''Advanced'' community management

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Notes taken from this etherpad and edited/rearranged.


We are experienced community managers. We give talks aimed at beginning community managers - yay, but what do *we* want to learn? How do *we* level up?

Within the open source community, there is little talk about the next stage, the 201, 301, or post-graduate levels of community management.

What resources can we share to help educate ourselves/each other? Can we look outside the tech community and learn from fields like activist communities, political movements, social work, organizational behavior, conflict resolution?

Who's present? put your names if you want

  • Skud / skud@infotrope.net / Skud
  • Britta / @brittagus
  • Alberto @MinorityPostdoc
  • Liz Henry @lizhenry
  • Mitar / @mitar_m / http://peerlibrary.org/
  • Jon / jon@thetapestries.net , @jdp23
  • Eric Steele / @esteele
  • Aleksandr @i_tsukanov (crowdfunding, crowd
  • shauna / @shauna_gm, shaunagm@gmail.com
  • Jennie Rose Halperin @little_wow jhalperin@mozilla.com
  • mathew @headfullofair mathew@publiclab.org
  • Aaron Wolf — Snowdrift.coop
  • Beth Binkovitz (@bbinkovitz)
  • Zeus @intuivo
  • Robinson Tryon (identi.ca: @qubit, qubit@libreoffice.org) -- LibreOffice
  • Larissa Shapiro @larissashapiro - lshapiro@mozilla.com
  • Sara Mansouri sara.mansouri@usask.ca
  • Jenny Ryan / @tunabananas / jenny@sudomesh.org / https://
  • Paul Fenwick / @pjf / http://pjf.id.au/
  • Liz Barry / @lizbarry / http://publiclab.org

Primary communities we manage

Geek Feminism, OpenHatch, WordPress, Cydia, Archive of Our Own, Mozilla, feminist hackerspace (Double Union), snowdrift.coop, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, minoritypostdoc.org, Drupal meetup, Plone, PeerLibrary, Stumptown Syndicate, Open Source Bridge, Gittip, small non-profit, OpenGarden (mobile mesh networking), Sudo Room (hackerspace), LibreOffice, non-profit (didn't catch the name), Public Lab, Metamocracy.

Areas we want to learn from/about

  • anarchists and activist communities
  • improving conversations (communication theory? facilitation? informal strategies)
  • mediation
  • volunteer management
  • internationalization / international volunteers
  • understanding power structures & influence & construction of power
  • ways to effectively distribute work (delegation? org structure?) (and distributing power and money)
  • sustainable community management
  • cognitive psychology
  • anthropology
  • sociolinguistics
  • crowdfunding and crowdsourcing
  • tools for community managers/ facilitators
  • governance
  • burnout/succession/passing the torch
  • diversity advocacy across STEM academia
  • rebuidling leadership after crisis
  • how to bring communities/collaboration to academia
  • how to create respectful and healthy communities
  • empowering global communities / understanding their conflicts without imposing our assumptions
  • organizational sustainability
  • what to do post crisis mode / maybe crisis management generally?
  • stepping back from high levels of involvement in a loving and supportive way
  • how do you keep everyone excited even when some things cannot be delegated
  • understanding motivations of community members (what they get out of it)
  • merging online and offline communities
  • how to address communication in communities which include technophobic members
  • advice on the tension between business and community
  • advice on managing in-person and remote members communities
  • how deal with tensions and conflict in open environments

General areas that might be good to learn about


Linguists have done research into the assumptions and implications behind the statements people make, and how use of language helps construct identity & groups. Community management involves a lot of talking to people, so this form of theory is useful for thinking carefully about the messages you're sending by phrasing statements in certain ways, and to help interpret messages between community members. You can start with the Wikipedia article on sociolinguistics. Terms: speech communities, communities of practice.

How can we break through that silo of information and make useful papers on this available? Open science and open culture are general concerns, but we are facing it directly as community facilitators.

Some papers interesting as models of thinking sociolinguistically, by Mary Bucholtz: analysis of community dynamics (of geek feminism) through looking at use of language, looking at slang use by teenagers to study how language use signals group identities (can read intro and skip to Discursive practices of slang and identity), more of her study of how teenagers use language to signal identity - looking at "whiteness" and "nerdiness".

