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#CMGRHangout: Loving Your CommunityLast Friday, I had the pleasure of appearing on My Community Manager’s #CMGRHangout, a weekly Google+ Hangout covering online community management. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the episode was titled “Loving Your Community,” and we focused on how you can show your community members that you appreciate them.

The program is hosted by Jonathan Brewer and Sherrie Rohde, who do a really great job. When they invited me, they asked if there were any other community professionals that I’d like to have on with me. That led to us being joined by David Williams, Sarah Hawk and Sue John. Tim McDonald and Abhishek Rai completed the panel. In all, we had a really solid, veteran group with approximately 50 years of community management experience between us.

To give you an idea of what we talked about, here are the questions that drove the discussion:

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Restricted Area
Creative Commons License photo credit: lungstruck

It can be highly beneficial to have a tier of staff below your main moderators. It allows these members to become acclimated to various aspects of being a member of staff without being thrown into the fire as a moderator. For communities that do this, like mine, all moderators are first members of this lower tier, which I’ll refer to as as guides.

They participate in staff discussions, welcome new members, report posts that they feel may violate our guidelines and participate in random things that come up for the staff. Traditionally, they do not have any “power” as far as the community software is concerned.

I was thinking about this the other day and I had a thought: why not let this tier move threads around the public forums? Not remove them from the public forums, not take on the role of a moderator in removing violations, documenting them and contacting members. But just move threads from one public forum to another.

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GoodiesOn December 24, I headed to the post office near closing time to see if a package had arrived. I was waiting on a box with a couple of gifts I had purchased for my brothers. I noticed that, when I checked my mail box, I had a key in it, which meant that I had a package in an even larger mail box waiting for me.

I opened it, but it wasn’t the box I was expecting. It was a different box and it was from one of my moderators on KarateForums.com, named Danielle. I wasn’t expecting anything, so it came as a total surprise.

After I made it home, I opened the box to find a card and an assortment of goodies from the United Kingdom, where Danielle lives. Along with a kind note, there were Jaffa Cakes, a Galaxy bar, Tesco Jam Roly Poly Toffees, Sprinty Kinder Surprise, a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar and more. All of which I have never had.

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Over the many years that I have managed online communities, I have had a lot of moderators. But, even with the wide variety of people on my staff, I have had the support of my moderators with pretty much every decision I have made. Of course, there are rare exceptions, but they are so rare that it’s hard to recall specific examples.

Most decisions are fairly simple. This person is a spammer, ban them. But then there are more challenging ones, with veteran members. No matter what, though, my staff tends to be supportive of the moves that I make, especially when it comes to banning people.

This is not something I take for granted. It is something I deeply appreciate and work hard to earn and justify.

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Is everything
Creative Commons License photo credit: tompagenet

Moderators moderate in the way that the community manager guides them to. Typically this is through policies (community guidelines), staff manuals (moderator guidelines) and documentation of member violations. Even when a well-meaning moderator makes a mistake, they make that mistake because they believe it is what the community manager wanted. It’s all part of being a team. Great moderators move as a unit.

In the course of handling these duties, they will encounter criticism and be a first point of contact for it because they are in direct contact with members. They are the ones telling a member why they can’t do something.

I believe that one of the really good functions that a community manager can serve, in relation to their moderators, is being the recipient of any serious criticism that a member has for how a moderator is operating. I mean, moderators can answer questions and moderators can explain some things, but when it comes to serious criticism of a decision (or worse), I want to deal with that.

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Cluster Computing Research
Creative Commons License photo credit: stwn

Once in a while, someone will pop into my community and ask members to fill out some survey. If the first time I hear of you and your survey is from reading a public post that you made in the community, that is not a good look for you.

I’m fairly protective of the community when it comes to people taking advantage of them. While our members are a great resource, the community doesn’t exist to fill out surveys for people. If you wish to utilize the community in this way, you really should ask the manager first and receive permission for doing so.

It’s a courteous, respectful thing to do. You don’t want to assume that your request is acceptable and if you post it and it is not, it’ll be removed. If your request is appropriate, having the stamp of approval from the manager can help you to get more responses as members know that it is alright.

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KarateForums.com Award for HeidiKarateForums.com is currently celebrating due to the community reaching the 500,000 posts milestone. Yesterday, as part of that celebration, I presented a long term member with a physical award.

The idea for it was planted back in June, when Heidi (ninjanurse on the community) marked 10 years as a member of my staff. I have been managing forums for more than 13 years and I have never had a staff member that experienced that type of longevity. It is very impressive. As such, I decided that we would honor her again when we hit 500,000 posts.

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You’ve probably heard about Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. No need to rehash it.

I find that things like this bring out the worst in people. People, who otherwise will act normal, take to the internet and say things that they’d never say to Cyrus’ face or to a complete stranger. They are outraged and offended by something that doesn’t really impact them in any way. But the internet gives them a voice and so they use it.

My Facebook stream was full of it, as yours probably was, too (if you use Facebook). I had things to do and don’t really have any opinion on Miley Cyrus. If she posts on Twitter that online forums are dead, maybe I’ll need to weigh in. Otherwise? I’d much rather tell you that I thought Drake’s performance was great and get back to work.

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Bar Rescue

Bar Rescue is a television show where Jon Taffer, a bar and nightclub consultant, tries to help bars that are struggling financially. I was watching an episode on Monday about a bar in Raleigh, in my home state of North Carolina.

The manager of the bar did numerous things I’d never tolerate, from a moderator or a bar manager, but most of these actions were simply unprofessional behavior that the owner seemed to be aware of, but just didn’t care. They weren’t dishonest, not if the bar owner knew about them.

There was one thing, however, that stood out because it was dishonest. Taffer noticed that there was tape over stickers from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) commission. Taffer suggested that the reason that the manager had done this was so that the stickers wouldn’t wear, which would make the bottles appear older. Why would he want to do that?

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Victoria Highway
Creative Commons License photo credit: huskyte77

It was 10 years ago today that Heidi, known on KarateForums.com as ninjanurse, joined my staff on KarateForums.com. In honor of this occasion, I wanted to share with you the announcement that I posted on the community to mark this occasion and let that speak for itself. One note: a Sensei is what we call a moderator. Here is the announcement:

Hello,

Thank you for visiting KarateForums.com.

It was on this day 10 years ago that Heidi joined the staff of KarateForums.com. 8 years, 1 month and 2 days of this she has spent as a Sensei. To put this in perspective, KarateForums.com itself has been online for 12 years, 3 weeks and 6 days.

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