As online comment sections propagated throughout the web and faced people-related scaling issues, mainstream media sites become a popular example of low quality discourse. Some chose to invest meaningful resources into their comments, but many did not.

In recent years, an assortment of news publishers and noted publications have closed their comment sections. I don’t necessarily see that as a big deal or even a bad thing. There’s an ebb and flow here. Many people rush into tools without enough thought, then wonder why they don’t work. There is an eventual correction as they find its not for them or something shinier attracts their attention.

Read More

Let’s say you have previously accepted content from community members requiring only an email address. This could be forum posts, photos, reviews, comments, whatever.

Now, you’ve decided it’s time to go deeper and create an account system so that you can offer additional features and connect more directly with the community. And you want to convert those old members (and their content) into this new system.

How should you do this?

You could automatically create the accounts and then email people, allowing them to confirm their address and create a password. No matter how you word it, this is tricky because in most circumstances, people don’t like having an account created for them without having been asked first, even though it might make total sense from a technical/software evolution standpoint.

Read More

Marcus LemonisI’m a big fan of Marcus Lemonis, who helps struggling small businesses on CNBC’s The Profit. I even tweeted recently that I’d love to work for him. I really identify with how he goes about his business, and it reminds of my Dad and the lessons he’s taught me.

One of his mantras is that successful businesses need the three P’s: people, process and product. This is a great, simple way of expressing how to build an enduring company. It’s just as applicable to building a successful online community.


Community professionals are not a dime a dozen. There are great ones, bad ones and plenty in between. Some are just starting out, others have been in the field for more than 20 years. Your budget often dictates who you can hire and how long you can keep them.

Read More

This whole reddit thing is interesting. Not just what happened on reddit, but all the analysis of it. For the most part, people are focusing on what reddit did wrong in 2015. Not many are talking about what they did wrong in 2005 or 2006.

Whatever you think reddit’s issues are or have been, know that they are foundational in nature. The culture of reddit is deeply engrained. How reddit responds to change now is a direct result of choices reddit leadership made early on. They wanted to create a particular type of environment, and they succeeded.

But the reddit situation really doesn’t offer us any new lessons. All of this is really old community business, handed down to us by the ancients.

Read More

The CMX Guide to Community PlatformsCMX has released The CMX Guide to Community Platforms, a free ebook that premiered at their most recent conference, but is now available for you to download by subscribing to their email list. It was authored by the CMX team: Carrie Melissa Jones, Yrja Oftedahl Lothe and David Spinks.

I contributed to the guide, sending over some long form thoughts on community platforms when they put a call out to the CMX community. I’m glad they were able to make use of them.

The 110-page long PDF provides general insights about choosing a platform and what to avoid. A wide array of currently-relevant platforms are profiled, broken up into several categories. These include forums, enterprise software, community feedback and support platforms, group platforms, content management systems, community relationship management, internal community and community that exists on outside platforms.

Read More

Earlier this week, LEGO released LEGO Worlds, “a fully open-world, creativity-driven game.” It’s the digital LEGO set and is widely-described as the company’s answer to Minecraft.

However, this isn’t LEGO’s first foray into open-world gaming. Previously, they offered LEGO Universe, an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) that was officially released to the public in October of 2010. The service was shuttered in January of 2012 due to a lack of a “satisfactory revenue model.”

Megan Fox, a former senior programmer on the LEGO Universe team who now heads Glass Bottom Games, shared an interesting story on Twitter, describing one of the big challenges they faced, in creating a kid-friendly MMO: penises.

Read More

Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We don’t spend too much time thinking about the private messaging feature of the community software that we use. But as a tool for the community manager and staff, I would never want to be without it.

Most of a community manager’s best work happens in private, and much of that is private messages. That is where we manage the situation. Where we deal with troublemakers and push well-meaning members back on the right path. If you correct someone in public, in front of everyone, that’s a confrontation. They have to save face. They have to defend themselves. If you do it in private, it’s just a conversation between you and them.

Read More

Long-running online communities have a challenge when it comes to highlighting newer members. Old members – many of which may not even be active any longer – tend to be the members with the most total posts, most reputation or some other accumulated number.

One of the reasons people participate in communities is for recognition, and one of the ways that happens is through these metrics. If the path to recognition seems impossible, that makes some people less likely to participate.

Community software (or, perhaps, add-ons for our chosen software) can help us here, by displaying metrics that are more timely, in addition to the overall ones.

Read More

Xubuntu 13.10
Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967b

I recently had someone ask me why I haven’t written (in a long time, anyway) about my recommendations for community software. It’s a good, fair question and I wanted to answer it.

The title of this article might sound a bit callous. I care about community managers and professionals, not software. So when I say I don’t care what software you use, what I really mean is that I am not passionate about your choice, like a person might be passionate about a political party and only vote for candidates in that party.

That’s just not how I operate. No matter what software you choose, I’m not going to be all over you about it. I still want to help. That’s the extended title of this article: “I Don’t Care What Community Software You Use… I Still Want to Help If I Can.”

Read More

When there are new tools that we can use to engage with our community, we tend to focus on the great features those tools have, how easy they are for people to use, the cost of them and the value they offer.

One thing that gets lost, but that should always be at the front of our minds, is how the tool separates us from our community. If we wish to stop using the tool, do we have access to the community data? Or can the tool effectively hold us hostage?

If they can hold us hostage, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, but you just have to be very aware of what you are doing. For example, Facebook and Twitter would fall into that camp of tools. You are engaging with people, but you can’t take your database of Facebook Page likes and do anything off of Facebook with it.

Read More