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Matt Haughey of MetaFilter on Managing Community

Matt Haughey knows community. He is the founder of MetaFilter, a very popular community site that is based on enabling members to blog about stories that are important to them. It's a real success story in the community world and I consider Matt one of it's real innovators.

He recently started a new blog call fortuito.us where he is hoping to post an article a week on his experiences. His most recent post is Some Community Tips for 2007, which serves as an interesting review of the things he feels are important in making MetaFilter successful. I encourage you to go read the whole post.

The major points are:

  • Take emotion out of decisions (be patient and don't make rash decisions about members)
  • Talk like a human, not a robot
  • Give people something they can be proud of (enable them to customize their profile and experience)
  • Bring users in during community decisions
  • Moderation is a full time job
  • Metrics spread out the work
  • Guidelines not rules

One of Matt's quotes stuck with me:

If you're building a community you have to love what you're doing and be the best member of it. It takes great care and patience to create a space others will share and you have to nurture it and reward your best contributors. It's a decidedly human endeavor with few, if any, technical shortcuts.

This is an important point for businesses that are considering community: passion matters. You can have support from the CEO, the best software and the coolest design, but if there isn't a passionate and engaged person (or team) keeping the community rolling, your goals for the community may not be reached.

How do you identify these people? There may already be people in your company who are passionate about community, but this fact never appears on their job description.

  • Do any of your employees blog (personally or otherwise)?
  • Do some employees who have big ideas for the company web site, but never seem to get support?
  • Have you asked your employees about their online community activities/experiences outside of work?

These questions may help you find these people. Talk to them, give them a chance to have an influence and you may find that your company already has experienced and passionate community leaders.