The Risks of Having a Community Without Management

The Risks of Having a Community Without Management

Is yours a community without management?

The post is a riff on The Community Roundtable’s 5 Risks of Having A Community Without Management.

Flower - Yellow Flowers Without Management
Flower – Yellow Flowers (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The author comes up with five good ones:

  1. A Ghost Town
  2. Land of 1,000 Flowers
  3. Drama Central
  4. A Circling Storm
  5. A Clique

Ghost Town

Here’s what they mean. A Ghost Town is, essentially, either a more or less empty community or one without deep engagement. People may come in after an initial push and then just abandon the place. Now, the converse to this is people who hang around forever and never seem to convert to paying customers of any sort. In a commercial enterprise, that’s no good, either. But definitely you need for people to hang around, at least a little bit.

Land of 1,000 Flowers

Land of 1,000 Flowers is where there’s perhaps a little bit of everything but there is little connectivity. Some of the problem could potentially be alleviated with a very good search engine, e. g. if people see that the question about who wrote Peter Rabbit has already been answered, they might just go to that answer, rather than asking it again. Of course the downside to this is converting potential participants right back into lurkers.

Drama Central

Drama Central, ah, yes, this bit of juvenilia. This is a byproduct of having a smaller community/one that is not too active. If there are 100 members, and one acts out, that one will loom large. With 1,000 members, that person’s impact diminishes. And with 1,000,000 members, they barely register as a blip on the screen. And, even in a smaller community, if there are 100 members but also a good 1,000 topics are created every month, the one Drama Queen’s attention-grabbing me me me topic can be more or less swept under the rug. However, if your users create only five or so new topics every month, guess what’s gonna be front and center?

A Circling Storm

A Circling Storm, there are a lot of entrenched factions, hostile to one another. Even in a well-moderated community, this can still happen in a Politics section (and, to a lesser extent, in a Religion section). Hence people form strong opinions and don’t want to back down. How to handle it? I say let them argue, for the most part, but intervene if newbies are being chased off or it becomes too personal.

A Clique

A Clique, of course this is a niche or fringe group that grabs and hogs the spotlight. This can be whiny teenagers (you know who you are), organic gardeners, birthers, I dunno. They can absolutely create a self-fulfilling prophecy, e. g. if the only people they welcome are from Omaha, then those will be the ones who stick around. And then eventually people from Poughkeepsie or wherever don’t stick around and suddenly your board is filled with Nebraskans.

What to do? Well, it may seem obvious, or it may not. Manage the site! Don’t just leave it to chance!

Light Touch with Management

However, don’t go overboard with management. Heavy-handed community management can stifle. So find a balance, and do your best to follow it, all while respecting the community and its interests, but nudging it in the proper directions if it threatens to go off-course. You don’t just have to let the boat go wherever the currents take it but, at the same time, you also need to leave the dock.

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They used to call me Robot Girl

They used to call me Robot Girl

I haven’t blogged for a while. Yeah, I know.

I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.

Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.

In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.

But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.

  1. The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
  2. Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
  3. However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey ...
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from the trailer for the film Love Finds Andy Hardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    (now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.

  4. Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
  5. Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
  6. The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
  7. No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
  8. Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
  9. Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
  10. We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.

And a lot of today’s startups can, too.

See you ’round the scene.

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Mass Innovation September 15

My company, Neuron Robotics is in the running to present at Mass Innovation! If you’ll be in the Cambridge area on September 15th from 6-9pm, come on down to #MIN18. It’s at the Microsoft NERD Center. RSVP on the Mass Inno site to save a seat.

What is Mass Innovation Night like?

If you haven’t been to a Mass Innovation Nights event before, here’s how it works. You vote on this page to determine which companies get five minutes to present their story. However, everyone gets a table to demonstrate their product. On the night of the event, make some noise on their behalf! Blog, tweet, take pictures or video, post them online, mention and link to them from your LinkedIn status or Facebook, or, just tell someone. Together you can support local innovation.

Location

The event will be at the Microsoft NERD Center located at:
1 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02142


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See you there — but before you go, please vote for us to present at Mass Innovation in September. The race is exciting — we really need your vote. Thanks!

Mass Innovation #16

Neuron Robotics President Robert Breznak and I attended Mass Inno together again, and it was a blast as usual. Thank you again to our wonderful hostess, Bobbie Carlton. How does she do it?

We got to talk about our TEDxBoston pre-adventure, of course.

I’ve been coming since December of 2009, so it’s often an opportunity to see old friends, and meet new ones. #MIN16 was no exception.

We met the following people:

  • Joe Baz of Above the Fold – he is a User Experience Designer – I should’ve talked to him about Ultimate Frisbee!
  • Kristin Brenna of 603 Clothing – they make environmentally friendly custom tee shirts, etc.
  • James Brennan – he gave us some great quick business advice
  • John Hopkins – he gave us some terrific fast financial words of wisdom
  • Jonathan Margalit of Innocentive – they work with around the globe brainpower to solve problems
  • Stephen Potischman of Real Cool TV Productions – they make beautiful web videos
  • Lalitha Ramakrishnan of LSR Associates – they are a translating service, both written and spoken, and
  • Christopher Temper of Baystate Financial Services – he of course provides financial services advice.

Mass Inno would not be complete without its presentations.

First up was Stephen Potischman of Real Cool TV Productions, which I’ve mentioned above. Second was Acquia Drupal Gardens – they help make the Open Source community software, Drupal, easier and better to use. Third was Episend – they make it easy to send nontext messages through Twitter and Facebook, etc. E. g. you can send images, files, mp3s and the like. Last was Pietzo Electric Bicycles – the presenter even rode in on one! They are a way to be green and bike to work without one major complaint people have: breaking a sweat in their nice work clothes on a super-hot day (this was the middle of a heat wave, so it was a rather timely presentation).

Mass Inno is also an occasion to see familiar faces. We saw:

  • Cynthia André of The Founder Institute and Greenhorn Connect
  • Eric Braun of TeamShare Solutions – they are opening up a South Short Innovation space
  • Braulio Carreno – he is a part of the Anything Goes Lab within the Cambridge Innovation Center
  • Danielle Galmore of Steelcase/Turnstone Furniture – they make (among many other things) funky modular work furniture
  • Dave Fogel of Swifton CFOs – they outsource the senior financial level for emerging businesses
  • Allison Friedman of Rate it Green, a service whereby you can check whether a company’s claims of being environmentally friendly are really the case
  • Paul Geffen of The Founder Institute – they provide a means for company founders to get together and exchange equity
  • Ben Hron of VC Ready Law – I’m sure Mike Cohen was around somewhere, too
  • Rama Nandiwada of IT Shore, her company provides scalable software solutions. She’s been an expert at Mass Inno!
  • Rich Sands of R Sands Consulting – he provides strategic marketing for platform adoption
  • Masoud Shadravan – he’s a software engineer looking for a new gig – Hire him!
  • Christine Sierra of Lexalytics – they provide sentiment and text analysis solutions, and
  • Marcia Weiss of Collaborative Partners in Leadership – they work with executives to improve their leadership skills, communication and relationship strengths and teamwork capacity.

Whew! I think I covered everyone. It was an unexpectedly busy evening; you would think that people would be away for the Summer. Instead, we found a ready audience for showing off the DyIO and talking about our event, #NRBR.

We always have fun at Mass Inno. I hope we can present there ourselves one day!