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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Facebook allows you to download an archive of  content you have posted on their platform. Google allows you to do the same with many of their services. Twitter will also provide you with an archive. As will many other social media platforms.

And yet, I don’t know of a single community or forum software application that allows members to do this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an option or two that does, but we need to do better and I want to push for that change.

I can think of reasons why it hasn’t been a priority. Posts in an online community are seen more as being part of the whole, so there isn’t necessarily a strong desire to download content separated from the larger conversations. In my 14 years of managing online communities totaling well over a million contributions, I have never once had a member request that they would like an archive of their posts. But that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a welcome feature.

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I've got nerd bling... Too much or just enough? #geek #nerd #bling
Creative Commons License photo credit: betsyweber

If you work in community, marketing or “digital” (whatever that means to you), you’ve probably heard a lot about the declining reach of Facebook pages, the death of Google+ and how Twitter isn’t far behind. Everybody loves to talk about platforms dying.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of these stories are that big of a deal. The Facebook reach drop is probably the most impactful one, but Facebook doesn’t owe pages anything and it was never said that they wouldn’t change how reach works on their platform. Google+ has provided value for some people, while others never found traction. And Twitter is still what you make it.

No matter how great third party platforms are performing, even if you could go back to the days when beer flowed like wine for brands on Facebook, one simple fact remains. It always goes back to the spaces you actually control.

When I keynoted at Podcamp Topeka in November of 2010, this slide was in my deck:

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Movie ForumsI’ve known Chris Bowyer for at least 14 years, which is as long as both of us have been managing online communities. Like many people, I found him thanks to forums. In 2000, he launched Movie Forums and he has run it ever since.

Movie Forums had the same design for a very long time and I knew this because I’d occasionally bump into it online. When I saw his announcement that he had launched a brand new design, it caught my eye because it is very challenging to redesign a forum that has had the same design for a very long time. I was impressed by the fact that the community was widely adopting and praising the design, which itself was quite nice. It’s not easy to achieve this and I knew Chris was responsible.

After the new design was launched, I reached out to Chris to ask if he’d write a guest post here, walking us through his process. How did he achieve such a positive result? What did he do to involve the community? How did he reduce the shock of changing a design that the community had been used to for so long? Chris was kind enough to share the details.

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