Archive | January, 2010

Advice for New CMs

31 Jan

Rawn Shah, who heads the Social Software Adoption team at IBM, noted some good advice for new community managers in an interview with onlinecommunityreport.com. His thoughts directly relate to what we’ve been discussing in class. A successful community manager should know and be passionate about their community in order to build effective relationships and best business practices. Below is the excerpt, and the entire interview can be found here:

Q: What advice would you have for a beginning community manager?

Community management is both a learnable skill and a personality trait. The best community managers (CMs) that I know have survived the long term are active listeners, strong relationship builders, and see themselves as a voice for the members. They are resourceful people and always looking to find ways how members can help others rather than trying to be gatekeepers or central clearinghouses of information. CMs generally “work” for the sponsor, whether officially or otherwise. They voice the ideas, feelings and pulse of the community to the sponsoring organization, but they are also not “willows” who bend entirely to the will of the community.

As a new CM it is important to understand not just how you are to serve people, but also what you need to produce or deliver and how to measure them. If these are countable in distinct ways, then you have a way to capture metrics. Otherwise, if these are qualitative ideas and results, then you have relevant stories that may be representative or repeated across the community. My suggestion when it comes to metrics is to look for repeatable ideas or artifacts relative to what your community is doing. They should be meaningful towards delivering the end business goals, even if they are only parts of the whole picture.

My Sunday Morning

31 Jan

This is what I did starting at 7:30 am this morning. What were you doing?

I am still shocked that 1) I finished this and 2) I haven’t passed out yet. Today I experimented with Gu (gross), but it helped. Sixteen miles is a huge accomplishment for me, but I can’t believe I’ll have 10 more miles to go on race day. Seven weeks and counting to the marathon. Stay tuned for progress reports.

NOTE: I tried to embed the map here, but unfortunately WordPress doesn’t support iframe, so please click on the link.

01/31/2010 Route
Find more Runs in Santa Monica, California

I’m training to participate in the Los Angeles Marathon on March 21st 2010 as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training. All of us on Team In Training are raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. To date, members of Team in Training have raised over $900 million for LLS. Not only am I training for this marathon as a personal goal, but more importantly, I am completing this marathon in honor of all individuals who are battling blood cancers. These people are the real heroes on our team, and we need your support to cross the ultimate finish line – a cure!

I have made a personal commitment to raise $5000. 75% of my pledged amount goes to LLS and their mission to cure blood cancers. Your tax-deductible donation to LLS will further this great cause. I’ve raised over $3000 so far. I’m reaching out to my APOC crew for your support – every dollar counts! As does moral support.

For additional information and to make a donation, here is the link to my fundraising page:

http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/LA10/jepsteidyg

iPad Discourse

31 Jan

I know it’s unoriginal, but I would be remiss not to mention the biggest tech news of the week: Apple’s long-anticipated announcement of the iPad (aka iTablet or iSlate, both of which would have been much, much better names). While I grieve for the inevitable disappearance of print news and books, which the iPad will most certainly expedite, I will let two historical figures present their perspectives on Apple’s newest gadget. I believe both of them have valid viewpoints, and they also boil down the massive discussion of pros and cons flourishing across the web.

Personally, I think Hitler is a bit harsh. At least Pee Wee knows how to use the iPad for multitasking.

Megasites vs Niche Communities. Rap vs Comedy. And mobile food trucks.

31 Jan

We had an excellent second class meeting on Monday, January 25 with four outstanding speakers:

Curtis Jewell of mycypher.com: a site dedicated to bringing together the global hiphop community. Artists have the ability to use an online recording tool (on mobile device or computer mic) and upload their beats, thereby democratizing the recording process. The site is still in beta testing but you can request an invite to join.

Josh Spector, SVP of Content and Marketing for comedy.com: a guide to what’s funny right now on the web, hosting the best of web and TV comedy videos. The site has 3 million unique monthly visitors.

Ben Gigli and Sean Stevens, APOC alumni, and creators of awesome niche sites including 5secondfilms, hotgirlsandexplosions and wheresmytaco.

We covered a lot of ground discussing the nature of communities, options for building and monetizing a site, and how to best utilize existing social media to establish brand awareness. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., are third party tools that allow people to create communities, but are not necessarily communities in and of themselves. It’s imperative to know and understand these different tools and the people they attract in order to build the broadest consumer base. These existing networks help to establish and leverage partnerships.
  • What’s in a domain name? These days the domain is usually overrated, and frankly it’s probably more beneficial to have a specific domain (5secondfilms) versus a broader name (comedy.com) as it’s tough to build a brand on a broad concept. The more niche the site and the domain, it may be easier to self-promote across third party tools, as consumers can perform a more directed search.
  • It’s difficult to build on technological and business platforms that you can’t control. For example, Facebook began to block generic fan pages (ie, “Laughing” or “Sleeping in late”), which prompted businesses to lose built-in audiences because they could no longer control status updates that lead back to their brand. Changes in Facebook privacy and technological policies can therefore directly affect web traffic, and niche sites in particular can become a victim of third party platform changes.
  • Obviously, there are different approaches to revenue models depending on the type of site. The general consensus is that advertising is a good ancillary (as opposed to primary) revenue stream, and venture capital money tends to stretch the farthest when you know what you want and what works best for your site (which will likely happen through trial and error).

