Tag Archives: community management

Companies and Communities Book Sale

I published the book, Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy, in March 2009. For some reason, people are still buying it, despite it’s increasing age! I just paged through it, and while a few sections have information that just isn’t relevant now, there is still some good stuff in it. However, there is enough outdated content that I just can’t justify the original price tag, so I decided to permanently reduce the price while I decide if I want to take the time to update and revise it for a second edition.

Here are the newly reduced prices

  • Paperback book is available for $9.99.
  • Kindle version from Amazon for $4.99.
  • Buy the PDF eBook for $6.99.

Now, here’s the question. Would people be interested in a second edition of the book with updated content? I learned a lot about book formatting by doing this book and my more recent cookbook, so I know I could put together a more polished version. I could also add new content and the quick tips from my community manager tips series.

MeeGo Community and Metrics Presentation Videos

I just realized that while I was frantically catching up from my much needed Thanksgiving vacation right after the MeeGo Conference that I completely forgot to post the videos and presentation materials from my sessions at the conference. I presented two sessions:

State of the Community

Presentation Materials (PDF) and More Info

An Inside Look into the MeeGo Metrics

Presentation Materials (PDF) and More Info

You can also watch videos of all of the other sessions at the MeeGo Conference. For those of you interested in online communities, you should definitely watch Dave Neary’s Community Anti-Patterns presentation.

MeeGo Conference: Geeks in Dublin


I really had a fantastic time at the MeeGo Conference in Dublin last week. Over the past 9 months in the MeeGo Community, I have spent a lot of time getting to know people over IRC, email, forums, and other online tools. You can get to know people pretty well online, but there is just no substitute for face to face interactions and getting to know people in real life. I got to know people better and met so many new and interesting people that I can now keep up with online in the community.

I was one of several organizers for this conference, and from an organizer’s standpoint, the conference wildly exceeded all of our expectations. While we were initially hoping we could find 600 people who would attend, we ended up with almost 1100 attendees from 51 countries. Amy Leeland, our lead organizer for the event, proved to be a complete rock star; almost everything went according to plan and the few things that didn’t, she handled with a professional get it fixed attitude. We also worked with Portland design company Quango on many of the design and event logistics, and they were honestly one of the best vendors I have ever worked with.

In this post, here on my personal blog, I’m not going to do a full report-out on the conference (we’ll save that for the MeeGo blog), so I’ll focus the rest of this post on the community aspects and my personal experiences.

The community was very engaged in the event: organizing early bird sessions, volunteering to help out whenever we needed it, and working and playing together in the hacker lounge until the wee hours of the morning. I also led the unconference day, and I’m always nervous about scheduling an unconference at the end of an event when people are tired and have been watching presentations all week. I’ve seen too many unconference days become the time when people leave early or spend the time in a corner catching up on email. In this case, I was very pleased that the unconference day was a success with attendees presenting in every available space (more than 45 sessions) and staying engaged throughout the day.

One of the keys to getting good community participation and getting attendees to hang out together is to have evening events that are more interesting and fun than what most people would decide to do on their own. Add free food and drinks to the mix, and you really can keep everyone together well into the evening. The Guinness tour and the football game, for example, drew large crowds, and people really did seem to have a lot of fun.

The best part of the conference from a community building perspective was the 24 hour hacker lounge where people gathered after the evening events ended to work on projects, hang out and play games. We used this space to play many, many games of werewolf often lasting past 3am. Werewolf is one of those games that I really like to bring to conferences because it gives people a chance to get to know each other. It gives the quiet guy who doesn’t really know anyone something to do and an excuse to meet new people, and it puts people on a level playing field where the company executive, the university student and the internet famous are all equal as werewolves and villagers. It gives people something in common to start the conversations while they learn enough about each other to find other things in common. Many of us tend to talk to the people we already know, which keeps us in our own little friend bubbles that can seem cliquey even when not intended to be. Werewolf is an excuse to talk to people that we don’t know and otherwise might not have met. Unlike those other team building and conference games, people really seem to enjoy werewolf. I don’t play werewolf just because I love it. I play it because it builds community.

Other interesting personal notes from the conference and Dublin:

  • Organizers are too busy to eat – I made too many meals out of wine and peanuts in the hacker lounge.
  • Jetlag worked to my advantage allowing me to play werewolf until after 3am, and I didn’t really crash until the plane ride home, so the timing was perfect.
  • In Dublin, like many cities in Europe, you have to look hard for street signs. In this case, they are blue and nailed to a random building or fence somewhere near the intersection.
  • You can find good vegan hippie food in Dublin – as always, look for it near a university.

Thanks again to all of the new friends I met and the old friends that I had time to hang out with. I’m already looking forward to the next MeeGo Conference in May!

Photo credits:

Community Manager Tip: Reuse Your Work

Community managers get asked the same questions over and over and over, so being able to quickly and easily reuse your work can save a lot of time and help maintain your sanity. The second time I’ve dug through my email archives to reuse a piece of a previous email to answer a repeat question, I usually realize that it’s time to formalize that answer and make it easy to reuse it.

