Community Management

Community Management Tidbits – Drawn to Scale

Community Management Tidbits – Drawn to Scale

Community Management Tidbits – Drawn to Scale – There are little forums, and there are big ones. And there are forums with a very personal touch, and those without. It should come as no great shock to most people that smaller communities tend to have a more personal slant than much larger ones.

Getting Started

When you first start your community, like it or not, you will be building traditions. Perhaps your organization welcomes everyone personally, either in a topic or by sending a private message. Maybe you even mail out some swag the old-fashioned way, using the postal system. Or you write it up in a newsletter.


This is all perfectly fine when you’ve got a community of fewer than 100 users. But what happens when you hit 1,000 users? Or 10,000? Or, like Able2know, the site I’ve been managing since its inception in 2002, where you go from 2 users to over 950,000??? And of course there will be more to come.

Suddenly those nice personal touches become nice for everyone but you and your staff. Suddenly, they are nothing more than a burden, like a nest full of baby birds, constantly demanding a feeding. Yesterday.

When they don’t scale, they start to really stink after a while.

Setting Expectations

Hence you must start setting expectations early. If you want to welcome everyone, recognize that, if you can automate at least some of that (or delegate it), then it will be far more sustainable for far longer. Many forms of forum software allow the administrative team to send out a private message upon an event. One such event can be confirmation of an email address and/or a completed registration. Hence you can set up your software to send out a welcoming message.

Welcoming Messages

What should your welcoming message say? Only you truly know your users. What you say to the members of a gun owners’ forum will probably differ from what you say to a board dedicated to people looking for international pen pals. But either way, there are a few messages you might want to get across, no matter what your audience:

  • Welcome to the site!
  • Here is a link to the site rules
  • Come and introduce yourself (if you’ve got a specific topic or forum where people are supposed to introduce themselves, put the link here)
  • You can find forum announcements/the site blog/major news here
  • And here’s where you go for help or if you have an issue (this is where a link to your Help Desk, or the address for support, should go) and
  • Here is how to get your account removed, if you allow that.

Scale and Respect Your Users’ Time and Interest Levels

Including all of that information will help to head off some newbie questions at the pass. But don’t make the message too long as no one will read all of it. All you can hope for is for a good minority (say, 30% of your users) to read or skim most of the message, so make it short and bulleted. Hence it should comprise more of a reference than a one-stop shopping place where your users can find answers to their questions. And that will help to assure it can fulfill at least some of its purpose. User-centered, information-centric design is key here.

The personal touch is lovely, and you may still wish to use it every now and again. Certainly if you bring in a larger staff, it will allow for some of that, or at least allow for it longer. But if it gets away from you, don’t be afraid to scale and go to an automated solution. After all, no one expects Facebook to send a personally tailored note whenever they join the site or make a change in their status or friends list.

May your site become that large, too.

Quinnipiac Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM501 – The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload

The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload

Ambient Awareness. We live in a world of TMI. At the same time that we use avatars and user IDs, we are also putting out tons of information, every single day. As we continue to embrace distributed cognition (the push of thought from internal to external, from personal to shared, as we rely on our networks more and more), interfaces originally meant for one person using it at a time are turning into shared information and interfaces. We collaborate a lot more than we ever have. Certainly, it helps to have, well, help. But we are bombarded with messages these days. And a lot of them are created and spread by us. We are the architects of our own confusion and distraction.

It’s Everywhere

Go to the gas station – swipe your card. Say cheese when the security camera snaps your picture while you pump gas and buy snacks and smokes. Don’t forget to check in at FourSquare. You’ve got to oust the Mayor of the Cumberland Farms on Chestnut Hill Avenue! Drive away, through a toll booth with your transponder, and your license plate will be photographed, too.

Share enough of this information, and your friends will scold you for buying pork rinds and Marlboros. Maybe one of these days, your insurance company will scold you, too. Or maybe they’ll just quietly reassess your risks, get a new actuarial quote, and raise your rates by 1% – and they won’t necessarily tell you they’re doing this, either. Check into enough places, and your route can be mapped. If you’re cheating on your spouse, you’d better not drive your car through a toll booth when you go to visit your paramour.

