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How To Herd Cats (tips on running a successful online community)

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Slides from the talk I gave at Leeds Geekup on 18th November 2009 about running an online community. As it was a 20:20 style presentation the notes may not make much sense, but there's some good reading to be had if you follow the delicious.com link on the last slide.

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How To Herd Cats (tips on running a successful online community)

  1. 1. Garrett Coakley Web Developer at Torchbox Administrator of the Oxford Flickr Group Slightly obsessed by cats and Star Wars twitter.com/garrettc torchbox.com • I'm Garrett Coakley • Work for Torchbox as a front end developer • Administrator of the Oxford Flickr Group
  2. 2. How To Herd Cats • So who is this talk for? • Professional community managers • Volunteers • Activists • Dare I say marketing?
  3. 3. (aka: tips for running a successful online community) • Based on my experience with evolt.org, Flickr • Nothing original here, things I’ve learnt from watching luminaries of community management • Jono Bacon - Ubuntu • Heather Champ, George Oates - Flickr • Matt Haughey - Metafilter
  4. 4. "You can herd cats, move their food." - Unknown • Community management is frustrating, exciting and rewarding all at the same time • Prepare to be one part UN Envoy, one part Benevolent Dictator
  5. 5. Set the ground rules • Be consistent and apply the rules fairly • Be willing to adapt and refine if things keep cropping up • Let people know someone is watching out for them, be involved
  6. 6. Rough ground rules are best, not directives • "Simple is sustainable" - Jono Bacon • Community should not be about bureaucracy • "Don't be creepy. You know the guy. Don't be that guy" - Flickr
  7. 7. Avoid the single point of failure • Recruit other members as administrators and moderators • Holiday time becomes less of an issue • Especially for international communities
  8. 8. Good behaviour should be rewarded • Highlight good responses • Positive reinforcement • Promote from within
  9. 9. Tools tools tools • Does your CMS / Platform have the tools to manage your community effectively? • Multiple privilege levels • Banning • Blocking • Monitoring content • RSS • Google Alerts • Administration • Greasemonkey
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. Tend your garden with care • 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
  12. 12. Beware of knee-jerk reactions • This goes for you as well as your members • Look for opportunities to reframe the conversation • "The feedback you get over the first two weeks is less reactionary and a lot more thoughtful." - Heather Champ • Watch for wedges • Divisive elements that can blow up • No advice how to recognise them, but you'll learn
  13. 13. First offence? • Don't berate first time mistakes publicly • Use a back channel • Take the chance to educate
  14. 14. Own your mistakes • Take responsibility when you screw up • You will screw up • Seriously, you will screw up
  15. 15. Act quickly • A split second decision can persist • Don't be afraid to stop a discussion • Give people time to cool down
  16. 16. Get outside once in a while • Face time is key • Humanises personas • Gives you a chance to put a voice and mannerisms to the name
  17. 17. It’s difficult to flame someone you’ve shared a pint with • People will connect over issues outside of the community sphere • Positive reinforcement again • Social ties feed back into the community
  18. 18. And finally… • Before I go • Communities can be difficult • Need to know when to step away • But…
  19. 19. Have fun! • Frustration • Reward • Real moments of “Wow, look what we did!”
  20. 20. More Information: delicious.com/garrettc/leedsgeekup09 twitter.com/garrettc Thanks: Torchbox Heather Champ George Oates Jono Bacon Matt Haughey Photos: flickr.com/photos/tjflex/233593402/ flickr.com/photos/mahalie/571144258/ flickr.com/photos/bixentro/341485394/ flickr.com/photos/manthatcooks/85558734/ flickr.com/photos/meddygarnet/3392686660/ flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/3951143570/ flickr.com/photos/36978292@N08/3863631434/ flickr.com/photos/revdancatt/449142212 flickr.com/photos/doodledan/3900798566/ flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/3777775645/ flickr.com/photos/balakov/3754851363/ And me. • Interesting links on delicious under leedsgeekup09 • Feel free to follow me on twitter (although I tend to ramble)

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