Here are a few ways that you can reuse your work:

  • Have great documentation: use your online community or a blog to document frequently asked questions, processes and other useful information so that you can send a quick note and a link the next time you get the question.
  • Resources: pull together collections of links and other resources for people on a single page or section of your community to make it easy for people to find enough information to get started. The ‘Starting Point‘ page on this blog is an example of a quick and easy way to do this.
  • Use email templates (Gmail canned responses): these can be a quick way to organize information or content that gets sent by email, and I use them for collections of links, confidential information (invoices, etc.) and other things that are commonly sent via email multiple times.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Image by Flickr user andriux-uk used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Have Great Documentation

One of the biggest challenges for any community manager is to find ways to get new members integrated into your existing community with all of its established norms and ways of working. This can be particularly difficult if many of the things that define your community aren’t clearly documented. For any community, having great documentation can solve so many potential issues and make it easy for both new and existing members to get the information that they need quickly and easily. Ideally, you can put all of this documentation in a wiki and enlist the help of other community members. In the MeeGo community that I manage, getting all of our processes, guidelines and frequently asked questions documented has been a big focus for me lately.

Here are a few things that should be clearly documented:

  • FAQ: Always have a good frequently asked questions document. We have a main FAQ for MeeGo, which also links off to several other FAQs for specific topics. This is on my short list of things that still need a lot of additional work.
  • Processes: Document as many of your processes as you can to help members learn how to participate. Nothing is more frustrating for a new member than trying to participate, not getting it right and having to start over.
  • Community Guidelines: Have clear guidelines about what members are expected to do (or not do) that you can point people to for more information. I try to avoid guidelines that look like lists of rules, and instead, focus on encouraging people to make the right choices.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user mind on fire under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: You Can't Please Everyone

We always need to keep in mind that every choice and every decision that we make, no matter how sound, will please some people, but not everyone. “You can’t please everyone” is a saying that you hear all the time, but I remember being in high school when the impact of this statement really hit me. At that young age, I vowed to think about decisions in a different light with a component of any decision being to understand which people I cared about pleasing, and more importantly, which people could jump in a lake if they didn’t like my decision. This dynamic applies to everyday life and isn’t unique to community managers, but it does come up often when making decisions on behalf of the community.

A few tips:

  • Think about the impact of your decisions on the most important contributors in your community. Don’t let trolls and chronic whiners who will never contribute in a meaningful way dictate solutions.
  • When a few people want a change, make sure that the change would benefit the community as a whole. Don’t let a vocal minority push a decision that isn’t in the best interest of the whole community.
  • Look past your preferences to embrace solutions that benefit the community, even if they aren’t your personal favorites. Do the right thing for the community, not the individual (even when that individual is you).

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Zen Sutherland used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Value of Waiting

Most community managers keep a close watch on their online communities to be able to respond quickly, but really good community managers know when to respond right away and when to wait. If something is truly wrong, you should step in immediately to let people know you are working on fixing the issue, and when someone has an urgent or quick question, responding right away can help a community member get through an issue and back to being productive. However, there are many times when waiting and watching can be the best strategy.

Here are some times when you might want to wait:

  • For less urgent questions, wait to see if another community member responds. This gets more people participating and active in the community.
  • When someone is attacking and highly critical, a response from the community manager can seem defensive or self-serving. By waiting, you might find that other, more neutral community members come to your rescue. You can add more details later, if needed.
  • During controversial discussions, it can be useful to wait and let other people weigh in with opinions. If the community manager responds too early, you can shut the discussion down rather than learning where people stand.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user Vincent van der Pas used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: More Listening, Less Talking

The balance between listening and talking is a tricky one for many community managers, especially new ones. As community managers, we get excited when people participate, but if we start to jump into every conversation or reply to every thread it can be a little overbearing and can shut the conversation down too early. I try to listen first, and respond later to give more people a chance to participate.

A few tips for finding the right balance between listening and talking:

  • If you are consistently the top contributor as the community manager, take a hard look at whether you are posting too often.
  • Wait a bit before responding (unless the request is urgent) to see if someone else wants to chime in with a response or an answer.
  • Read the entire thread before responding to make sure that you are listening to all of the various opinions, especially before making a decision that impacts the community.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user Ky used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Have Great Metrics

For community managers, having excellent metrics is one of the best ways to show your progress and help justify your efforts to management when talking about budgets and staffing for the community. It provides an early warning system and diagnostics for potential community issues, which gives you time to make corrections before things get too bad.

Here are a few tips for having great metrics:

  • Measure many details to help you diagnose issues, but focus on a smaller subset that are used to determine success / failure.
  • The smaller subset should map to your goals and strategies for your community as a whole to show that you are meeting your objectives.
  • Share your metrics with your community. I have a public report with the data and a second internal report with more detailed analysis and suggestions for where the team can improve.
  • Measure across a few categories. I use awareness, membership and participation / engagement.

Additional Reading

Note: I hope to make this into a series of short posts (approximately weekly) to share quick tips for community managers.

Image by Flickr user Kevinzhengli used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Who is the Voice of Your Brand?

I’ve talked before about the importance of having someone you trust as the face of your company:

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture.

Tom Fishburne’s latest cartoon and blog post are a great reminder of the importance of having someone you trust representing your brand in public facing, social positions.