Overall, there was a lot of information to sink our teeth into. I’m personally looking forward to understanding how to monetize and create a business platform for various revenue streams. Because making money would be a good thing.

And Curtis’ multi-language rap was pretty awesome.

And a Community is…?

25 Jan

So what is a “community” exactly? What is a good definition of “community”? Who are its members, where does it exist, and what are its primary characteristics? Why is it important to understand the nature of community in the online world?

In “A New Perspective on ‘Community’ and its Implications for Computer-Mediated Communication Systems,” Amy Bruckman contends that “community can be viewed as a prototype-based category.” Beyond simple inclusion/exclusion rules, she approaches the idea of community based on whether its prototypical members exhibit a greater or lesser degree of similarity. Bruckman suggests that community is a “category,” in which membership is determined by how closely related a member is to the “focal members.” For example, she cites a study in which subjects responded that a robin is a bird more quickly than a penguin is a bird, indicating that a robin is a better focal prototype for the bird category than a penguin. While Bruckman notes that different cultures may perceive different focal members of a category, she says that empirical investigation is needed to understand variations within a culture.

Bruckman’s prototype-based definition may be a functional way to understand online communities, though not necessarily the most useful. First, I am operating under my own belief that online communities are effective, dynamic and viable, corresponding to legitimate global understandings of “community”. Most online communities transcend inclusion/exclusion rules, as mostly anyone can “join” an online community, even if the individual does not relate directly to it’s prototypical members. For example, even though iVillage is designated as a “women’s community,” it does not exclude men from joining or participating. Similarly, Facebook transitioned from exclusivity to inclusivity, starting initially for college students and now boasting more than 300 million members. Thus online communities can be considered “categories.” However, because of the general lack of exclusivity online, how useful is Bruckman’s prototype theory? I’m sure that Facebook can determine a “prototypical” user through market research and web usage patterns, but how useful or practical is understanding that community user within a massive population?

While exclusivity and membership rules help narrow the definition and characteristics of a community, as the world continues to move online, a prototypical online community member will likely be on the periphery of several communities (because of the relative ease in joining communities) in addition to those s/he regularly use. The rate of change among Internet usage will require a continually updated “census” (like USC’s Digital Future reports) to evaluate the characteristics of prototypical online community members, which I believe will remain dynamic – so can there be such a thing as a prototypical member? I’ll leave it up to the research scientists, but I’ll be watching.

If you printed Twitter…

19 Jan

Wow. Just, wow. And it’s still growing.

These statistics certainly make a case for online media as “green” technology. Though it would be interesting to compare how much energy Twitter’s servers use and how much money and physical resources that energy output saves as compared to below.

Below are some statistic highlights, and here is the link to the full article on Mashable:

If you printed Twitter …

– … the seven billion tweets to date are composed of 104,860,000,000 words, as many as 133,000 copies of the the King James version of the Bible.

– … it would cover 350 million sheets of paper, which is 37 times the number of pages used in bills introduced in the United States Congress since 1955.

– … the paper would weigh three and a half million pounds, the equivalent of 82 school buses fully loaded with 84 happily tweeting kids.

– … and did nothing but read tweets throughout the entire work day, it would take 2,912 years to get through it.

– … and laid the pages end to end, they would stretch 60,763 miles or two and a half times around the earth.

– … on an average HP Inkjet printer, it would cost you $24,500,000 to print in black ink or $55,606,250 to include the Twitter blue.

– … keeping up with the 26 million tweets daily would require 30 inkjet printers working around the clock to print more than 1,300,000 pages every day.

Gamers Helping Haiti

19 Jan

I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR today and the technology culture consultant (cool job title) was discussing how social media has greatly helped the relief efforts in Haiti. Compared to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, social media today has allowed people to send Red Cross donations via text, search for loved ones via blogs and Twitter, and receive real time news and images. The consultant also discussed how Bungie, the creator of Halo 3, has asked players to add a heart avatar to their profile, and the company will donate to the Red Cross on the player’s behalf (up to $77,000 total). I’m not a gamer, but this sounds like an inventive strategy. I’m anxious to see how it works.

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