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Patrick O'Keefe
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur

Patrick's posts

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I define community in two ways: 1. Community on a specific platform, like a Facebook group or a forum. 2. Community that connects around a topic, interest or pursuit in a decentralized way, across multiple platforms.

Disney, Coca-Cola and +NASA are good examples of organizations that are fortunate to have the second. There are many people who love NASA and the work they have done, and will gleefully talk about it with other NASA fans, while at the same time, they may never play in any NASA-managed sandboxes.

+Marc Siegel, who has worked in community for tech startups and established players like IBM, Intuit and eBay, spent more than a decade at NASA, including a substantial portion in evangelism. Why do people love NASA? We talk about that on the latest Community Signal, plus:

• The challenge of privacy guidelines
• Why viral coefficient/K value is an important metric for startups
• Appreciating your community when it’s small

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When you think “improv,” you might picture a group of comedians at a local club, riffing on audience suggestions. But the skills of improvisation – active listening, adaptability and problem solving, among them – are skills that aide successful community professionals.

+Zach Ward is the longtime owner of DSI Comedy, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based comedy theater school where they perform improv and teach the art of comedy. For well over a decade, he’s been teaching these skills to corporate clients like Proctor & Gamble, GSK, Old Navy and Cisco. On this episode of Community Signal, we identify areas where improv can help community pros, including:

• How active listening applies to words on a computer screen
• Turning difficult members into valued contributors
• Creating an environment where people feel comfortable being honest

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Gaming is a vertical that has a massive footprint in the online community space. Gamers took to online communities really early, and have been using online tools to connect for as long as pretty much anyone else.

But gaming communities aren’t always known for being the most thoughtful. That’s what +Gabe Graziani, senior community developer at gaming giant +Ubisoft, hopes to see in the communities he works with. After spending six years building out the +Assassin's Creed community, Gabe is now working on Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6, a title that features a much more competitive community.

How does that affect the age-old community problem of making new members – or, as a stereotyped gamer might say, newbs – feel welcome? That's what we discuss on the latest episode of Community Signal. Plus:

• Ubisoft’s community structure
• The community leader approach to measuring the value of community
• Inclusivity through removal

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Jessamyn West is a member of mlkshk, an online community that’s closing. She’s part of a community-led effort to build the next place where this group of people will get together.

Best known for her work in the library space, she’s also an experienced online community practitioner, having spent 10 years on staff at MetaFilter, leaving as director of operations. Building on our recent discussions on Community Signal about the thoughtful way to close a community, we look at mlkshk as an example of a group that has done it right. Plus:

• The differences and similarities between dying and being banned from an online community
• Why it’s easy for community members to love new ideas, but hard to get them to commit to helping make them real
• The disconnect between wanting to be a moderator and actually being good at it

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The reason that people come to your online community impacts how you manage that community. It is one of the factors that guides the choices you make and the strategies and processes that you deploy.

If people come to your community because they have cancer, your approach is going to be different than if they were coming because a product broke or because they enjoy a particular hobby. That’s exactly the type of community that +Cosette Paneque of +Breast Cancer Network Australia is responsible for. On the latest episode of Community Signal, we discuss the unique circumstances around managing a community that connects around breast cancer, including:

• The first thing Cosette wants new members, who may have just received the worst news of their life, to see
• Creating processes around death in our communities
• How cancer survivors continue to contribute to the community

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With a career in online community spanning more than 25 years, including 20+ leading influential online community The WELL and 13 as director of communities for Salon, +Gail Ann Williams is a pioneer of the community industry.

On the latest episode of Community Signal, the inside stories and lessons that Gail shares, from The WELL, weave together to create an overall theme of how to protect, respect and inform the communities that we serve. Including:

• The right and wrong ways to close a community
• Understanding privacy and confidentiality in community spaces
• What happens when your community software reaches “religious significance”

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Online communities have the potential to create amazing, awe-inspiring moments. But they can sometimes get lost in a sea of cynicism and the day-to-day work of community management.

After 10 years in community, with stints at Cisco and Intuit, +Rachel Medanic is “passionate about awe.” What does that mean? And how do you encourage awe in your community? Plus:

• Building a community vs. building an audience
• Enterprise social networks and how small efforts by a community manager can lead to big gains
• Alphabet Inc. subsidiary +Jigsaw’s introduction of Perspective, a tool aimed at improving online conversation

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+IMDb has closed and erased their 18 year old message boards. Media coverage of this announcement has generally followed a similar theme: Trolls forced them to close. Blame the trolls. They were unstoppable.

But that perspective is completely dismissive of the community profession, and the tools and strategies we have at our disposal. Trolls don’t force us to close communities. But apathy definitely does. +Timo Tolonen, head of community at +giffgaff, a community-first mobile phone service provider, joins the show for an in-depth discussion on the announcement and resulting impact. Plus:

• The value that exists within the IMDb message board archives
• Why quick community closures harm your most loyal members
• How giffgaff restructured its community team to focus on specialization

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As employee #9 at +Kickstarter, Cindy Au was the company’s second community hire. She rose to lead a team of 30, bringing community all the way to the executive meetings as Kickstarter’s VP of community.

Cindy tells the story of how she built that team, and what led Kickstarter to add community at the executive level, on this episode of Community Signal. Now, more than 2 years out of that job, she also talks about her efforts to find a new, challenging role that moves her career forward. Plus:

• The “a-ha” moment that happened that Cindy started participating in the executive meetings
• Why community success metrics were important to Kickstarter
• How she created a verticalized team structure based around the platform’s strongest categories

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Only 32% of American adults have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media, according to a Gallup poll released in September. Gallup has been asking this question since 1972, and this was the lowest figure they have recorded.

What can be done, on the media side, to address this growing and historically high level of distrust? One answer: Invest in community and engagement editors. +Mick Côté makes the case on this episode of Community Signal. He’s the engagement editor at the Montreal Gazette, Canada’s longest running daily newspaper, founded in 1778. Plus:

• How reading the comments makes better editors
• Why community can be a competitive advantage in an increasingly packed media landscape
• Bringing urgency to community management
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