Is it Really so Bad?

Or maybe it’s all less sinister than that. Maybe your friends contact you because they care – because they see you buying snacks and smokes far too much, and worry that you’ve become depressed. Maybe your doctor sees this activity and contacts you to set up an appointment to check your blood pressure and your cholesterol.

But whatever the motivation is, and whatever the source, one thing is clear: we know all this stuff about each other now. As Thompson, C. (2008, September 5). Brave new world of digital intimacyNew York Times Magazine. [Link] says, “Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it ‘ambient awareness.’

It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye. Facebook is no longer alone in offering this sort of interaction online. In the last year, there has been a boom in tools for ‘microblogging’: posting frequent tiny updates on what you’re doing. The phenomenon is quite different from what we normally think of as blogging, because a blog post is usually a written piece, sometimes quite long: a statement of opinion, a story, an analysis.


But these new updates are something different. They’re far shorter, far more frequent and less carefully considered. One of the most popular new tools is Twitter, a website and messaging service that allows its two-million-plus users to broadcast to their friends haiku-length updates — limited to 140 characters, as brief as a mobile-phone text message — on what they’re doing.

There are other services for reporting where you’re traveling (Dopplr) or for quickly tossing online a stream of the pictures, videos or websites you’re looking at (Tumblr). And there are even tools that give your location. When the new iPhone, with built-in tracking, was introduced in July, one million people began using Loopt, a piece of software that automatically tells all your friends exactly where you are.”

In The Numerati, Stephen Baker talks about the data that is all over the Internet, and how data miners are trying to gather information to paint a picture of individuals.

That interview is from 2008 – the pervasiveness of intimate data is nothing new.


One of the best-known places where intimate details are shared and reshared is Twitter. It’s become an odd admixture of personal anecdotes and preferences, sprinkled with some news, although the news becomes a proportionately larger percentage when it becomes more sensational or local, as in the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt.

As Hermida, A. (2010). Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism Practice, 4(3), 297–308. [Library Link] says, “As with most media technologies, there is a degree of hyperbole about the potential of Twitter, with proclamations that ‘every major channel of information will be Twitterfied’ (Johnson, 2009). Furthermore, social media services are vulnerable to shifting and ever-changing social and cultural habits of audiences. While this paper has discussed micro-blogging in the context of Twitter, it is possible that a new service may replace it in the future. However, it is important to explore in greater depth the qualities of micro-blogging—real-time, immediate communication, searching, link-sharing and the follower structure—and their impact on the way news and information is communicated.”

It’s All Around Us

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM501 – The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload
English: Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We get the news about elections or a manhunt or the latest scientific breakthrough, alongside what our friends are eating for lunch, and what they think of the latest Charlize Theron movie. This avalanche, this garbage can full of data comes at us 24/7.

Going back to the initial example I gave, with its combination of voluntary and involuntary data grabs, how can an individual retain a measure of privacy? How can a person get off the notification train? It’s even harder than it was when Baker was interviewed. He says that a person would be able to retain some privacy by paying for tolls with cash. But that’s not true anymore – all toll booths are now under the purview of cameras. Certainly all credit and debit card transactions leave what is still quaintly referred to as a paper trail.

If we are going to try to maintain a semblance of privacy, we’ll need to do it pretty close to home. After all, in the wake of 9/11, purchasing a plane ticket or hiring a rental car by using cash will get you a look-see from the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe we should all just sit at home and order pizza.

But then, inevitably, someone would upload an image of their pepperoni and mushroom pie onto Instagram. We’d know that their cholesterol level and blood pressure were probably about to go up, and we’d be right back where we started.

Analytics Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac Assignment #04 – Media Convergence

Quinnipiac Assignment #04 – Media Convergence

Once again, we did not have to prepare a YouTube video. Therefore, instead, I am going to reprint one of my essays, in its entirety. This one is about media convergence. As media (print, television, Internet, etc.) all becomes deliverable on one piece of hardware (generally a smartphone or an iPad), and one is advertised or copied or shared on another, should our metrics and means of measuring reach, etc. on these platforms also diverge? And what does that mean for the future of measurement?

