Apr 28 2008

Musings on “community management” Part 2

Words from Community SessionMy last post was on the ground, in-the-flow practical stuff of online community management in response to Chris Brogan’s great post, On Managing A Community . This one climbs up to meta-ville a bit and asks a couple of questions.

Are we talking about communities, or are we embarking on the era of network facilitation?
If you read between the lines and through the comments on Chris’s blog I think he has begun to tease out some of the differences between community and network management! (I’ll come back to that word “management.”) Read through his goals which I think are different than what we have come to expect for what I’ll call “traditional online community management.” In the past this has been about the inward set of processes around hosting, moderation and facilitation of web based discussion communities – large or small. He speaks of outreach, of reputation of an organization in the world, and of mechanisms of learn from and with groups of people and even the wider world. It is an outward looking role, not inward. It is about spawning connections, not keeping existing connections organized.

This is not your mother’s discussion board, sweetheart!

When we move to the network, a couple of things happen. The notion of managing becomes even more of an illusion than managing that herd of cats called “community.” (By community, I mean a bounded set of individuals who care about something and who know they are members and interact with each other over time.)

Instead we are talking about scanning for things important for our organizations – conversations about us, niches or needs we can fill, feedback and suggestions for improving what we do. It is filtering and redirecting those messages to where they can do good. It is a little bit like listening to the universe.

Instead of managing conflict or spammers in a walled community, we are seeking to make connections between people that advance our organization’s learning and goals. That includes between disgruntled people and the people who might address that problem, between ideas, links and content to people who might use them, and between communities that exist within the humus of the network garden.

Instead of spawning or archiving threads, we are tagging and remixing. Instead of inviting in or kicking out members, we are mapping the network of relationships, looking for where to respond, and where to catalyze action.

These are not the list of community management skills we have come to know since the first big upswing in online communities in the mid 1990’s. We have moved to from community to network…. what is the word?

If we are talking about communities, are we really talking about managers?
I don’t think it is management in the traditional sense, in the sense of control and mold (or even “facilipulate” – manipulate+facilitate!). It is about sensing, scanning, filtering and connecting. And, it is about learning. Facilitating learning. Living the learning and creating the next iteration of that learning. It is about stewarding technology as wave upon wave of new tools crashes upon our organizations.

It is about weaving between the community and the network.

What the heck would this job be called? Which organizations have the foresight to invest in it — and realize that those who help them weave their organizations in and out of the networks will benefit most from those networks? If we were looking for this person, what skills would they show up with? What would their traces across the internet look like?

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Musings on “community management” Part 2”

  1. […] to Chris’ observations about community managers. That is the content of Part 1. Check the next post for a more “meta” reflection in Part 2. Skills, Experience and Qualities of a […]

  2. […] Jeremy@Zawodny.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy last post was on the ground, in-the-flow practical stuff of online community management in response to Chris Brogan’s great post, On Managing A Community . This one climbs up to meta-ville a bit and asks a couple of questions. … […]

  3. Chris Brogan...on 28 Apr 2008 at 7:04 pm

    This whole bit is the nugget for me:

    “Instead we are talking about scanning for things important for our organizations – conversations about us, niches or needs we can fill, feedback and suggestions for improving what we do. It is filtering and redirecting those messages to where they can do good. It is a little bit like listening to the universe.

    Instead of managing conflict or spammers in a walled community, we are seeking to make connections between people that advance our organization’s learning and goals. That includes between disgruntled people and the people who might address that problem, between ideas, links and content to people who might use them, and between communities that exist within the humus of the network garden.

    Instead of spawning or archiving threads, we are tagging and remixing. Instead of inviting in or kicking out members, we are mapping the network of relationships, looking for where to respond, and where to catalyze action.”

    That has me thinking. I wish I could answer back with wit and engagement, but instead, I’m a bit silent at the points you’ve made, because you’re at once both right and profound. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

  4. Patti Anklamon 29 Apr 2008 at 6:39 am

    Hi, Nancy,

    I almost responded to your post yesterday about Chris’s definition of Community Manager for the very reasons you bring up in your post today. It’s a broader, more far reaching role and it is about extending and managing the network (as you say).

    Sometimes I like to look at these “new” roles emerging in our Web 2.0 cloud and draw comparisons with extant organizational roles. Some that came to mind: Relationship/Partner management, brand management, marketing. These all Relationship Management in the 2.0 world is harder, because there is no fixed set of “partners” and communities (companies) need to always be on the alert for new opportunities in relationships and establishing connections at various levels of formality.

    Brand management came to mind because of the need to stay aware of what others are saying about us, and commenting where needed to clarify and positioning. And marketing, of course, because “market in everything.”

    Thanks, both Chris and Nancy for an engaging conversation.

    /patti

  5. […] these blog posts with the words “community management.” After writing post 1 and post 2 on this topic (triggered by Chris Brogan), the words just feel wrong. But because this is the label […]

  6. Eva Schifferon 30 Apr 2008 at 8:05 am

    Dear Nancy,
    You really got me thinking again. One issue that shines through here, especially in asking: “Which organizations have the foresight to invest in it — and realize that those who help them weave their organizations in and out of the networks will benefit most from those networks?” revolves around control.

    I think this kind of organization would not only have to have the “foresight” to invest in this but also be prepared to trust that it can be a good thing to invest in something you cannot utterly control. I think for a lot of control and line-management focussed organizations, the idea of a free floating agent that somehow connects people and things across all these nice and orderly compartments and triggers strong dynamics towards open ends is a scary thing.

  7. Connie Bensenon 30 Apr 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I agree that I don’t like the title of Manager. It is indicative of short-term, achieving goals within a given budget.

    We explored possible titles in the Comm Mgr Facebook Group
    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=3553055120&topic=4523

  8. […] on managing communities going on right now…Chris Brogan kicked it off and Nancy White wrote some interesting musings and also kept track of many of the other interesting links. Posted in Communities, […]

  9. […] Musings on Community Management Part 1 http://www.fullcirc.com/wp/2008/04/28/musings-on-community-management-part-1/  and Part 2 http://www.fullcirc.com/2008/04/28/musings-on-community-management-part-2/ […]

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