Flickr has begun selling canvas prints of images uploaded to its photo sharing community. Some of the images that are available for purchase use the standard copyright license, meaning that Flickr has secured permission from the photographer, or rights holder, to sell the image as a print. These creators are getting a cut of the proceeds.

However, Flickr is also making available countless photos that have been released under a less restrictive copyright license, one of the Creative Commons (CC) licenses. In these cases, they aren’t asking the photographers for permission – or paying them anything. This has led to a bit of a controversy.

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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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Posted by Patrick on November 10th, 2014 in Interacting with Members, Managing Staff

You should tell your members and your staff. You should tell them what you expect of them. You should tell them what to expect of you. You should tell them what challenges you are facing and share the details. You should ask the same of them.

Over-communicate. Don’t assume. Over-communication is one of the secrets to building trust. When you don’t, that leads to surprise (the bad kind). Bad surprises destroy trust.

That’s why I over-communicate. Under-communication is miscommunication.

When you are making a big change, like changing a 10 year old design, you need to communicate that change like crazy. You can’t just flip a switch. You can’t just say, a week before, “we’re doing this.” You have to really talk through it.

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“Never understood why companies block replies to confirmation emails,” my friend Ted Sindzinski recently remarked on Twitter. “Fastest path for help = better service = better name. Any time a customer is forced into ‘system,’ it’s going to frustrate. Figure out how to capture without them doing the work.”

I’m a believer in this. That is why my email address is the reply address on every automated email that my community software sends out – and has been for at least 13 years. Not just confirmation emails, but any sort of notification message, too.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to put a real email address on every automated email – but at the very least, you should do so for every email that requires an action. When you ask a person to complete an action via email, you should make it easier for them to contact you if they have a problem completing that action. There is no easier method than hitting reply.

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When I talked about how I don’t tell people to “grow a thick skin” and “ignore the trolls,” Regina Buenaobra left a great comment.

“You can’t effectively manage a community or ask your members to report problem users if you also tell them to ignore trolls,” she wrote. “Sure, advise members not to antagonize problem users themselves, but they definitely should not ignore troll comments – they need to be brought to the community manager’s attention. It takes collective effort to ensure a safe and friendly community environment, and ignoring trolls is not a great way to cultivate that environment.”

This is a fantastic point. “Ignore the trolls” is kind of like saying that trolls must have a place on your community. They are inevitable, they will have their space, so please just stay away from them. But that’s not how it has to be. It reminds me of a general policy that we have on the communities that I manage. I refer to it as “report, don’t respond.”

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Film director Quentin Tarantino held a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. He was asked about the possibility of his movies being re-released as director’s cuts or with added footage. Seeing as all of his movies are the director’s cut, he wasn’t really a fan of that idea.

However, he talked about how he has 90 minutes of footage from Django Unchained that has never been seen. He said that “the idea is to cut together a four-hour version, but not show it like a four-hour movie,” adding that he could “cut it up into one-hour chapters like a four-part miniseries and show it on cable television. People love those!

With binge watching – for example, watching all episodes of a show on Netflix at one time or in a short period – being such a common thing these days, Tarantino added that people would “be dying to watch all four episodes in one go.”

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Bob, a member of my staff at, recently shared a heartwarming story on our community. It involved his son, Nathan, whose bicycle had been stolen – taken right off of their front porch.

The theft was reported to the local police in Owasso, Oklahoma. The next week, several police officers showed up at his house with a gift: a new bike (and a lock for it). For Nathan, a special needs teenager, the bicycle represents freedom and his means of transportation to work. The police department used money set aside in a Cops for Kids fund to purchase the gift.

The local news covered it. Watch the clip below, including an emotional Bob.

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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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Link Walk And Tabletop Track
Creative Commons License photo credit: huskyte77

The whole Comic Book Resources story has me thinking about the proper way to close an online community.

All online communities eventually come to an end. I’ve launched many communities and I’ve experienced unique longevity. I’ve managed for 13 years, for more than 11 and for 11 before I gave it away to a member. All of these communities will eventually come to an end – whether I am at the helm or someone else is.

I’ve also closed communities. Because the time had come. They were inactive, it felt like an uphill fight and I wanted to spend my time elsewhere or they had run their course. Whatever the reason – and there are many – your online community will end. For this article, I am going to presume that we have explored the alternatives to closing and decided that closing is the appropriate course of action.

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Split Down the Middle
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

In my last piece, I discussed Comic Book Resources and their decision to delete their 7+ year old, 12.9 million post forum. It’s a complex story and one that responsible minds will disagree on, as far as the handling of the situation.

I don’t want to rehash the story too deeply, but the crux of the issue was that the community had been allowed to go in a direction that the founder was not proud of. From what he said, it sounded like it was a very vocal, loud minority that was saying terrible things that were racist, misogynist or otherwise intolerant or hateful. Awful stuff. So they opted for a clean slate, which is a reasonable option.

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