Media Convergence

Wishing and Hoping AKA The Past

Back even before television was three channels, data was gathered via Nielsen ratings. Nielsen started in the 1920s but didn’t really get into media analysis until the 1942 radio index. In 1950, it was followed by the television index. (Nielsen, 90 Years, By 2000, Nielsen had gotten into measuring Internet usage.

Throughout most of this nine-decade period, media was siloed. Radio was analyzed one way, television another, etc. But it was mainly counting. How many people watched a show? How many listened to a particular radio station? With 1987’s People Meter (Nielsen, 25 Years of the People Meter,, an effort was made to gather more granular data, and to gather it more rapidly. However, Nielsen’s efforts were still confined to extrapolated samples. Was their sampling correct? In 1992, the People Meter was used for the first time in an attempt to measure Hispanic viewing habits. But even in 2012, the total number of people meters in use was in a mere 20,000 households. Were the samples representative? It’s hard to say.

Here and Now AKA It’s Better, But ….

Social media qualitative measurements, including sentiment analysis, are an effort to understand viewer, user, and listener behaviors. Nielsen and the like measure quantifiable information such as time on a channel (or page). But qualitative measurement goes beyond that, in an effort to understand why people visit a website. Topsy, for example, measures the number of positive and negative mentions of a site, product, service, celebrity, etc. Yet a lot of this is still quantitative data. Consider Martha Stewart as a topic of online conversation.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 524 Media Convergence
Martha Stewart on Topsy, June 9, 2014


All we can see are numbers, really (the spike was on the day that a tweet emerged claiming that Martha Stewart had a drone). This is still counting. There are no insights into why that tweet resonated more than others.

Media convergence is mashing everything together in ways that audiences probably didn’t think were possible even a scant thirty years ago. But now, we watch our television shows online, we are encouraged to tweet to our favorite radio stations, our YouTube videos become part of television advertising, and our Tumblr images are being slipped into online newspapers. All of this and more can be seen on our iPads. Add a phone to this (or just use an iPhone or an Android phone instead of an iPad), and you’ve got nearly everything bundled together. How is this changing analytics? For one thing, what is it that we are measuring? When we see a music video on YouTube, are we measuring viewer sentiments about the sounds or the images? When we measure a television program’s Facebook engagement, is it directly related to the programming, to the channel, to viewer sentiment about the actors or the writers, or something else? What does it mean to like or +one anything anymore, when a lot of people seem to reflexively vote up their friends’ shared content?

I believe that our analysis has got to converge as our media and our devices converge. After all, what is the online experience these days? On any given day, a person might use their iPad to look up a restaurant on Yelp, get directions on Google Maps, view the menu on the restaurant’s own website, check in via FourSquare, take a picture of their plate and upload it to Instagram, and even share their dining experience via a Facebook photo album, a short Vine video or a few quick tweets. If the restaurant gets some of that person’s friends as new customers, where did they come from? The review on Yelp? The check in via FourSquare? The Vine video? The Facebook album? The tweets? The Instagram image? Or was it some combination thereof?

Avinash Kaushik talks about multitouch campaign attribution analysis (Avinash Kaushik, Web Analytics 2.0, Pages 358 – 368), whereby customers might receive messages about a site, product, service, etc. from any number of different sources. On Page 358, he writes, “During the visits leading up to the conversion, the customer was likely exposed to many advertisements from your company, such as a banner ad or Affiliate promotion. Or the customer may have been contacted via marketing promotions, such as an email campaign. In the industry, each exposure is considered a touch by the company. If a customer is touched multiple times before converting, you get a multitouch conversion.” Kaushik reveals that measuring which message caused a conversion is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.

With media convergence, the number of touches in a campaign can begin to come together. Facebook likes can be measured for all channels. Tweets can be counted for whichever messages are being sent on Twitter, whatever they are about. Will attribution be any easier? Hard to say, but if the number of channels continues to collapse into one, will it matter quite so much in the future?