I wanted to announce that we are opening up the O’Reilly Art of Community Book to allow anyone to contribute. The idea behind this project is to write our community book as a community, and we want your help! Do you have insight into communities? Experience leading successful communities? If so, please go to the O’Reilly Commons and contribute to our Art of Community Project!
With the launch of Jivespace, I have been thinking more about what it really means to be an online community manager. With the launch of any new product, it always feels like time to step back and enjoy the lull before starting the next new project; however, this is the time when the community manager role accelerates rather than slowing.
Seth Godin recently called the Online Community Organizer role a Job of the Future. This brings me to the most common question: “What exactly do you do?” I see the online community manager role as having several key elements: ongoing facilitation, content creation, evangelism, and community evolution. There are certainly many more tasks, but I suspect that 90% of the work falls into one of these four very broad categories.
- Ongoing Facilitation: This is probably the activity that most people think of first. A community manager is an active participant within the community to answer questions, deal with trolls or other abuses, explain how things work, monitor the content closely, and much more. It also involves a lot of cat herding. On Jivespace, I frequently pull Jive engineers into the discussion to answer questions in an area where additional technical expertise is needed. It can also mean walking a very fine line between the community and the company by representing the company in community discussions and representing the needs of the community when working inside the company.
- Content Creation: In any community, content needs to stay fresh and current regardless of whether you are talking about code releases or other content. People will wander away from a community that looks stale or inactive. I have been focused on recording new podcasts (which are now in iTunes) and blogging regularly in addition to making sure that questions get answered (also part of facilitation). This also involves working with others to create content by encouraging them to blog about their areas of expertise relevant to the developer community.
- Evangelism: Getting the word out about your community can take a number of forms depending on the type of community. In general this can be served by talking to people (customers and other interested parties), blogging, speaking at conferences, and being actively involved in related communities.
- Community Evolution: This may be the most overlooked area for many communities. It is important to continue to keep the community engaged by evolving along with the technology. New features, contests, group activities and more should be planned from the beginning. With Jivespace, I plan to implement improvements about every 3 weeks including upgrades to the latest Clearspace X release, which come out every 3 weeks. For example, a few things in the works include some bug fixes, improvements to the developer beta program, and a developer event of some type.
As a community manager, you should be thinking about how to make sure that all four of these items get an appropriate amount of attention. Responding to questions and writing an occasional blog may by not enough if you want your community to flourish. Community management can be a tough job, but I am enjoying it more than any other job so far.
The next logical discussion is about the skills required to be a community manager, but this post is already pretty long, so … this will be part one in a series of posts. The next one will be about the skills required to do this job.
For anyone who missed the Art of Community panel at OSCON, we were able to get the entire session on video. I’ve posted it to the Jivespace Developer Podcasts and Video Blog.
“Danese Cooper and I put together a community panel at OSCON discussing the art of building and maintaining successful communities. The panel included (from left to right): Danese Cooper (Moderating), Jimmy Wales, Dawn Foster, Sulamita Garcia, Whurley, Karl Fogel, and Brian Behlendorf.” (Quoted from: Jivespace Blog)
I had a great time at OSCON this year. A few highlights:
- We launched the Jivespace developer community.
- My Community Leader meetup was well attended and people seemed to enjoy it.
- Our “Art of Community” panel was standing room only and Robert Kay described it as “awesome”.
- The Beerforge party was a ton of fun.
As usual, the real value was in the hallway conversations, shared meals, and other informal discussions with really smart people.
I will be posting video of our Art of Community panel (thanks to Drew Scott for wielding the camera!) and some footage from Beeforge on the Jivespace Video Podcast blog over the next week or 2.
Wondering what I’ve been doing in my first 2+ months at Jive Software?
Answer: Launching our new developer community, Jivespace.
I wanted to let people know about a few fun activities during the week of OSCON.
This is a great after party sponsored by Jive Software (my employer) and POSSE (I’m a member) along with OSL, OpenSourcery, and OTBC.
