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With the arrival of valued associate #820, it seems like we really need a community-based list of tips for new Community Managers to know when they take up their new mantle with a mega-diamond.

What would you like a new CM to know about when they start? Please avoid "political" rants (i.e. SE is terrible because..., CMs failed when they..., etc.) and restrict suggestions to practical tips about working with the Stack Exchange community in general.

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    Bit too short for a formal answer but: know your memes. These things are long-running, maybe even 'inside', jokes and knowing how to use them can quickly show you care about fitting in and earn you the community's respect.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Feb 19, 2021 at 20:39
  • @Sonic CMs are not the problem, and the one linked here left super fast from what I remember so also not a good example. But still, bumping this doesn't hurt, even if it won't achieve much. :) Jul 24, 2023 at 8:12
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    I have to say, the title "valued associate #820" really does not, in my mind, convey the sense of... valuation that it literally professes. Jul 24, 2023 at 8:43

4 Answers 4

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Welcome to the show; since Machavity threw me up as an example in his answer, I feel like I should drop a couple suggestions for you here...

  1. DO NOT look at my work as an example of what you should do. I kinda just... Did stuff. There are better examples, and you'll have coworkers with a far better understanding of human needs and behaviors to draw on. Plus, you have the folks who make up these communities, who possess an absolutely mind-blowing range and depth of knowledge and skills. If you ever feel lost, confused, unsure or over-sure, talk to them - they'll help.

  2. I may not know much about humans, but I spent a pretty big chunk of my life around cattle... Turns out, humans and cattle have one thing in common: when they're scared, they need you to talk to them. You won't feel like it; whatever's scary enough to spook them is probably scary enough to leave little ol' you reduced to a greasy little spot in the dirt... But that's what you need to do. Find hope amid the terror, and keep your eyes fixed on it while you speak calmly and clearly of what is to come. Lead them, going first into danger, and they will follow, if you survive. Try to survive.

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  • I do not quite understand point #2 :'( Feb 20, 2021 at 4:51
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    "The single greatest tip here is to emulate Shog9" -> "DO NOT look at my work as an example" I sure am glad I'm not the person who has to try to follow both of these. :P
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2021 at 6:48
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    @user1271772 I'm pretty sure #2 is about the complete radio silence from the SE side during one of its biggest crisis so far. Find the posts from september 2019 for context. We're the cattle.
    – rene
    Feb 20, 2021 at 7:10
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    @user1271772 are you... unmoo-ved by the analogy? Feb 20, 2021 at 9:12
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    @VLAZ I think I see where he's going. I more want Shog9's demeanor emulated. Listening and then acting is the legacy we should follow. I'm not by any stretch saying that Shog9's policies must be followed just because they were made by Shog9.
    – Machavity
    Feb 20, 2021 at 15:29
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    @Machavity I'm fully aware and I agree. However, I also like the humour of the situation where two statements seemed to contradict each other. Yet you did both end up talking about the same things in the end - listening to people. That's really what's most important.
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2021 at 17:49
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Listen, then correct

The single greatest tip here is to emulate Shog9, a former Community Manager. Seriously, there's no better example of what a Community Manager should strive to be. Shog9's greatest strength was getting people to aspire to be better. From various posts in that question

At times I've been at my worst and he was the only one able to see the good in me. He helped me very much before I was hired, when I was at Stack and even after.

You taught me how to conduct myself in a written form. You taught me how to convey compassion and empathy. You taught me the value of a subtle take. You taught me how to help open minds to change without trying to bend them to my will.

A lot of the residual "political" anger happened when people felt they were no longer heard. Shog9 would listen and then correct. The key is to strike that balance. Listening to the community is always important, while sometimes telling people what they don't want to hear at the time. There's going to be times you will be stuck between your employer and the community. It won't be easy or popular, but as long as people feel like you have their best interests at heart, you'll pull through.

