How To Herd Cats (tips on running a successful online community) - Oxford Geek Night 16


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This is an iteration of my Leeds Geekup talk from 2009, this time freed from the 20:20 format which meant less slides and more rambling.

Again it probably won't make much sense on it's own but there are associated links on under the tag "ogn16".

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How To Herd Cats (tips on running a successful online community) - Oxford Geek Night 16

  1. 1. How To Herd Cats (Tips for running a successful online community) - What is this talk about? - 11-ish tips for running an existing community - I tried for 10 and overshot slightly - What’s it not about - Not starting or bootstrapping a community. That's a different talk - Community management is frustrating, exciting and rewarding all at the same time - Prepare to be one part UN Envoy, one part Benevolent Dictator
  2. 2. "You can herd cats, move their food." - Still not entirely sure about the food analogy, but it made me laugh - So who is this talk for? - Professional community managers, volunteers, activists, even marketing - Based on my experience with and the Oxford Flickr Group - Nothing original here, it’s a distillation of things I’ve learnt from watching luminaries of community management - Jono Bacon - Ubuntu, Heather Champ, George Oates - Flickr, Denise Wilton - Moo, Matt Haughey - Metafilter
  3. 3. Set the ground rules - Be consistent and apply the rules fairly - Be willing to adapt and refine if things keep cropping up - Communities are living breathing things, organic - Let people know someone is watching out for them, be involved (more on this later)
  4. 4. Speaking of rules - Rough ground rules are best, not directives - "Simple is sustainable" - Jono Bacon (The Art of Community, available to download under a CC license) - Community should not be about bureaucracy - Best example: "Don't be creepy. You know the guy. Don't be that guy" - Flickr’s Community Guidelines
  5. 5. Avoid the single point of failure - Spread your responsibilities - Recruit other members as administrators and moderators - Holiday time becomes less of an issue - Especially for international communities - Metafilter has geographically distributed admins keeping an eye on things as the world turns - Oxford Flickr admins keep going to the pub together (whoops!)
  6. 6. Reward good behaviour - Highlight good responses - Positive reinforcement - Promote from within
  7. 7. Ensure you have the right tools - Does your CMS / Platform have the tools to manage your community effectively? - Multiple privilege levels, banning, blocking - Monitoring content - RSS (monitor incoming content), Google Alerts - Administration - Greasemonkey scripts for Firefox
  8. 8. Lead by example - "Be The Best Member Of Your Community" - Matt Haughey - "Post regularly and intelligently" - Matt Haughey - Maintain a high profile, it keeps some troublemakers away - Comes back to the point: let people know someone is watching out for them
  9. 9. Tend your garden with care - Yes, I got eaten by a wooden dinosaur, it’s all okay now though - People should be proud of their shared space - Give them a sense of belonging and ownership - Involve the community in decisions, but be prepared to make the final call - Again it’s the UN Envoy/Benevolent Dictator split
  10. 10. Beware of knee-jerk reactions - This goes for you as well as your members - Look for opportunities to reframe the conversation into something more useful. What’s the underlying cause? - Heather Champ - "The feedback you get over the first two weeks is less reactionary and a lot more thoughtful [than the first 48 hours]" - Watch for wedges. What are wedges? Divisive elements that can blow up - No advice how to recognise them, but you'll learn - First Offence? - Don't berate first time mistakes publicly, use a back channel, take the chance to educate
  11. 11. Own your mistakes - Take responsibility when you screw up - You will screw up - Seriously, you will screw up - Flickr and the the Yahoo authentication incident - Change is hard
  12. 12. Act quickly when things go wrong - A split second decision can persist - This is the exception to avoiding knee jerk reactions - Your tools will be invaluable - Don't be afraid to stop a discussion - Give people time to cool down - Spammers, porn, et al - Broken window theory - If people’s shared space isn’t looked after then things will get worse
  13. 13. Get outside once in a while - It’s difficult to flame someone you’ve shared a pint with - Face time is key - Humanises personas - Gives you a chance to put a voice and mannerisms to the name - People will connect over issues outside of the community sphere - Positive reinforcement again - Social ties feed back into the community
  14. 14. And finally… - Before I go - Communities can be difficult and you need to know when to step away - Moments of frustration, anger - If you don’t have at least one sleepless night a month you’re doing it wrong. Or less stressed than me - But remember…
  15. 15. Have fun! - Reward - Real moments of “Wow, look what we did!”
  16. 16. More Information Thanks Torchbox, Heather Champ, George Oates, Denise Wilton, Jono Bacon, Matt Haughey Photos And me. - Interesting links on delicious under ogn16 - Feel free to follow me on twitter (although I tend to ramble about lots of things outside of communities)