Month: February 2013

A Simple, Effective, Community Platform Design

February 11, 2013Comments Off on A Simple, Effective, Community Platform Design

It's tricky to find many well-designed community sites on Drupal (or at all).

Too many focus on content. They place the content at the top of the page and bury the community either beneath the fold or behind a community tab. This might look great, but it's not effective for building communities. 

Plugincars is a notable exception. 

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 13.18.05

This site balances the content, with the community, with the current activity. If they removed the advert in the top right, it would be perfect. 

There are five things I want to highlight here:

1) The content appears on the landing page on a regular basis. Members always have a reason to come back and visit the community to see what's new.

2) The community appear highly active. They choose to show the number of discussions, photos, fans etc…this gives the impression of momentum. 

3) The latest discussions also appear on the right of the page. This shows the latest activity that members can immediately click to participate in. 

4) The community balances the social needs with the need for information. In addition to the landing page, members can see guides that they can download. 

5) The community also seperately lists the one key thing that members want to know, where can they charge their car? What is the one key, major, thing the members in your community want to know? 

 

Also note that within the guides themselves they have guides for people that are new to the topic and for those looking to purchase cars. Most communities neglect the people that are new to the topic, yet it's these people that will be the biggest source of growth for most mature communities.

 

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 09.27.23

Plugincars also does a great job of highlighting the key contributors to the community. This is on the landing page of the community. 

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 09.30.14
Finally in the cars section of the community, they give an instant overview of the topic. They provide a list of rechargable cars, upcoming cars, and the basic details of each car. This provides members with a glance of most of what they want to know about the topic.

If you're looking to build a great community on Drupal, Plugincars is a good place to start. 

Handling Abuse

February 8, 2013 Comments Off on Handling Abuse

Last week, I had to change the time of a free community strategy webinar by one hour.

A few people e-mailed me with abusive messages. 

Our approach in this situation is pretty consistent. We block their e-mail address and unsubscribe them from any of our mailing lists. We don't engage with abuse.   

Over the past five years, I've unsubscribed several hundred people. This has saved me hundreds of hours in trying to placate individuals I probably won't like and a lot of mental energy. This has freed up my time to organize events/webinars, publish books/ebooks, keep the blog going, and otherwise do important work. 

Any minute I spend on these people would be a minute I can't spend on high impact activities. Too often, community managers hesitate about removing members. They try to placate members or convert unhappy members into happy members.

Remove them quickly. Focus on the members that do want to be there. Focus on the members that are worth your time. Your time is limited/precious, don't waste it on the poor quality members. 

For organizations, you might lose a customer if you do this. However, you will have more time to recruit new members, undertake activities that benefit the community, and broadly increase the ROI of the community. That's a good trade to make. 

There are two other benefits here. First, the likelihood of receiving abuse falls as your zero tolerance policy becomes known. Second, the people you remove will most likely to join the communities most similar to yours (i.e. your competitors).

p.s. Relevant blog post from Seth. 

Far Beyond The Call Of Duty

February 7, 2013Comments Off on Far Beyond The Call Of Duty

Your job description probably covers about 30% of what you should be doing. 

It probably prioritises being reactive over being proactive.

It probably doesn't embrace the full community management framework.

It probably wasn't written by someone that has ever done your job (or in many cases has much knowledge of it). 

The problem with community management job descriptions is they usually won't lead to a successful community.

It's a list of tasks that are involved in building a community. It's not a complete list (or close to one). It's not even a list of the most important tasks you should be doing

If you want to really build a true, thriving, community, you're almost certainly going to have to go far beyond your job descriptions. You're going to have to embrace the full community management framework. You're going to have to master the community management lifecycle. You're going to have to be really good at diagnosing where your community is now, where it has to go next, and executing actions to get there. 

That means you're going to acquire certain skills (online influence, persuasion, momentum-building, community organizing) that you don't have when you take the job. 

Therefore, you either need to work for a company that will let you get on with what you need to do, trust that the company cares about the outcome and not the process, or find a company that will let you do real community building work. You're the expert, not them. It's a tough decision, but your community needs it. 

 

 

Join Us For A Training Day In London, March 9th

February 6, 2013Comments Off on Join Us For A Training Day In London, March 9th

When was the last time you applied something you learnt at a conference? 

Most are great for highlighting new ideas, some are terrific for networking, a few help reinforce a sense of community, but for learning things that directly help you build a better community, they're not so useful. 

We're going to try something different.

ThaitheatreOn Saturday March 9th, FeverBee is hosting an intensive one-day community management workshop at the London School of Economics.

We're going to take you through the process of taking your community to the next level.

This workshop will include 5 hour-long lessons in community management, one-to-one coaching time, ongoing Q&A, and tackling the specific problems you face. In short, it's the conference we would love to attend (if we attended many).

We're going to take a deep dive into proven theory from social sciences, practical community management actions, your specific community problems, and case studies from a range of other communities. 

The lessons include:

  • How to grow an online community.
  • The principles behind increasing community activity.
  • Applying social sciences to online communities.
  • Community platform design.
  • Creating content for online communities. 

By the end you will have a complete plan of action for your specific community, a full understanding of the key theories underpinning communities, access to our own scripts and resources, web spec templates, our book and a great network of fellow experts. 

The venue is the Thai Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics, London. The event begins at 9.30am and ends at 5pm. 

