A community for community managers

Just a quick link share that could be interesting for our professional community managers @noemi and @johncoate, and others interested in the topic:

This is a Q&A website for online community builders of all sorts, part of the large Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. Might be worth it to get another opinion for difficult decisions in community building. And if done carefully by only answering when others ask, it can also be used to make our own expertise and offers related to community building more visible, such as Edgeryders Academy.

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Excellent - thanks. Also Discourse has a community management guide that is quite good too. This is pretty known territory now and the good news I think is that what we have to say is not really so different than what the best of the others say. I think we have a unique angle on it, but even that might not be as unique as I suppose if I really dug into the whole field more thoroughly.

John and I are members of e-mint, a mailing list where online community managers hang out. It has been going for something like 15 years. But hey, Stackexchange!

And I know a few people who run pro CM operations. To me that is an obvious place to look esp since a couple of them are run by people I know and trust. But since they are more like agencies, I think we can’t do anything formal with them per se because that would be subcontracting. Maybe there is a workaround? here is what I don’t want: someone who interviews well and winds up being flakey or has lousy judgement or won’t listen to Noemi or me. We don’t have a lot of budget so I see this as a real risk.

As for NGI, Nadia recommends we do it all in English. While that is convenient, I am not sure we can arbitrarily decide that. And I am not sold on that being the best way to go. Katja, Rob and some others have to agree I think. But if it turns out we can, then we won’t need so many community managers since there wouldn’t be all those other languages. That could free up more budget for someone who has experience, skill, reliability and references.

I found the following in that Stack Exchange that I think is good advice:

Some observations I’ve made over the years.

Here are some things that cause division:

One or more sides feel that they are not being heard
One or more sides feel that there is favoritism
One or more sides feel that there is cliquishness
A breakdown in civility
Controversy only becomes a factor when those four are in play.

I’ll start with the last first.

A breakdown in civility

When there is a breakdown in civility, the previous three points are amplified, because it will turn into a free-for-all, and from there, any moderation will be seen as unfair as cries of “Why did you step in NOW after he said all of that to me.”

At the first sign of incivility, step in.
Make sure discussions are about topics, not people (see point 1).
Have a kindness policy. If it’s unkind, don’t post it. (see point 1).
Discourage “dogpiling”
One or more sides feel that they are not being heard

Encourage discussion from all sides, try to find common ground and build on that. This can make even the most heated topics turn into discussions, not fights. Be on the lookout for anyone encouraging/employing any of the following tactics

The filibuster. Talking a topic to death to the point where others retreat
Dogpiling… getting others to join in to deride someone’s opinion.
Swarming… burying someone’s opinion in a swarm of replies from a single or multiple people
The Columbo… Pretending not to understand a person to frustrate them
If you see any of these, you need to step in and bring things back on topic.

One or more sides feel that there is favoritism

You need to be able to demonstrate that there is none. Be as fair as you can, step in early and try the light touch first, because sometimes people just need to say their peace.

Also, if, by the time you step in, all sides have settled down, acknowledge that they have, and just comment that you’re glad that they were able to handle it (treat them like adults)

One or more sides feel that there is cliquishness

This is hard to combat because there will be regular long-time people, people who drop in and out, and new people.

All you can do is encourage mingling.

You want to be very careful in declaring certain topics “VERBOTEN”, as people will quickly learn to get uncivil if they want a topic shut down.

Worse, this can become a tactic to drive people out especially when it becomes a tactic to scold people for bringing up a controversial topic.

The old standard admonition of “Please don’t feed the troll” helps as well.

The best way to keep controversy from becoming an issue is to look for those who seek to make it one.

These are not necessarily those people spoiling for a fight, but rather the people who are egging others on.


You need to crack down on the incivility first. That will stop the bleeding so to speak.

Then, you promote discussion where there is common ground. The key is to get people talking again.

After that, you will find the community cooling down a bit, and you can start to re-introduce a few hot-button topics, but enforce civility very strictly until it becomes habit.

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Since we’re at it: I just saw that Discourse itself also has a community management category on its Discourse forum:


Yes I have used it before when we were setting up. Good resource.