To paraphrase Ryan Leslie, I’ve never had a big board, but they still respect my art.

A “big board,” as referred to in community manager circles, is a community with 500,000 posts or more. I’ve never managed one. That will change, soon, when passes 500,000 posts. What does that really mean? Honestly, not much. It’s a milestone accomplishment and it means something, but I don’t suddenly know more about community, not because of a few extra posts on the ones that I manage. It’s the journey that has allowed me to collect the knowledge, not where I’m at right now.

I was reflecting on this and I really think that the most valuable lessons you learn about community management, the ones that stay with you, the ones that define you, are the ones you learn in the first 100,000 posts of your community.

Don’t get me wrong, you learns so much after that point. I’m always learning and growing. You have to. But much of what you learn is simply building on top of the foundational knowledge that you acquired in the first 100,000. It’s honing your skills, making adjustments to new realities and scaling.

In the first 100,000, you learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. You learn how communities grow, how to moderate content, how to manage a team of moderators. You learn how the things you do impact how other people act. You experience problem members, both simple things like spammers and more complex issues like veteran members that turn nasty. You get the ups and the downs.

100,000 is definitely an arbitrary number. It could be 75,000, it could be 127,000. My point is that it’s not 500,000, it’s not 300,000, it’s not 1,000,000.

But it is in that time period that you really become the community manager that you will always be. It is that foundation, in the trenches experience that you will always rely on. It’s like the first 16 or 18 years of your life. You go from knowing nothing to having the knowledge that will allow you the opportunity to survive in the world. Your personality is formed. That’s when you become the person you will be for the rest of your life. While people change, again, that is more in the realm of fine tuning, adjusting and scaling. When you get married, you scale. When you have kids, you scale. Just like you scale with your community.