Examining the Legality of Online Community Volunteers

Posted by Patrick on February 8th, 2016 in Managing Staff, Resources

For Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD), I organized a panel discussion about managing online community volunteer programs. I was joined by a wonderful lineup, including David DeWald, Rebecca Newton and Scott Moore.

The panel was part of My Community Manager’s 24 hour CMAD livestream. Thank you to everyone who was involved in putting the event together, including Jonathan Brewer, Sherrie Rohde, Dom Garrett, Berrak Sarikaya, Aaron Biebert, Rachel Miller, Christin Kardos and Carrie Keenan.

One of the consistent themes in the conversation was the importance of respecting volunteers. Part of that is having at least some understanding of the laws that relate to volunteers in your country. In the U.S., we have something called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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The Biggest Blind Spot I Encounter in Community Professionals (and How to Fix It)

Posted by Patrick on October 22nd, 2015 in Managing the Community, Resources

As professionals, we are diverse. None of us has all the answers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We have areas we are known for (fair or not). We have skills that people don’t know we have. We are always improving and growing.

There is one semi-persistent blind spot I encounter as I talk with community professionals. It’s not the ability to look at numbers and use them to make a decision. It’s not ROI. It’s not growing activity. It’s not scaling a community.

It’s the law. Specifically, the law as it relates to our profession. Even if you have a legal department to run things through – which many don’t – an understanding of the law empowers you to confidently take action and manage your community.

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The News Site Comments Problem

Posted by Patrick on September 14th, 2015 in Developing Your Community, Interacting with Members, Resources

As online comment sections propagated throughout the web and faced people-related scaling issues, mainstream media sites become a popular example of low quality discourse. Some chose to invest meaningful resources into their comments, but many did not.

In recent years, an assortment of news publishers and noted publications have closed their comment sections. I don’t necessarily see that as a big deal or even a bad thing. There’s an ebb and flow here. Many people rush into tools without enough thought, then wonder why they don’t work. There is an eventual correction as they find its not for them or something shinier attracts their attention.

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The Best Guide to Online Community Platforms in 2015

Posted by Patrick on June 22nd, 2015 in Developing Your Community, Resources

The CMX Guide to Community PlatformsCMX has released The CMX Guide to Community Platforms, a free ebook that premiered at their most recent conference, but is now available for you to download by subscribing to their email list. It was authored by the CMX team: Carrie Melissa Jones, Yrja Oftedahl Lothe and David Spinks.

I contributed to the guide, sending over some long form thoughts on community platforms when they put a call out to the CMX community. I’m glad they were able to make use of them.

The 110-page long PDF provides general insights about choosing a platform and what to avoid. A wide array of currently-relevant platforms are profiled, broken up into several categories. These include forums, enterprise software, community feedback and support platforms, group platforms, content management systems, community relationship management, internal community and community that exists on outside platforms.

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This is What Community Strategy Looks Like

Posted by Patrick on April 30th, 2015 in Resources
Credit: Dhi (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Dhi (CC BY 2.0)

If you want to know what community strategy looks like, watch the video embedded below. It’s a presentation delivered by Bill Johnston at’s Brands-Only Summit in October of 2014.

The presentation centers around the strategy that Bill put into place after becoming Director, Online Community & Customer Experience, at Autodesk in February 2014. Previously, they had a broken, disjointed community strategy – that he refers to as “no community strategy” – that suffered from a serious over-reliance on Facebook. When Facebook cut organic reach, they were hit hard.

There’s really no one I hold higher in our profession than Bill. He left Autodesk in February to start Structure3C, where he helps businesses grow customer communities.

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The Blueprint for a Successful reddit AMA

Posted by Patrick on April 27th, 2015 in Resources

The Marketer's Guide to reddit AMAs by Paul and David DiGiovanniI took some time, this weekend, to read The Marketer’s Guide to reddit AMAs by Paul and David DiGiovanni of GroupSRC. It’s a free guide, 30 pages in length, available if you subscribe to their newsletter.

Paul and David are focused on helping marketer’s use reddit in a way that is authentic and respectful to the community. If it’s for marketers, why am I writing about it here? Because it’s really a guide to hosting an AMA, and AMAs, when done right, are definitely a form of community building.

David has written a couple of guest posts here. If I had a question about reddit, I’d ask them. And that’s why I read the guide.

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How to Create a Static Archive of Old Community Features You No Longer Use

Posted by Patrick on April 23rd, 2015 in Resources

Until recently, at, we had this old photo album feature. I say old because no one used it, it was just there. Once upon a time, about 13 years ago, we launched the photo album, and people used it. But, as time went on, they used it less and less until 2012, where they stopped using it at all.

What happened? People adopted the most practical use for sharing photos: posting them in the forums. More people would see them, and you could have a better discussion about them. It only made sense. I embraced that idea long ago and stopped actively promoting the photo album.

And yet, it was still there. Which isn’t really a good thing. Even if I remove all references to it, the fact that it is still online, powered by old PHP code, connecting to our database, adds to the likelihood of a potential security issue. At the same time, I didn’t want to just delete the album completely like it was never there.

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Engaging News Project: Newsroom Focused Ideas for Improving Online Discourse

Posted by Patrick on March 5th, 2015 in Resources

Engaging News ProjectI was on a call yesterday with Bassey Etim of The New York Times and David Williams of CNN. We were preparing for our conversation down at SXSW, walking through various talking points.

At one point, they mentioned research conducted by Talia Stroud, an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Assistant Director of Research at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin. Specifically, the finding that changing the “like” button to read “respect” meant that it was clicked more.

In doing some reading of my own following the call, I found the Engaging News Project, which Ms. Stroud leads. The project is dedicated to providing “research-based techniques for engaging online audiences in commercially viable and democratically beneficial ways.” A lot of their efforts have been focused on mainstream media comment sections.

Though the organization’s ideas are presented through the lens of a newsroom, there is plenty of thought provoking insight for people who manage community in other areas. Have a look at the research section and subscribe to the project’s Twitter and Facebook pages for more constant updates – plenty of which are directly relevant to community work.

The Community Professionals I Listen to and Why

Posted by Patrick on January 8th, 2015 in Resources

In December, CMX’s Facebook group hosted a discussion about community management mentors. In addition, David Spinks asked people who they turned to, in order to learn about community strategy.

2015 marks 15 years of community management for me (17 years of moderation) and, when I say 15 years, what I really mean is 15 years of learning. That’s what experience should be. 15 years doesn’t just mean that I started managing communities in 2000. It means that I started learning about community in 2000 and have continued learning ever since.

At a tech support community that I once managed, I had a member who mocked a staff member of mine because they had asked for help with something. The implication was that, because they asked for help, they were not qualified to help others or to be an expert. To ask for help – to learn about something you were supposedly an expert in – was a weakness, to that person. What a sad way to be.

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How to Find a Great Online Community Manager Job in 2015 (or a More Senior Role)

Posted by Patrick on December 11th, 2014 in Resources

There are a lot of job opportunities out there for community management professionals. While the big job sites receive plenty of listings, the best way to cut through to the most attractive opportunities is to subscribe to resources that are dedicated to this industry.

By all means, create job search email notifications on Indeed and LinkedIn for all relevant keywords and titles. Be sure to include keywords that will sort out online community manager jobs from offline ones (like managing an apartment complex). Jobs do slip through the cracks – I’ve seen it happen – and subscribing to the big sites helps you to not miss them. But the best bet for finding a great job is to clue in to a few key resources. Here are my favorites. Even if you have been in this space for a while, you might not have heard of all of them!

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