Exploitation in community/volunteerism

General concerns about the possibilities for exploitation in the guise of "community"....

Challenges of working in an organization that has both a lot of paid staff and a lot of volunteers. One possible good thing to do: getting paid staff to be volunteers for other organizations.

Volunteer with other organisations (outside tech) -- builds all kinds of things including empathy. Examples: community gardens, non-profit that provides tax help

Possible angle to look at this from: labor relations, free/unpaid labor

Emotional labor

"Community managers need to be really nice, really empathetic, highly organized and very good at answering their email."

The phrase "emotional labor". We have some things in common with other service workers who are paid to be nice. It is useful to Google "emotional labor" and learn from what people have written on that.


A lot of us have found that working on our own personal stuff has made us better community managers

Therapy is quite useful; we have to deal with our own issues. But we also often find that we end up working *as* counsellors in our communities: mediation, conflict resolution, etc. How can we better equip ourselves for this?

Role blurring

An annoyance: community manager != social media manager != project manager. How can we make these jobs be valued (separately)?

A lot of resources for "community managers" are for people at companies that are primarily for-profit, and they have goals/needs/concerns/values that sound partly different (more like "marketing") compared to community managers who work for primarily mission-driven (open source/tech, etc.) organizations/companies. There's an unclear/poorly-defined relationship between community management and marketing.

Resources and further reading

Context: Skud asked about self-led learning. What would go into an "autodidact summer school"? (credit for idea to Ashe Dryden)

Academic silos

MAJOR OBSTACLE: we don't have access to academic silos :(

http://flosshub.org/biblio has some research papers, but limited.



  • Lots of online courses at no cost.
    • organizational analysis
    • psychology
  • Questions about privacy and ethics of business model.
  • Non-Free (both in Software and in the course content)

Coursera will collect your information and sell it. They will only give you the "basics 101". The business model is to promote students to employers, thus potentially allowing employers to avoid paying salaries of more educated folks, it's very complex. Certainly not Free Culture and Open, i.e. we cannot take the materials and adapt them directly for our purposes.

Open Source Coursera clone: https://www.edx.org/

General reading/resources


Facilitation/mediation/meetings/decision making

Online tools for consensus/decision making process


  • detailed list of motivations for games that works as list of motivations for people in general - http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/25/scvngr-game-mechanics/
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini
    • this may be problematic, as it teaches how to persuade people to do things they don't want to, rather than helping a community achieve its own goals
    • "Changed my mind; I'm going to defend this one. Knowing the cognitive biases has helped me understand why my community is reacting to events in a particular way. This isn't about manipulation, it's about understanding."
  • How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
    • this may be problematic, as above
  • "Join the Club" by Tina Rosenberg - harnessing positive peer pressure

Approaches to community mgt from outside the open source world

Social work

  • "Community development" emerging out of the social work sphere -- a "nothing about us without us" approach to social work -- the Institute of Community Development has a journal and runs courses: http://cd.borderlands.org.au/

Urban planning

  • Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of American Cities (on neighbourhood communities, urban planning, etc)
  • "A Pattern Language", Christopher Alexander

Disaster and crisis

  • A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit - lots of good thoughts here on people's deep desire (and happiness in ) for participation in civic life. People want a social role in community(s)

Activism, anarchism, etc

  • Sky Croeser's "Anarcho-feminism 101" workshop (recently run at sudoroom, Skud has asked her to put together a reading list/discussion points for other groups to use)
  • Revolution Begins at Home (Philly Stands Up/dealing with abuse in activist communities)

Open source community management

Event management

On marginalised demographics in tech (women, people of color)

  • "Unlocking the Clubhouse" and "Stuck in the Shallow End" by Margolis et al (on minorities in computing)


How to keep this discussion going

Maybe we could have an IRC room where we all agree to talk to one another. Maintain the energy of OSBridge yay, and re-yay!

"A day in the life of a community manager" blog posts/hash tag #IamCommMgr

  • Please send community manager posts to Jennie! jhalperin@mozilla.org

IRC channel? How to avoid it being all 101-level? 201 office hours?

mailing list? (we can use this to coordinate other tihngs like a wiki or office hours or conferences to go to)

wiki? see http://community-mgt.wikia.com/

meta-community of community managers? :-)