Managing Online Forums: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards Paperback – Apr 4 2008
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"I feel that Managing Online Forums is a worthwhile book to buy and absorb. There are TONS of great resources in there, and lots of real world examples for you to follow. This alone makes the book a great resource to have on the shelf." --Chris Brogan
About the Author
Patrick O'Keefe (Harbinger, NC) is the owner of iFroggy Network, an Internet network of content, community, and e-commerce sites covering various interests. He currently manages seven separate online communities and has developed communities that have become some of the largest on their subject matter in the world.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is definitely opinionated - these are Patrick's recommendations based on his experiences, and it shows. His voice is natural, and the wording is down to earth. This isn't some theoretical treatise, but a 'from the trenches' view of what works, what doesn't, and why.
The book includes many sample forms which have example language to use for welcoming members to your forum, working with moderators, dealing with abusive or disruptive visitors, and much more. They're all available on the book's website too, so you don't need to retype it all in, but can quickly customize them to fit your own needs .
The one thing lacking in this book is that it doesn't go in to much detail about the major forum packages out there, so the reader who is just starting out will have to do some more research as to what packages have which features discussed in the book. Having said that, this keeps the focus of the book more on the human/people side of internet forums, and doesn't devolve in to a technical manual. I would have preferred a small feature comparison of the big forum systems out there, but I'm more of a technically-inclined person to begin with. If you're not technically inclined, you likely won't even notice the information not there.
Bottom line: if you're thinking of starting a web-based community, or have one and aren't sure how to manage it, this book is a must-have. It will save you weeks, if not months, of getting up to speed and being as effective as possible with your forums.
Ultimately, if you are interested in starting and running your own online community, Managing Online Forums is a great place to start. However, its usefulness does not end once a forum is up and running. As your community grows you will once again be able to reference the knowledge that exists in this book to further develop your community.
If you're going to start a forum or community site, or if you already have and you would like advice on how to manage the human side of running a site, then I recommend that you read this. If you're not, then I think you would still enjoy reading this. You'll find out how hard it is to run a site and you might appreciate those who do a little more.
Patrick practically takes you by the hand and walks you through various scenarios in forum building. He also discusses the pro's and con's of using paid forum posting services. If you have attempted to start and maintain a success online forum but have been unable to, reading this book just may help you. Buying the book just for the list of resources he has added will make your purchase worth it.
I give this book two thumbs up, or five stars :)
Managing Online Forums: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards
A summary of this review is:
* the book incorporates a huge amount of information and speaks at every turn of the author's practical experience, over many years, in setting up and managing online communities
* it should prove an invaluable resource for anyone who is considering setting up an online forum or already managing one or more
* there are templates included, for guidelines and contact, which can be used and adapted freely
* advice on community software is restricted to vBulletin and phpBB but the principles and practices set out in the book can be applied more widely.
My frame of reference for the purposes of this review is as a participant in online forums for fifteen or more years, going back to the days when The WELL (which had started in the 1980s) was still pretty prominent and Compuserve Forums. I have also been and in some cases still am a member of various Listservs, Ryze groups, Ning groups, Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups, some of which have been run well to brilliantly, some of which have verged on or tipped over into anarchy. I am also founding moderator of the now 900 or so member forum, LinkedIn Bloggers.
My personal preference (bias if you will) is for groups to be well run and the discussion managed in a kind of "loose-tight" way that means you can spend your time online enjoyably and/or usefully and don't have to put up with nonsense and spamming.
From reading Managing Online Forums, I get the sense that the author too has a low level of tolerance for nonsense or spamming.
Managing Online Forums has a very readable, conversational style, which I found congenial. It would perhaps have been easier for the author to write more of a "shopping list" of things to do and not do, but I for one would probably have found such an approach not only boring to read but less than convincing. With Managing Online Forums I felt I was in the presence of a master, who had not only "been there, done that" but had reflected long and deeply on what works and what doesn't.
The sub-title promises that the book will provide Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards. I found that to be a somewhat over-ambitious claim - perhaps a bit of publisher hubris: the author himself makes it clear that some aspects won't be covered, for example technical issues.
Nor does the book have specific advice with regard to other popular platforms as Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups or MSN Groups - as is acknowledged also on page 2. There are huge numbers of forums on these and other platforms and it is inevitable that people managing communities on them will be looking for guidance, the specifics of which they will not find here. To provide one small example, as co-moderator of a group on Yahoo! Groups and requiring a specific identification detail for new members, I and my fellow moderators have found the interface for joining totally inadequate, with the result that we have to go to considerable effort to help people join. Information on this sort of dilemma is not to be found in Managing Online Forums.
Although, as mentioned above, the principles and practices in the book can be applied to these and other platforms.
Two chapters which I found particularly interesting, from a forum founder or moderator viewpoint, were those on guidelines (Chapter 3) and on "Banning Users and Dealing with Chaos" (Chapter 6). As an aside, from reading these chapters it does appear that Patrick O'Keefe as a forum manager has had more than his fair share of difficulty-creating people to deal with.
Complementing these chapters on guidelines and "dealing with chaos" is the set of general guideline and contact templates in Appendix B: Blank General Templates. I would love to have had these templates a few years ago when LinkedIn Bloggers was just getting going - and am looking now at what can be gleaned from them. Having guidelines in place and known to members makes it a much more straightforward task to deal with behavior that does not serve the community. I know it's a bit of a cliched expression, but the fact is that this set of templates alone is worth the price of the book and more - much more.
My main takeaway from reading Managing Online Forums was not so much about the mechanics of setting up or managing a community, but more about personality traits and character-building. It was pretty clear to me that if you are going to be a successful forum manager/community builder for the long haul, you'll need a blend of thick skin, sense of humor, respect for others, a sense of order and a determination to apply the rules firmly and fairly, without fear or favor. There is an excellent section on this, under the heading "What Skills and Characteristics Do You Need to Have?" at pages 14-16 in Chapter 1, Laying the Groundwork.
Overall, it is evident that Patrick knows his stuff: he has been building online communities for years and it shows. Anyone who wants to set up an online forum or already has one can learn from this book. Anyone who wants to know how to build a community online, can find plenty of guidance here. If you want to know how to deal effectively with troublemakers and wreckers, you may need some trial and error but there is a ton of practical advice here. If you want to know how to manage and lead staff (paid or volunteer), it's in the book.
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