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Bob, a member of my staff at KarateForums.com, 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 KarateForums.com for 13 years, PhotoshopForums.com for more than 11 and phpBBHacks.com 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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Comic Book ResourcesComic Book Resources (CBR) is a large, long-running and influential comic book website, featuring news, reviews, blogs and an active community. Created by Jonah Weiland and launched in 1996, the site’s media kit reports that they receive more than 24 million pageviews per month from over 6 million unique visitors.

On Wednesday, Weiland announced that CBR’s current forums would be closing and would remain online for 14 days, in order to allow members to retrieve old content they wanted to save. The old forums have 12.9 million posts, with public discussions going all the way back to 2006. In their place, a new community was launched. None of the old content, nor membership information, was preserved. I learned of this story through Mark Wilkin.

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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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managing-online-forumsManaging Online Forums turns 6 years old today. To celebrate, I’ve launched a new site for it.

6 year old books generally don’t have new websites, but I decided that I wanted to launch a new one because I feel the book still has a lot of value to offer. The website that I had previously created was alright, but it didn’t do a good enough job communicating that value now. I also have been very grateful for the support that the book has continued to receive and I felt like that support deserved something better. Check out the new site. I hope you like it.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the work. Everyone at AMACOM, everyone who bought it, reviewed it and spread the word about it. Many of the specific people that deserve to be thanked are listed in the book’s acknowledgments.

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Don’t forget that, when you are dealing with someone who is stressed, who is struggling or who is just angry, you have the chance to influence their situation in a positive manner.

I was reminded of this a while back when I was on a trip with my parents and brothers, coming back from visiting my grandparents. We were checking out of the hotel and it was unseasonably (very) cold. With 5 of us piling into one vehicle, we had to pack light and, not expecting this weather, didn’t bring any heavy coats.

My Dad went down to start the car and (literally) melt the ice off of the doors so they would open. Meanwhile, my brother went down to retrieve a luggage cart so that we could bring the bags down as quickly as possible, so that Dad wasn’t outside in the cold any longer than he had to be, in the light coat he had brought.

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DSCF0273.jpg
Creative Commons License photo credit: mauwf

When I was on #CMGRHangout a little over a week ago, I said I would be interested to know if members who post an introduction in our introductions forum were more likely to become active contributors.

My friend Chrispian Burks wrote some database queries for me that allowed me to look at the KarateForums.com database. KarateForums.com is a mature community with a lot of data to play with, so it makes a great example for communities like it – focused, niche interest communities.

You can check out the data below. I decided to look at members with a certain post count or higher and then see what percentage of them posted a thread in the introductions forum. The data isn’t perfect, but it is pretty close.

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Lost Stool
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is an emerging technology conference. Since I’ve been going, the internet has been very ingrained in whatever has constituted “emerging technology.” As such, the conference has been very internet centric.

And yet, when I was down in Austin this year, connecting with people and visiting with friends, it reminded me (as it always tends to) that it’s important to keep the internet in context. This is especially true for online community professionals because our work is almost entirely online.

The danger here is that when you work online all day, you tend to get too caught up and place too much importance in your own world. Oh man, this is a big situation. This server is down. That member is angry. Activity dropped this month. Catastrophe! Noise, noise, noise.

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