Choosing a Community Platform: Community Leads Africa Summit 2022

The following is a write up of my session for the Community Leads Africa Summit.

My work in online community began as a hobby, building forums and fansites in the mid-aughts. In 2010, I started doing in-person events, meetups and workshops. 

For the last seven-ish years I was looking after content and community operations at GoDaddy. I just recently wrapped that up, and am once again diving head-first into the world of startups.

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Optimizing your Community Operations

The following was presented to the Community OPServations group. Thanks to Tiffany Oda and Cassie Mayes for inviting me to share my thoughts!

Early in my career, at the recommendation of bosses and colleagues, I went deep on productivity methods.

Getting Things Done was the first I was introduced to. Then there was the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer to do work in 25 minute increments. If that didn’t work, there were apps that monitored your browsing habits so you could police yourself.

And, yes, timeboxing — something I’ve done aggressively for the last six years – where we play Tetris with our calendars, shuffling around blocks of time assigned to specific tasks, in an attempt to create that “focus” time for finding our flow.

Years later, I read that what we actually needed was to be in a state of flow, with largely unstructured time, doing one thing. 

Still, none of these productivity methods solve the problem of having a finite number of hours in the day. Hell, I’d say productivity isn’t even the thing that we should be thinking about.

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A healthy community core

I’m heads down on a blog post about optimization. (Fun topic, eh?) In the meantime, I came across this great piece on growing healthy communities:

“Just like a tree a healthy community needs a core. A healthy core is made up of relationships strong enough and dense enough that there is trust and commitment. That creates stability. The core is the center of activity. It is where the heat is generated that then radiates out. If you’re new to this group, you’ll get a sense of how active the group is by observing activities that originate in the core. The core is also a center of gravity for the group’s culture and identity. It is where values, behaviors, principles and practices are role-modeled. How do we know how to behave in this group? We look to the people at the core and we start copying their behavior. In groups without core there is nobody to learn from.”

Community principle: Weaving from the inside out (Together Institute)

Have a great week!

What I’ve learned about web3 so far

person piling blocks

I was initially turned off by web3 because of the laser-eyed, diamond-handed cryptobros flooding Twitter with shitty JPEGs and Pepe memes.

It all struck me as juvenile “for the lulz” trolling. Crypto felt like a pyramid scheme built on fuzzy tech. I didn’t want anything to do with it.

Heck, even thinking back to the early days of Bitcoin, the whole thing felt like a gong show of FOMO. As the hype grew, the value grew, because supply & demand. It was a gold rush!

But why the hype? Why were people building custom rigs to mine a virtual currency invented by an anonymous creator? Did they really think it was going to replace fiat currency? That it was going to overthrow our modern financial system?

The whole thing felt like a prologue to a sci-fi anime from GAINAX.

Thing is, as time went on, more people I knew and respected moved into the space. In the last few years, especially, I couldn’t help but pay attention. And in the last few weeks, I went down the rabbit hole. I started reading up on blockchain tech, NFTs, DAOs, metaverse(s), et al.

To my surprise, I found it interesting. Hell, even exciting. Underneath the hype-fueled digital gold rush of day-trading monkey avatars lays the foundation of something real.

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Choosing the right community platform

white and red piled sticks

The following is a summary of my presentation at the #CommunityLed2021 virtual conference. Join the discussion on Community Club.

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Hi! I’m Andy. I’m a Senior Product Manager at GoDaddy, looking after our customer community platforms: the GoDaddy Blog, GoDaddy Events, and GoDaddy Community forums.

Like many people in our industry, this all started as a hobby. In the early 2000s I was a teenager building forums and fansites. In 2009, I started hosting in-person meetups and events. Then, in 2015, I joined GoDaddy as the Community Manager for their GoDaddy Pro partner program.

Until I joined GoDaddy, all of the work was voluntary and unpaid. I had wanted to get into the Advertising industry, but graduated into the recession in 2009. Nobody was hiring. So I fell back on my self-taught web skills, hopping between roles in IT companies, digital agencies and startups.

Through those roles I learned a lot about gathering requirements, defining scopes of work, estimating timelines, and working with different stakeholders to bring projects online. That experience informs a lot of how I approach my projects today, including how I choose community platforms.

Tip: Start with a working doc. Your working doc is a single source of truth for all the prep work that goes into choosing your platform. Everything I cover in this guide will be a section within that working doc. Collaborate on the working doc with your team, and use it as a starting point in crafting your proposal.

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Reach Teach Sell

Reach Teach Sell is a handy framework for practical marketing.

That’s where it began, anyway. ????

I started hacking on Reach Teach Sell several years ago. It was a way to wrap my head around how Content Marketing could address different parts of the customer journey.

As time went on, I realized it was even applicable to Product and Community programs.

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Tips for getting started in Community Management

silhouette of people

I got my start in Community Management by building forums and fansites in the early 2000’s. By 2010 I started organizing in-person meetups and events. In 2015, my hobby became my career when I joined GoDaddy as a full-time Community Manager.

Until that point I had never thought of community as a profession. Little did I know that an entire industry already existed, and was about to accelerate to warp speed.

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Context collapse on social media

From Charlie Wazel:

“The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith.”

“It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure.”

Context collapse is one of my biggest issues with wide-open social media platforms like Twitter. It’s very, very easy to take a grain from the feed and blow it up.

The guardrails that usually keep these things in check in smaller groups — a tighter audience, established relationships with other members, moderation — aren’t present.

Add recommendation engines driven by machine learning algorithms and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for yelling at strangers on the internet.

“The ability to switch contexts with little friction on Twitter is part of what can make the entire experience feel spontaneous and exciting. It’s how you get celebrities interacting with random nerds. Fun! It’s also how a lot of vile harassment happens.”

…and that’s the problem. We look to the upsides of a feature — discovery, engagement, retention — and don’t consider the fallout until after it happens. Even then, I wonder how much of it is dismissed as collateral damage, just an unfortunate cost of doing business?