, so does your community. Or it can, at least.

It’s common for a country to celebrate the birth of their nation. The day that your community launched can be a holiday. As can the half-birthday, if you so choose.

If you have any sort of annual program, the start of that program is a type of holiday. For example, a yearly awards event where members nominate and vote for their favorites.

They don’t all have to be so serious or structured. Remember that day when Christopher Walken registered and posted on your forums? That shall now be known as Christopher Walken Day on your community.

There is a lot of room for creativity, but just like holidays bring people together throughout the world, they can do the same for your members. Create a list of the community holidays that you celebrate, and post it where everyone can see. And don’t forget to celebrate them!

When Gamification Gets in the Way

Posted by Patrick on November 12th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

My friend Michael Kimsal recently visited a company support forum, with a problem that he needed to fix. Instead of a solution, he received an email announcing that he had earned a “first post” badge on the community. He found this frustrating.

“I’ve got a *problem* that I need *solved*,” Michael wrote on Facebook. “Quit emailing me ‘hey, great, you earned a “first post” badge!’ Just fix my problem. Even thinking that someone spent a load of time coming up with gamification rules for this community, instead of just spending more money on making the service better in the first place…

“I do *NOT* plan to spend my time in a support forum – this is the last place on earth anyone should give a crap about ‘badges.'”

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Traditions can be a lot of fun and create some great memories for your online community members. They don’t have to come from you, necessarily – they don’t even have to be organized or spearheaded by you, though that will often be the case. Even if you just make sure they run smoothly and are well-supported.

What traditions do you have in your community, that you and your members look forward to? Let me know in the comments.

There are numerous traditions that we have at KarateForums.com. There are threads that are revived or restarted annually. There is a member of the month award, a yearly awards program, the celebration of various milestones and more. Earlier this year, I had an idea for a new tradition.

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Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

If you want a community initiative to be successful, don’t rely only on announcements, prominent calls to action and mailing lists. Pound the pavement, contact 10-20 influential members in the community and ask them to get behind it by participating.

The 14th annual KarateForums.com Awards started last week. Over the last 13 years, 128 different members have been nominated for an award. It is completely powered by the community and is a fun time of the year.

Yes, we announce it. Yes, we have a link in our header. Yes, we mention it on our Facebook page. Yes, the staff gets behind it and adds a link to their signatures. Yes, we add some pointers in popular sections.

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With Fandango’s sabotaging the credibility of their own user ratings and Amazon suing more than 1,000 Fiverr users for posting fake product reviews, I thought it would be fun to talk about building trust in review systems.

If people can’t trust your reviews, you may as well not have them at all.

Having a code of conduct you actually enforce is important. But let’s think about this in a bigger sense, focusing on 3 key ideas that have to do with the systems you use and the data they have access to.

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