Why did we sacrifice our anonymity?

Throwback to a thoughtful essay from Justin Tadlock over at WP Tavern:

“We handed over our names. And, once we handed over our names, it was a slippery slope to handing over everything else about ourselves. If you dig deep enough you can find the names of all my cats and when they were all born.”

The Evolution of Anonymity in the Internet Age

I’m a fairly open person on the web, but sometimes I miss the anonymity of the 90’s and early 00’s. It was a unique mix of trust and distrust.

We could be more open with strangers, because we had a veil of anonymity to shield ourselves; but we also had a healthy dose of suspicion about everything we saw and read, because you don’t trust everything you see on the internet.

The mainstream social media platforms that brought more people online asked for us to share our real identities, and treated moderation as an afterthought. A total reverse of what older online communities preached: don’t disclose personal information, and respect the rules.

Where will we be ten, twenty years from now? My expectation (and hope) is that the pendulum will swing back to smaller, more niche communities and platforms; “dark social” with varying degrees of real identity versus anonymity, depending on the place. I guess we just have to wait and see.

Silicon Valley and “community”

A short and thoughtful piece from Casper ter Kuile:

Venture capitalists are investing in companies that put community at the heart of their strategy. […] Just as social networks, especially Facebook, used the language of friendship to describe the simple act of allowing our attention to be captured by someone’s status update, we’re already seeing the denigration of the word ‘community.’ 

The danger of “community-washing” (Casper ter Kuile)

For those of us in professional community management roles (howdy), working for technology companies (yup), I believe it’s on us to defend the importance of putting people and meaningful relationships at the center of our work.

Community happens when members are part of the whole. It happens over time as visitors become regulars become leaders. It happens through participation, the give and take, of activities and shared experiences.

Chasing a “sense of community” is hard to quantify in a business sense, so we rely on other KPIs and biz impact metrics, but I think of those as proxies to the underlying feeling of belonging.

Casper’s parting words:

“This is what I hope those new tech CEOs can take to heart: we are only truly in community when we allow other’s choices to have consequences for us. Community can’t be consumed. It only exists when, to some extent, we allow ourselves to be subsumed.

The great potential of subscription-driven media

Media companies have been desperate for new sources of income since their advertisers moved budgets to the likes of Google and Facebook. In the end, the salvation may be good ol’ subscription revenue.

From 2PM:

There is great potential for any subscription-driven media company to grow beyond its early intentions. If and when subscription fatigue begins to hinder the newsletter industry’s growth, the best and brightest will identify new mediums for their message and their engaged communities will follow. From YouTube to Vine to TikTok, this is what great digital creators have always done. They’ve outworked fatigue. It’s due time to place newsletter entrepreneurs in this coveted category.”

Memo: The Type House (2PM)

See also:

Community marketing for a bootstrapped startup

What advice would I give to a bootstrapped startup?

I haven’t thought about bootstrapped marketing in a while. Then a cold email from a Toronto founder got my gears turning. They asked if I had any tips for a young, bootstrapped tech company.

This post is what came to mind.

Keep reading…

Midges, my writing process, and getting in the trenches as a community manager

Happy Monday! In last week’s post I mentioned that midges were swarming our yard and keeping me from fixing our fence. Well, it’s gotten worse since then, and our entire neighbourhood is now under siege.

Thankfully the masks we’re wearing for Covid-19 physical distancing work just as well for protecting us from these gnatty waterfront sex swarms.

Seriously. I looked it up.

From what I’ve read, these midge clouds should subside in a couple weeks as the warm weather picks up and things dry out. Here’s hoping.

Keep reading…

Virtual meetups & physical distancing

I published a guide for hosting virtual events over on the GoDaddy blog earlier this week. It’s a deep dive based on the notes I started writing to myself late last year.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Virtual events are great. They can be more affordable, accessible and inclusive than in-person events. Attendees aren’t limited by a physical venue, and you can bring participants in from all over.”

How to host virtual community events (GoDaddy)

We’re seeing a bunch of groups either shut down or postpone their events. It’s a shame, because social activities — even virtual ones! — are sorely needed right now.

We need to physically isolate ourselves if we’re going to flatten the curve. That doesn’t mean we need to socially isolate ourselves. Getting together online for meetups, workshops, casual banter, competitive eSports, family game nights… we’re going to need more of that if we’re going to get through this with our sanity intact.

Physical distancing > social distancing.

So TL;DR == Go forth and host a virtual event.

Don’t make your online community a walled garden.

Who should support an online community? Everyone in the community that can help share expertise and knowledge. Without the sharing of everyone, we create walled gardens and allow our competition a major opportunity to steal away disenchanted customers.”

Who Should Support an Online Community? (Growing Community)

I see content and community as layers within a business, rather than silos. They’re resources that we can use for marketing, sales, onboarding, support, and retention. It’s a waste of resources to isolate them.

The unique benefits of virtual community events

“Virtual conferences can be quite powerful, and scale to many thousands of attendees that would be very difficult to gather in-person. And online meetups and roundtables give your members an opportunity to have intimate discussions from the comfort of their home. Are they the same? No. But they do have unique benefits.”

Examples for Event Organizers During the Coronavirus Outbreak (CMX)

On a related note, we’re hosting our first virtual meetup for WP Durham this evening.

Crowdsourcing resources for community organizers

“The goal of most meetups is for everyone to walk away learning one new concept, idea, idea, or person. The “Top 9” aims to help those who organize monthly meetups by freely sharing slides and materials. It’s an easy way to share relevant information and topics within a group without organizers and volunteers investing time to research and create the slides themselves.”

Top 9 (mycamp.rocks)

A cool initiative from David Bissett and his mycamp.rocks site for community organizers. While the focus is primarily on WordCamps and WordPress meetups, the resources are useful for all kinds of event-based community groups.

I’m seeing a lot of curated content floating around right now in light of CORVID-19, social distancing, remote work, and shelter-in-place lockdowns, et al.


Aristotle’s five rhetorical devices for great presentations

Note: This was originally published in Our Favorite Management Tips from 2019 on Harvard Business Review. Clipped it here because I thought it was really useful.


When you need to sell an idea at work or in a presentation, how do you do it? Five rhetorical devices can help — Aristotle identified them 2,000 years ago, and masters of persuasion still use them today:

1. Ethos. Start your talk by establishing your credibility and character. Show your audience that you are committed to the welfare of others, and you will gain their trust.

2. Logos. Use data, evidence, and facts to support your pitch.

3. Pathos. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Wrap your big idea in a story that will elicit an emotional reaction.

4. Metaphor. Compare your idea to something that is familiar to your audience. It will help you clarify your argument by making the abstract concrete.

5. Brevity. Explain your idea in as few words as possible. People have a limited attention span, so talk about your strongest points first.