The fees are as follows:

  • £525 GBP // $680 USD for 1 person.
  • £725 GBP // $1160 USD for 2 people.
  • £1250 GBP // $2000 USD for a group ticket (5 people)

Lunch, snacks, and possibly a few post-event drinks are on us. 

Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Luton and Stansted airports are all close by. Those travelling from Europe can also take the Eurostar to St. Pancreas. If you need a hotel, click here

To reserve your place click here: http://www.etickets.to/buy/?e=9273

Explaining Conflicts in Communities (with a 40,000 word debate about Star Trek)

February 5, 2013Comments Off on Explaining Conflicts in Communities (with a 40,000 word debate about Star Trek)

Take a look at this 40,000 word debate between Wikipedia editors about whether to capitalize the 'i' in the name Star Trek: i/Into Darkness. 

For some perspective, my book was about 65,000 words. 

This is such a great example of the causes of conflicts and why they can last indefinitely. 

Some claim that these editors have too much time on their hands. That's clearly not the case. The number of Wikipedia editors has declined. The number of articles continues to rise. There is no shortage of work to be done. 

So what happened here? We can break this into three components.

 

1) The initial conflict

Conflicts are caused by individual, team, project, organizational, or environmental characteristics. The spark here was project-based. Two people disagreed on a very minor problem. 

However, discussion shifts to the rules of Wikipedia, Star Trek, JJ Abrams and standard editorial policy. It's no longer about the issue, it's about who best understands these issues. This leads to the second step of a conflict

 

2) Loss of status

I lied in the previous paragraph. It's not about who best understands the issues. The reason why people keep participating is because they don't want to be the person that understands the least about these. 

People keep participating in a conflict because of the perceived loss of status if they cease participating – they lose right? The participants here don't care about the answer, they care about not losing. This is important for when you try to resolve a conflict. 

Offline, people would quickly agree to disagree. However, online everything is visible to everyone and saved for posterity. We keep fighting to protect our own status in front of a perceived crowd. 

On it's own, this is fixable by identifying ways to resolve the conflict without a perceived loss of status. This is usually via a compromise, a competition (polls/votes), or the two sides accommodating each other's viewpoints. 

However, conflicts often bring in other people and lead to the 3rd stage of a conflict. 

 

3) Group Polarization

When two people or two groups debate an issue, they don't persuade each other. When was the last time someone changed your mind online? When people/groups debate an issue they become more entrenched in their own viewpoint. 

This is especially true with group debates. Defending the group's viewpoint is paramount in maintaining a strong group identity. This causes conflicts to continue indefinitely and spiral far beyond all reasonable length of debate. 

At this stage, the groups are fundamentalists. They will only accept evidence that supports their viewpoints and challenge/ignore any evidence that doesn't. 

The challenge in dealing with conflicts in your community is in either resolving the personal, team, project, organization, or environmental factors that triggered the debate, or remove the fear that leaving the conflict leads to a loss of status. Because by the time it gets to the polarization stage, it's too late. 

 

Permeable Boundaries Between Groups

February 4, 2013Comments Off on Permeable Boundaries Between Groups

Imagine you attended a meetup for a new hobby. 

You were introduced to people, but most of the regulars only spoke to other regulars. Imagine if you weren't included in any activities they were organizing. You probably wouldn't stay involved in that group (or activity) for long. 

The group had an impermeable boundary. Newcomers couldn't feel like one of the group. Newcomers couldn't see an easy path to become an accepted member of the community.

People participate in communities to satisfy their social needs more than their informational needs. Those social needs include being an accepted member of the group. It includes having friends they've made through that activity who they want to check in with frequently. 

If the boundary between registering as a member and being an accepted member is impermeable (or seems so) most people will give up. They will leave the community. 

Community managers that overly serve the veterans do so at the expense of everyone else. You serve the veterans and they feel they're part of an insider club. They begin to act that way. Community veterans need less of your time than newcomers. 

The solution is to create clear paths to becoming regular members of the community (profile community members and their journey through the community, for example), showcase the contributions of newcomers as well as regulars, and directly address the issue with veterans if it arises. 

p.s. Final day to register for FeverBee Professional Community Management Course

 

Your Reflection

February 1, 2013Comments Off on Your Reflection

If you run a site that often makes snarky remarks, embraces controversy, and writes with a swagger, you're going to have a reflection.

That reflection will be found in the comments. The comments will be snarky, trollish, controversial, and reflect your own values. 

You can try to tackle this by complaining about the problem, changing the commenting system, being less controversial, but that will significantly reduce the number of comments (and revenue from reduced visits).

If you were to ask the audience what they want, they would say they want deep, meaningful, analytical responses. If you were to watch what the audience does, they would post short, simple, and emotive messages. 

The challenge here is two fold.

First, is your reflection a bad thing?

Is it terrible to have a community of people that constantly try to insult, troll, and otherwise provoke each other a bad thing? My first gaming community, the tragically named UKTerrorist, thrived on this. It was part of the culture. Members enjoyed it.

If it's not a bad thing, can you accept the community for what it is rather than what you think it should be? Members are simply satisfying their social needs rather than their informational needs. 

Second, if you feel compelled to change it, you either need to attract a new audience or accept that you will lose most of the commenters. 

Techcrunch is mistaken if it wants the same number of comments but not the same category of comments. Accept a quieter, more intellectual, discussion or a rowdier, flaming, discussion. Both have their uses. 

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