When: Thursday, July 26, 2007, 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Where: Thirsty Lion Pub, 71 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97209 (just a couple stops on the MAX Light Rail from the Oregon Convention Center)
How: Please RSVP to email@example.com to receive a copy of the invitation or download the invite. I’ll also try to carry around a little stash of invites during OSCON, so let me know if you need one.
Technology Community Leader Meetup
Anyone currently leading, managing, or otherwise involved in technology communities (open source, web 2.0, wikis, etc.) is welcome to attend. Feel free to forward this invite on to others. It should be fun!
Location is TBD until I have an idea of how many people plan to attend. It will be somewhere in or near the Portland Convention center. If you would like to attend, please RSVP on upcoming.
Art of Community Session
Danese Cooper and I put together a community panel at OSCON on Thursday from 4:30 – 5:15 (right before BeerForge). We’ll have a great group of people on the panel including:
The Portland Werewolf group plans to organize some werewolf games during OSCON (date /time still TBD).
As a community manager, I love to see that people are contributing documentation to projects as a way to help build the community. This also emphasizes a point that I have made several times during speaking engagements when people ask about motivation for contributing to communities or open source projects. My answer is always something like this, “Like any diverse groups of individuals, motivations for contributing will vary widely depending on the individual. Some people use it as a learning experience, some want fame (rockstar mentality) or other reputation building, some do it to help others, …” While community building is at the top of the list, the other motivations follow very closely behind: personal growth, mutual aid, gratitude, support, reputation, and more. Although this survey is focused on documentation, it still helps validate the idea that the motivations of individual community members are diverse.
As a community manager, I almost wish that there was a clear winner in the survey with one motivation standing out high above the others. It would make my job easier. Since no one way of encouraging people to participate within a community will work for every member, we sometimes have to get creative.
Since we had a bunch of people coming into San Francisco for OSBC, and quite a few community managers already living in the Bay Area, I thought that a meetup of community leaders would be a fun idea for the evening prior to OSBC. Initially, I thought we’d have maybe 10 people hanging out in the hotel bar, but we ended up with 20-25 people, and The 451 generously offered their space to host my get together.
It was a nice opportunity to network with other people in similar roles while having some very interesting discussions about various aspects of community management. It got me thinking about a few things. Kingsley from Salesforce.com does an incredible amount of personal outreach including searches on MySpace and Facebook for people listing Salesforce as interests. I need to think about ways that I can encourage people to participate as I build Jive Software’s developer community around products like Clearspace. Getting a few influential, community savvy, early adopters during the initial stages of the new community can also help build momentum.
Whurley also made a really good point about how each community competes with other similar communities for developers. New communities have to be interesting, compelling, and highly relevant if you want developers to take time away from other communities to spend time interacting in your community.
I definitely need to keep doing these types of events. We can learn so much from each other when we take the time to talk and share ideas about building communities. We’ll do another one of these around OSCON in Portland!
I wanted to let everyone know that I will be at OSBC May 21st (evening) through Wed., May 23rd. Please look me up if you want to chat about community building or if you want to talk about Jive Software’s community collaboration tools (Clearspace). I can also give these tools away for free for non-commercial (open source) software development usage – talk to me for details.
It would also be great to see some familiar faces attending my panel on Wednesday from 2pm – 3pm on Community Development: Business Development for the 21st Century.
Other places you can find me this week:
I have been talking recently at conferences (OSCON and FooCamp) about the Art of Community as part of a project that Danese Cooper and I are doing for O’Reilly Media. We are in the process of writing a book on the Art of Community, which will start as a wiki with plans to write an initial first draft of the chapters, post them to the wiki, and allow the community to be our editors / collaborators on the project. We also plan to record a bunch of podcasts to include on the wiki and use as vignettes in the text of the book. We are still in the process of writing the chapter drafts, so the wiki is not yet public; however, we are looking for input and ideas.
If you have something interesting to say about community and would like to talk to us, please contact me: dawn at dawnfoster dot com.