Communities: What Kind of Managers Do We Need?

Editorial note: Here’s a guest post from Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) from the Oracle Applications User Experience Team in Dublin. You should read his blogs on translation and user experience. Enjoy.

Community content. It’s all the rage, an outstanding example of collective intelligence-sharing, and a great user experience engagement and loyalty building strategy. It’s experiencing incredible growth too as enterprises look to the community conversation to provide answers for users. In the apps world, there’s huge potential for community “how-to”  content, for sure. Community building is big business, as @jonobacon says in The Art of Community.

But, why do people do it? What makes people want to contribute? After I saw his EBS Install Guide, I chatted with John Piwowar (@jpiwowar) about his general motivations. John told me he wanted to give something back to a community from which he’d drawn professional benefit himself.  After consuming official and community content, he reached a point where he felt he could contribute to the conversation. And, those are my motivations, too! Hardly a coincidence, huh? Specifically, with the EBS IG, John wanted to maxmize the value of his keystrokes (as well as being prompted by Chet Justice a.k.a. @oraclenerd, of course).

In the enterprise space,  reputation of contributors and credibility of content is important. So, as a user experience professional, I then asked myself “If I had to build a user profile for a community manager, or content curator, then what kind of skills  should that person have, and what should they be doing to extend the community model?” What motivates community managers or curators?

Can anyone tell the community management story, a tale with both marketing and engineering storylines flowing through it, as @jonobacon would say? Personally, I think unless they’re out there in community, already contributing, then training someone with more eh, “traditional” views of content to foster a community is going to be very tough. But, I’d love to hear the community’s own views what I should be looking for in a community manager or content curator.

Examples, too appreciated. Cherchez les comments…


  1. “Personally, I think unless they’re out there in community, already contributing, then training someone with more eh, “traditional” views of content to foster a community is going to be very tough.”

    I would agree with that. Since I began blogging a few years ago and getting more involved, the ones that I have seen succeed are the ones that don’t force it. I believe it should be organic. If you can snag that person that is already doing it, awesome. (I’m about the contradict myself). But I think you could train the “traditional” person, but know that it will take a long time to curate that community, it won’t happen overnight.

  2. I suspect that the most successful community managers are grown, not installed; that is, they’re recruited from places where they’re already active. In the OTN forums, for example, you’ll often find a core set of contributors in a subject matter area who serve as de facto “managers” by virtue of the quality and quantity of their contributions (this is once of those instances where both q’s matter, I think). In the EBS OTN fora, there’s a surprising amount of content curation that goes on, considering that the format doesn’t really lend itself well to structured content. Regular participants are quick to refer new posters to relevant posts rather than replicating answers; in most cases the posts in question can be a couple years old and not stickied. I can only assume that they have a list of useful bookmarks to be able to make these references so quickly; the responses are usually “so-and-so wrote about that a while ago, here’s a link,” not “LMGTFY.”

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