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My Rules for Self-Care as a Community Professional

Posted by Patrick on January 18th, 2016 in Thinking

On the most recent episode of Community Signal, I chatted with Sherrie Rohde about self-care for community professionals. Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: making time to take care of yourself.

In our line of work, we are sometimes told that community is a 24/7 gig. That because the internet is always on, so must we be. I know this sounds rude, but ignore anyone who says this. That belief leads to burnout, and it drives people out of our industry (or worse).

I take pride in my work ethic, but I try not to confuse that with a lack of balance. As Sherrie said on the show, “taking the time to take care of yourself, so that you can be who you need to be for your community, makes you so much more effective and so much more what they need.”

Here are my simple rules for self-care.

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You Move Us Forward

Posted by Patrick on December 29th, 2015 in Thinking

This is my final article for 2015. I’d like you to remember something.

Within any space, there are experts. There are authorities. There are conferences. There are speakers. There are people making predictions, talking about the future of that space. There are people using big words. There are people taking the old and making it seem new again. There are books. There are courses. There are webinars. There are workshops. There are podcasts. There are blogs.

Some of these describe me and my work (I’ll let you choose which, ha).

There are people who work hard to try to differentiate themselves, to make you feel as though they possess the secret knowledge. The emotional triggers they use might make you feel as if you are inferior or lacking unless you learn what they have to teach you.

This is not true. You don’t need them (or me).

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Professional Courtesy Between Community Professionals

Posted by Patrick on December 17th, 2015 in Thinking

Recently, I witnessed what I regarded as disgraceful behavior by a community professional, directed at another community professional, on the community that the second person was responsible for. It really got me thinking about professional courtesy within our industry.

When you do this work and you encounter someone else doing the work, in their community, how should you interact with them? The golden rule – treating people as you would like to be treated – is a good start, but it’s not specific enough.

I regularly see community professionals who enter spaces, that have clearly posted guidelines, and then violate those guidelines. What I am about the write may sound harsh, but I’m tired of it. We have to be better than this. 

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Level 98 Deion Sanders with +2 Awareness!Over the last month and a half, I have been playing a lot of Madden Mobile, the smartphone and tablet-friendly version of the football video game franchise. I describe it as Pokémon for football fans. You can’t beat my level 98 Deion Sanders with +2 Awareness!

The game allows you to join a league. Being a Miami Dolphins fan, I found a Dolphins fan league and joined up. I don’t know these people all that well, but over the last few weeks, I have been an active league member, playing in league tournaments, chatting with other league members and helping them where I can.

I’ve suggested we recruit new active members from a dedicated online community that exists for the game. I’ve also pitched the idea of launching a private Facebook group for league members, so we can better communicate. The league commissioner has encouraged both, and I’ll get to those tasks when I have a chance. I might even register a domain name for the Facebook group, just to make it easy for league members to find and join it.

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Stars, Hearts and Forcing Emotion Where There Is None

Posted by Patrick on November 5th, 2015 in Thinking

Before and AfterOn Tuesday, Twitter made a seemingly small, but not quite insignificant change. They replaced the star icon with a heart. The tweets that had been marked as “favorites” previously, were now marked as “likes.”

Twitter released a video when they announced the change (embedded below), where they provided a sample list of emotions and statements that could be indicated by using the heart icon. These included “yes!,” “congrats,” “LOL,” “aborbs,” “stay strong,” “hugs,” “wow,” “aww” and “high five.”

Whenever Twitter makes a change, there are complaints. That doesn’t mean the change isn’t worthwhile. And I’m not here to tell you this is a big deal. However, I do think there are some interesting dynamics at play, especially when it comes to how we manipulate user intent by retroactively applying new labels to previous user actions.

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Online community professionals in the U.S. are quite fortunate, legally-speaking, as compared to our counterparts in other countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a big reason for this. It might be the most important law on the books that relates to our work. It discourages frivolous lawsuits and allows us to host critical speech of the powerful, without serious fear of a lawsuit.

The Delfi ruling is a reasonable example of what can happen without it. A large company, and a rich man, demanded that an Estonian news outlet remove not only comments that vaguely threatened violence, but also comments that referred to the man as a “bastard” or a “rascal.” Even after they removed the comments, the company and man further demanded damages and, when rebuffed, sued the news outlet. A 9 year legal battle ensued – and the news outlet lost.

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Companies who sell products, especially high-end goods and those that stand for a certain mark of quality, should consider the power of community in the form of an owners club.

When I say high-end, that doesn’t necessarily mean $1,000 or $50,000 or $500,000. It’s relative. A high-end pen might cost $200. Obviously, a high-end automobile is much more. What is often true is that people who purchase a high-end good are making a commitment to a particular practice or interest. Not all of them are wealthy. Many save and plan to be able to make that purchase.

A person who buys a high-end woodworking tools is more passionate about craftsmanship than someone who buys cheaper ones. A person who spends $2,000 on a suit is excited about a certain level of dress. A person who spends $300 on a pen finds more enjoyment from the act of handwriting (or simply collecting pens). On average, anyway. Cost doesn’t always equal quality, and spending money isn’t always indicative of true interest. However, more often than not, someone who makes that type of commitment to a product has a much higher level of interest in what it stands for than someone who does not.

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The greats of tomorrow are in the online communities of today. They might even be in yours.

Even though online communities have been around since the 1980s, we are only a generation or two deep into mainstream usage of online communities. Where when someone is really into a subject, they seek out others online who are similarly motivated and driven.

I’ve seen this over and over again. My time at SitePoint is an easy example. In a setting like this, people who are self-motivated and driven often gravitate toward one another. I met so many people who have gone on to do great things and be recognized as leaders. They’ve climbed the corporate ranks at high-profile companies, founded successful ones, written books and done amazing work. That community was about programming, web design and business, so those are the pursuits they excelled in.

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Downsizing

Posted by Patrick on August 17th, 2015 in Thinking

A couple of years ago, I decided to (slowly) do some downsizing in my offline, physical life. I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, and it was time to trim down. It took several months (again, I purposefully went slow), but I rid of myself of many things. Sold, given away, recycled, donated and thrown in the garbage.

I’ll be moving soon, and I’m glad that the downsizing is already out of the way – even if I’m doing a little more now. But packing up has me thinking of the necessity to downsize in the context of the online communities that we manage.

There are plenty of moments where we need to think smaller, to cut away, to simplify. Let’s talk about a few examples.

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Credit: slgckgc (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: slgckgc (CC BY 2.0)

On Saturday, I went with my brothers to the “Weird Al” Yankovic concert in Newport News, Virginia. I’m a big fan of Weird Al, and it was our second time seeing him. He puts on a great show, and we had a lot of fun.

If you’ve never been to a Weird Al show, it’s a little different from your average music concert. During the performance, the physical energy of the crowd more closely resembles what you might see for a big name standup comic, rather than what you’d expect from the fans of a popular rap, rock or pop artist.

In general, when I go to a concert, I’m not among those moving the most. I stand, I clap, I bop along to the music. I don’t tend to put my arms up, scream, etc. I’ll sing along if the artist wants it or I feel just right. But I am not among the most animated in attendance.

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