Your Online Community Members Are Like the Cast of “Saturday Night Live”

Posted by Patrick on January 31st, 2013 in Community Cultivation, Thinking

SNLI am a big fan of “Saturday Night Live” and, as I thought about it, I realized that the cast of SNL has a lot in common with the members of an online community.

The show is now on it’s 38th season and, according to Wikipedia, the program has had a total of 132 cast members. If you look through the list of cast members, you’ll notice a lot of names that you know, but also many that you don’t.

The changes that occur with the SNL mirror the changes that your online community experiences with membership.

Read More

Five Years of

Posted by Patrick on January 28th, 2013 in Managing the Community

As of yesterday, is 5 years old.

Over the last 5 years, the profession of online community management has grown in popularity in a very meaningful way. It certainly wasn’t as trendy 5 years ago when I started this blog, 10 years ago, when I started writing “Managing Online Forums,”  or 13 years ago when I started managing my own communities.

It’s been fun to watch and I’m grateful that my writing has been well received and that I have had the opportunity to help as many people as I have.

Read More

Online Communities: Don’t Lose Your User Agreement in Court Like Zappos Did

Posted by Patrick on January 24th, 2013 in Managing the Community

Last January, shoe retailer announced that they had been the “victim of a cyber attack by a criminal” who had potentially gained access to the contact information of their 24 million plus customers, in addition to the last four digits of their credit card number and their “cryptographically scrambled” password. The database with credit card data and payment information was not breached.

As one might expect, lawsuits followed. Zappos attempted to force these lawsuits to arbitration, citing a clause in their user agreement. But they ran into a big problem. A federal court ruled that their user agreement – in effect, their contract with users – was invalid. Not just a portion of it, but the whole thing.

Read More

Some People Just Want to Watch Your Online Community Burn

Posted by Patrick on January 21st, 2013 in Interacting with Members, Managing the Community

Albert Pennyworth: With respect, Master Wayne, perhaps [the Joker] is a man you don’t fully understand, either.

A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him.

One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Read More

It’s Great When Community Members Know What They Can Expect from the Admin

Posted by Patrick on January 17th, 2013 in Interacting with Members, Managing the Community
Old Faithful erupting
Creative Commons License photo credit: gr8dnes

A funny thing happened the other day. On one of my communities, member1 requested some help with an image, which member2 started to do (for free), but didn’t finish. Member1 made a post complaining about how the way member2 went about it was sneaky, used some profanity and was generally disrespectful.

I removed it and sent him a message explaining why I removed the post and why his comments toward member2 were inappropriate (basically a brief explanation of how free requests don’t make you entitled to anyone’s time and how you have to be patient).

Read More

“I Was a Paid Internet Shill” Happens and Veteran Community Managers Know It

Posted by Patrick on January 14th, 2013 in Managing the Community
Creative Commons License photo credit: oatsy40

Last week, Conscious Life News posted an article titled, “I Was a Paid Internet Shill: How Shadowy Groups Manipulate Internet Opinion and Debate.” Joe Anzalone pointed me to someone who had copied and pasted the text of the post, which I Googled and found on a forum, with a post date in the spring of 2012. Here is a cache, since the post has now been removed.

If you don’t want to read it, I’ll summarize: the poster claims that he was hired by a company who specialized in “influencing people’s opinions” by participating in forums, chat rooms, social networks, etc. and further a particular viewpoint. The viewpoint he says he was hired to further was “to support Israel and counter anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic posters.” More or less, he was paid to manipulate opinion online.

Read More

When You Can No Longer Trust a Staff Member, Get Rid of Them – No Matter How Popular They Are

Posted by Patrick on January 10th, 2013 in Managing Staff
Creative Commons License photo credit: adam1481

Recently, a series of events occurred that indicated to me that I could no longer trust a member of my staff. No matter how careful you are in selecting people, this will happen because people change and people are imperfect.

Most of my staff members tend to be popular within the community. That’s not why they get selected, they get selected because I believe that they are good people and they care about the community. That leads to popularity (at least it does on my sites) and this member was no exception.

Read More

How Brand Representatives Should Answer Questions on Quora

Posted by Patrick on January 7th, 2013 in How Should I Participate?

I’m on Quora and, despite the ironic questions about forums being dead, I think it is a pretty cool site.

Quora has been accessible to the public for about 2 and a half years now, so it isn’t a new service any longer. Even so, I regularly see brand representatives who post low quality answers or answers that will be generally seen as spammy and not in the spirit of Quora. Worse yet, even when called on it, some defend the practice as legitimate.

There is a lot of value to be had on Quora for a brand, if you participate in an exemplary way, which is true for most platforms. But the part where people often drop the ball is when they fail to differentiate between different platforms. You can’t expect to participate on one as you do on another. You can learn how each one works, and it usually isn’t that complicated, but you have to actually take the time to learn (and care enough to do so).

Read More

Forums Are Dead: The Memes

Posted by Patrick on January 3rd, 2013 in Humor, Thinking

Two years ago, I answered a question on Quora, “Is the time for forums over?” I’m sure I answered “are forums dead?” type questions like that before.

Here we are, two years later, and what I said then is exactly as true now. I’ve been asked this type of question many, many times and I always give a similar answer. Two years from now, I expect my answer will still be as true as it is now.

I’ve tackled this topic seriously numerous times here at, talking about how forums evolve and why this question isn’t helpful to your efforts. I’ve talked about platform death and said that there isn’t enough time in the day for me to tell you that forums are not dead.

I’ve also had fun with it, posting an obituary for forums on April Fools’ Day and launching That last link, though certainly facetious, is also helpful. Keep refreshing. You never know. If forums do die, the page will say yes.

Read More