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

You should look at moderation as an opportunity to educate, not criticize. Specifically, the act of removing content and informing a member of a guideline violation. This is a great moment, where you can guide the member to a more fruitful existence in your community.

I don’t see removed content as a strike. I’m not counting to 3 and then kicking you off. Context is everything. Mistakes happen – it’s all about how the member responds. I like to invest in the members who are trying to get better – and get rid of the ones who don’t care.

This is part caring and part process. The caring aspect is mental. It’s the thought that you want to have as many great members as you can and the understanding that there are people who need some help to become that great member. You need that mindset, and you need to surround yourself with people who have it.

Read More

reddit Alienreddit is currently the talk of the online community world. For me, it’s a lot of old lessons coming back to the surface, yet again. Which is why I haven’t written much about it. But I saw a great comment on reddit by Slickdeals chief product officer Bryant Quan. I’m a long term user of Slickdeals, and I found his executive-level perspective to be quite compelling. His thoughts are re-published here, with permission.

I was one of the original founders, former CEO and now the Chief Product Officer, and as such I’ve had the opportunity to put a lot of processes in place, as well as help ask the right questions whenever we do things. Naturally all communities have their nuances and differences, but in the end, it boils down to respect. Respect the community: honor your users and content contributors for the work and effort they do.

Often this results in us taking a tradeoff in what we call “technical debt vs. community debt,” where instead of creating friction for our users, we take on a technical burden instead. For instance, we launched a redesign recently, and instead of forcing everyone over, we maintained a classic version of the website. We told ourselves that we would maintain two versions of the site for the foreseeable future and do our best to improve the redesigned version to the point that it compels people to switch (“lets make it so much better that they willingly switch”).

Read More

Flickr Auto TagsWhen I opened Twitter on Monday, one of the first tweets I saw was this message from Heather Champ. Champ, a well-respected mind in community circles, is the former director of community at Flickr, a role she held for five years.

In the tweet, Champ criticized Flickr’s decision to automatically apply tags to previously uploaded photos. These tags were generated by image recognition technology. She called the move “so community hostile that I fear my head may explode from even thinking about it.” In a follow up tweet, Champ further highlighted a settings page within Flickr where she had specifically indicated that she was the only person who could add tags to her Flickr uploads.

Jessamyn West, also well known in the community space due to her work on MetaFilter, tweeted similar criticism.

Read More

I’ve been a fan of Fabolous for a long time. Recently, the rapper has been releasing a freestyle every week as part of his Friday Night Freestyles series. My favorite, thus far, is his “All for the Love Freestyle,” which uses the beat from “All for the Love” by The Lox. Please note: the song, embedded below, is explicit.

The original “All for the Love,” which features only Jadakiss from The Lox, has been a longtime favorite of mine. Fabolous’ freestyle has a number of great lines that stood out to me, but perhaps none as much as this one:

“Money ain’t the root of all evil now. Attention is.”

Read More

As artificial intelligence (AI) gets farther along and is adapted into more products, there will be more and more opportunities to use automated systems to converse with people in community and customer support efforts. Especially when they are asking something that a lot of people have asked.

For example, is a neat service that helps you schedule meetings through an automated personal assistant. Ryan Leslie, through his Disruptive Multimedia platform (which I like), encourages fans to text him and then puts them through an automated text message conversation to confirm that they have joined his music club.

We’ll only continue to see this more and more. There’s a lot of potential for it.

Read More

Earlier this year, a member of reached 25,000 posts on the community. The member, Brian Walker, is also a member of my staff, and I recently interviewed him for a feature on law enforcement officers who are also moderators. When he hit the mark, we posted an announcement and various members congratulated him and talked about how much he’s added to the community.

But I decided that I wanted to do more, to recognize Brian’s outstanding contribution to our community. I started a private forum thread that all staff members, except Brian, had access to. I used this thread to ask for ideas as to how we could honor Brian.

Read More

Homesteading TodayHomesteading Today is a very large online community dedicated to the practice of homesteading. The forum was acquired by Carbon Media Group (CMG) in July of 2014, as part of a large package of sites they bought from Group Builder.

Beginning late last year (according to this apology), the company started taking posts from certain sections of Homesteading Today and republishing them on other forums owned by CMG. The practice went unnoticed until a few days ago, when a member found that posts they had made on Homesteading Today were showing up on Cattle Forum, another CMG community.

The member, willow_girl, posted a thread talking about how she discovered that posts she made on Homesteading Today were showing up at Cattle Forum under the name “Alice.” She hadn’t made them and had no idea who Alice was. One of the posts shared a pretty personal story about saving a cow, which this Alice was now taking credit for.

Read More

I have a wonderful staff over at My team is comprised of 9 people, including 5 moderators. Those 5 moderators have been with me for a combined 35 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days (these are real numbers and those 3s are purely coincidental). This group of 9 is the strongest team that I have ever had the fortune of working with. They are excellent people with strong character.

Of the 5 moderators, two work in law enforcement. Brian Walker, who has been on staff since July 31, 2006, is a patrol deputy in Kansas. Alex Embry joined our team on December 2, 2008. He is a sergeant in Illinois and a member of his department’s SWAT team. As long as they have been with me at, they have been working in law enforcement even longer.

Read More

Jay Baer recently wrote about the importance of owning your “social community.” The idea of building community in spaces that you control is something I’ve always felt strongly about, and it’s good that someone like Jay is talking about it. That will help the message reach more big brands.

His article led to a discussion on Google+, where someone pointed to some examples provided by Jay – like The Home Depot Community – and questioned if they represented real “engagement.” They mentioned that there were discussions with a handful of replies and “no likes.” There were plenty of views of the discussions, but not a lot of replies. So where is the engagement, they wondered?

Read More