Here we go, flame throwers on everyone: the "community manager" role that is increasingly common in the free software world is a fraud and a farce.

If your community has a "manager", it isn't being treated as a community and probably isn't a community to begin with. A better description might fall within: a) a con job where someone is attempting to get people to participate on their terms for their benefit while trying to convince them that isn't the case at all and everyone is equally in it together; b) a cult organization; c) a captive audience being actively groomed for marketing purposes ... perhaps a mix of the above. Not, however, a community.

You see, the plural of "person" is not "community". Just ask the people in the endless line ups at $ANNOYING_GOVERNMENT_OFFICE if they feel they are in a community of liner-uppers at that moment. "Community" has an actual meaning that transcends "a crowd". Community is structure derived from the self-determination of shared values.

Communities don't have "managers"; synthetic, organized, hierarchical organizations do. Nearly all "community managers" in the free software ecosystem work for companies that own and manage the products that this 'community' they are 'managing' are built around, and that is not a coincidence.

Communities (real ones) have facilitators and leaders of various forms and stripes. It's ok if they get paid so they are able to spend the time and energy facilitating and leading, but they damn sure are not "managers of the community". They are accountable to the community, selected by the community, derive their influence from community consensus and can be replaced by the community at the community's behest.

Does that sound much like the free software "community managers" you know?

Now, I'm pretty sure that some community manager will pop up in the comments and claim that while their title is "manager", they are really just a benign facilitator and all is right in the world. I'm sure that will make them feel better and perhaps stem the tide of community revolt that would occur if people woke up to the situation ... but it's almost certainly rubbish. Consider:

a) If the community will is not aligned with the corporate will of their employers: which of the two wins out. .. and not in theory, in practice. Most of the "community managers" who have been doing it for more than a short time have run into such situations and nearly without fail they are accountable to the company not the community .. and it is the company's will that wins out in the end.

b) Where does the community manager's accountability lie? Put anther way: who do they send their performance reports to for review, who gets to replace them when needed, and who decides when it is needed? If it is the community, maybe they are a facilitator after all; if it is their employer, then no. (And the community appealing to their employer doesn't count: see (a) above.)

I'd be fine with that situation if there was some honesty on the ground about this, because then it wouldn't taint the word "community" for those blessed souls who have managed to actually erect the real deal and there wouldn't be quite so many deluded individuals out there who think they are a true stakeholder with equitable rights and privileges in an actual community.

It would also prevent community managers from trading on the valuable reputation of community dynamics built on the sweat and tears of bona fide community facilitators and leaders.

In summary: a "community manager" is really an "audience handler" (as in: they handle you, as members of their audience) as part of a marketing program.

.. and frankly I've run out of patience for the deception.

Now get off my lawn! :)

(This is something I've sat on for years as a personal opinion that I felt was ought just as well go unshared, but something that I read this morning changed my mind ..)

(And yes: people within a community can be managers of organizations and assets within that community, something that is often a bureaucratic necessity once certain size has been achieved, but that is not the same as ostensibly being the manager of the community.)
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