Do some moderation

You now have a diamond on every SE site (literally), in addition to a whole host of special tooling. Maybe you have some experience with a diamond, but you might just as likely be completely new to using the tools moderators use. It's worth your time to explore those powers for two reasons

  1. You're interacting with moderators and understanding where they're coming from is helpful to both you and them
  2. You need to know how the tooling is actually used in practice. There are times that CMs (who don't use the "regular" mod tools) forget functionality or even miss it's there (did you know you can edit-ban low rep users? The interface kinda hides that)

There are some userscripts you'll want as well. Check out the Moderation Team for a list. Jump into moderator chat rooms if you have questions.

Do some normal-user review queues as well (and remember Stack Overflow also has the unique Triage queue).

Chat some

Chat is rarely formal and there's no shortage of places to interact with users. In addition to Teacher's Lounge and the various mod-only chat rooms, there are some sub-project rooms run by normal users. Places to visit include

  • Tavern on the Meta - Meta Stack Exchange General chit-chat (often has CMs)
  • SOBotics - The inverse of Tavern in that there's very little chit-chat, but you can see the efforts the community has put into helping the moderation effort
  • SO Close Vote Reviewers - A group of people dedicated to site cleanup (SO only)
  • Charcoal - Community anti-spam project

Remember that there's three chat servers (SO, SE and MSE), and only SE overlaps in moderation.

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  • I'd add to read the Help Center and FAQ posts on how to do moderation, and not hesitate to ask mods for help understanding how to use mod tooling and what to do when unsure. Jul 26, 2023 at 21:26
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Don't be afraid to make mistakes

Honestly, just don't.

We're all humans, and making an honest mistake is as human as it gets. Just own your mistakes and use them to grow as a person and as a CM.

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I know its a little late, but for someone who's historically had a lot to say on topics like this - I just didn't feel like it was the right time. I'm still not sure, but there's that little feeling that I ought to, so here we are.

Over the past 12 years (holy shirt... where has the time gone), I've had the pleasure of seeing the work of some great CMs, and fortunately, never actually come across a terrible one.

I'll start with the hard/heavy stuff first - back in the day, SE was nothing but Q&A. The company was small and they breathed and slept and ate the stuff we do here. Over time, that changed - and the focus went elsewhere. While things got better - you lot are the folks who're going to end up needing to be the subject matter experts and voice of the parts of the community we use. While at the time of this question, a hiring was kinda closed off to a lot of folks in the community - you either are, or have colleagues with some degree of network experience, or probably have the tools on hand to tap into the community if you need to.

While the platform is 'the same' - one finds quirks in many communities, certain personalities of interest good or bad and (dear god so much) gossip amongst mods. Some of this can be useful to know. If you are from outside the platform - its probably useful to learn about general quirks, and ask around/find stuff on meta, and both the SE blog and Jeff Atwood's blog about why stuff was done in the early days - I find this and this interesting reads. There's quite a few more things I find I refer to, given the context.

Back in the day - meta was a 'core' part of the community manager workflow. It was even part of the application process. While somewhat time consuming its an essential part of understanding a community. While main meta is more 'exciting', I learnt my skills on per a site meta first. While as a moderator, I do have somewhat more freedom - its an opportunity to turn a embarrassing or hostile situation into one where you're able to pull the community in the 'right' direction, or to realise mistakes were made and try to rectify the situation. Its going to take a while to learn, so don't stress it, and unless its something legendarily bad, chances are the community is going to have your back, or at least let you know where things went down.

The theory of moderation post on the blog talks about the role of moderators as

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

As a community manager - your actions, or in some cases, lack of it represents the company. You're its voice - and the ambassadors of trust. You speak with the voice of the company to us, and to folks in the company for us. Sometimes you will be underappreciated (hopefully not by us!) and put in unenviable situations where difficult decisions need to be made. Sometimes even a Kobayashi Maru Scenario.

If anyone said it would be easy, they probably have a bridge to sell you. Whether its all worth it? Well - if you're a CM reading this, possibly, but that's a judgement for you to make.

Done right - your work will be remembered for.... well at least a decade, maybe more (Oi! Realistic expectations here!). You'll have challenges and sometimes do something so glorious you can't tell anyone. And least for the folks who're the heart of the community, the ones who're here, and working on making the site better, you're all needed and appreciated.

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