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Online Community Summit 2004

Last Thursday and Friday I went to my second Online Community Summit put on by Jim Cashel. All in all, I was really impressed with the content and the people.

I was honored to be in the company of folks who are pushing the envelope on using online communities to support businesses. Among others, there were community leaders from Apple, Amazon, AOL, PBS, BBC, Univision, Consumer Reports, the Dean Campaign, Motley Fool and WebMD.

Some highlights...

I was excited to hear first hand accounts of the growth (and growing pains) of the Dean Campaign from Zephyr Teachout, Nicco Mele and Zack Rosen. Those folks were a part of political history and I really enjoyed the stories from the campaign and trying to deal with such a huge and growing network/community.

I got to hang out with one of the first bloggers I ever followed regularly, Tom Coates of plasticbag.org and BBC Radio and Music Interactive. Tom’s quick wit made me laugh and so did his battle with jet lag (he flew in from the UK).

Marc Smith of Microsoft Research made everyone drool over his data analysis of Usenet newsgroups using the NetScan tool. Everyone wanted to have their own version of NetScan. Marc is a brilliant and entertaining guy.

Mark Andringa David Forrest from the Motley Fool Community and Mark Williams from the Apple user-to-user-community spoke about the effect of community on the business and answered questions on managing large customer communities and trying to show how they impact the bottom line.

Steve DeMello did a really interesting talk about his experiences as VP of
Operations with EZBoard and the trends he’s seeing in the way people organize around specific subjects using EZBoard. Most interesting to me were stories about groups that had formed for the sole purpose of exposing fraudulent eBay sellers and doing what they could to affect their lives using sometimes scary tactics.

Ann McKay did an interesting presentation about her vision of the current Consumer Reports community and where she sees it heading.

Other Notes…

Among many, there were a couple of points about successful community management that stood out for me:

1. Don't stomp on the locals
2. Hold on to your community leaders

These two points were echoed a number of times.

Like other meetings I’ve gone to lately, this one had an IRC channel open during the event (along with wi-fi). This allowed anyone who had web access to participate in a running chat (about 1/3 participated). I have lots of thoughts about using IRC at events, but I’m going to save it for another post.

Interestingly, there was very little talk about social networking this year. It was as if it wasn't on the radar screen.

Like last year, there was a positive feeling in the room regarding the future of communities. There was plenty of evidence that community had matured and become a more valuable business tool. While many people are looking for how it contributes to the bottom line, others have been successful and are learning all the time.

Jim Cashel and the Forum One folks did an excellent job on the event and getting together a very experienced, friendly and august group.