How Your Forum Structure Can Help You Recruit and Keep New Members

Posted by Patrick on July 30th, 2012 in Community Cultivation, Developing Your Community, Managing Staff
Creative Commons License photo credit: smplstc

This is a guest post from Benjamin Plass, a reader, who is the Head of Community Management for Goodgame Studios.

Every community manager has goals. Everyone wants their community to grow. The forum structure influences this growth. It is therefore very important to understand and adjust it to your needs and overall goals.

To make your community grow, you have to engage your first time visitors and new members. The conversion from reader to a posting member is a big step and as Patrick has discussed, the majority of your users will just be reading.

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Get Started: Words of Wisdom and Motivation from Ze Frank

Posted by Patrick on April 16th, 2012 in Developing Your Community, Thinking

The sixth post ever published on was about “brain crack” and the importance of doing, care of some magical words from Ze Frank.

By the time I wrote that post, in February of 2008, Mr. Frank had ended “the show with ze frank,” where those words had come from. More than 4 years later, at the end of February, Mr. Frank launched a Kickstarter campaign to “bring back the show.” The result? $146,752 pledged by 3,900 people (including me) – almost 3 times his goal of $50,000.

I could say something here about the power of community and about how community builds around quality and that being why people couldn’t wait to support him in this new venture. All of that is true.

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If Your Block Feature Tells People I’ve Blocked Them, I’m Not Using It

Posted by Patrick on April 12th, 2012 in Developing Your Community, Thinking

I have been thinking a bit about the design of the block feature on some platforms. Let’s take Twitter as an easy example.

When you block someone on Twitter, they don’t notify the person you block, meaning that they don’t specifically send them a message. But, when the person notices that you are no longer showing up in their timeline, they may go to your profile and try to follow you again. At that point, they are notified that they can’t follow you because you have blocked them.

Personally, this means I will never use the block functionality. Even though I might otherwise like to filter some people out of my streams. If I want to do it, I’ll need to use a third party application (like TweetDeck) that allows me to filter out tweets from specific people. I won’t bother to do that because the list only works in that app.

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Obituary: Online Forums Have Died (? – 2012)

Posted by Patrick on April 1st, 2012 in Developing Your Community
Heathrow 09L Approach, sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: Global_5000

Update: This was an April Fools’ Day joke.

I am deeply saddened to announce that online forums have died, as confirmed by They passed away quietly in their sleep last night at an unknown age.

While it may be unclear when online forums were born, from the moment that people were able to discuss something with another human over the internet, it wasn’t long before they were having threaded discussions.

Online forums and the format of threaded discussion served as a cornerstone of the social internet and what would one day, many years later, come to be known as social media.

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How to Merge Online Forums

Posted by Patrick on March 1st, 2012 in Community Cultivation, Developing Your Community
random highway shots
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kdt.

Josh Barraza asked if I could write about merging two active online forums and the issues that can challenge such an idea. Thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Barraza.

Multiple forums can be merged. It doesn’t just have to be two. It can be more than that. But, for the sake of this article, to keep it simple, we’ll speak as if it is two forums that are merging into one, since that is the most common scenario.

When two forums are merged, the two separate databases are consolidated into one, meaning all members, posts and content will now constitute a single forum. If one forum had 400,000 posts and another had 300,000 – there is now one forum with 700,000 posts.

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Don’t Destroy Your Community’s History (and Traffic) by Deleting Old Contributions

Posted by Patrick on February 20th, 2012 in Developing Your Community
Photo Album
Creative Commons License photo credit: KJGarbutt

Some community managers ponder deleting old, long inactive contributions, due to a lack of technical resources or a belief that those contributions somehow take away from what they are currently trying to accomplish.

This is something that smaller operations are more prone to do because they may be hitting the limits of their web hosting plan – the database is too big and it is hogging resources.

But, I believe that when you delete older contributions wholesale – not because they violated your guidelines or for a specific reason on an individual basis – you are damaging your community’s history and legacy. To remove them is to rob yourself and your members of the wonderful opportunity to look back and see where you came from. It is not unnatural for a long term member of a forum to look back at posts from years gone by and reminisce.

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Don’t Mistake Platform Diversification for Platform Death (Long Term is Decades, Not Years)

Posted by Patrick on February 14th, 2012 in Developing Your Community, Thinking
Killer Queen
Creative Commons License photo credit: aussiegall

I know it is tough to look at things from a truly long term perspective, but you need to try.

I’ve now been directly managing online communities for 12 years. I’ve been involved with moderation of communities for probably 14. And I’ve been on the web for 17 years. A long term perspective doesn’t mean 3 years. It means more than that. Ideally, we’re talking decades.

Long term perspective doesn’t just mean looking backwards, either. It means looking back and looking forward. Not forward 6 months, not forward 2 years, but forward 10 years.

When someone says that a platform has died, most of the time, this just means that they lack the perspective. They are chasing the wrong things. Once in a long while, this statement is actually true, but in those cases, it is generally a particular website that is coming to an end, that has announced it’s closure, and not the idea of the tool in general.

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This is What I’m Thankful For Right Now (Community Management Edition)

Posted by Patrick on November 24th, 2011 in Developing Your Community, Managing the Community,, Thinking

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it.

In honor of the day, I thought that I would take a moment to talk about a few things that I am thankful for right now, as they pertain to managing an online community.

I have a lot to be thankful for, both professionally and personally and this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. Just some things that popped into my head as I pondered the question, “what, related to what I do with online communities, am I thankful for right now?”

Online Community Management as a Maturing Industry

When I started, the Community Manager role didn’t really exist. 99% of the platforms, tools and software that are now available – were not available.

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The Device Specs Debate and How it Applies to Online Communities

Posted by Patrick on November 17th, 2011 in Developing Your Community

Scott M. Fulton, II of ReadWriteWeb wrote earlier this week (care of my friend Jared W. Smith) about the debate in technology media circles about the value of device specs in tech reviews.

The discussion is centered around this question: when it comes to reviewing a device, just how important are the specs to a potential buyer?

Devices with good specs can have poor performance. Devices with seemingly inferior specs can perform better. And now, with some of the heavy lifting being offloaded to the web through cloud services and more, the specs inside of the box you are holding or looking at have, potentially, become less important.

One of the devices that has spurned this debate is Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet (which my parents gave me last night as a birthday gift). Many are billing it as the iPad’s first legitimate competitor. But, the reason they are doing that isn’t on specs. The iPad 2 is clearly superior in that metric. No, that claim is based on three things.

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Online Community Efforts: Start Small, Be Great and Expand

Posted by Patrick on November 7th, 2011 in Developing Your Community

With community efforts, sometimes there is this temptation to offer your members a lot of different touch points with which to enter some form of content.

Not only do we want forums, but we want sections for specific types of content, like reviews, formatted in a different way that fits reviews best. And we want deep user profiles and the ability to comment on profiles. And we want microinteractions, so that people can simply “like” a post without replying to it. Among other things.

These things can all be great, but they are only great if people are actually using them and that can be a challenge. It’s nice to have dedicated sections, for example, but if it having reviews be just forum threads means that there is actually activity, then that has major value.

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