Building a Business in an Open Source Community

Brad WilliamsWordPress powers more than 25% of the web. It’s open source software, driven by community contributions. But it’s also big business, with many companies generating millions of dollars in revenue by offering products and services that cater to people and organizations who use it.

How is building a business around an open source product, with a strong community, different from a more traditional kind of business? What expectations does the community have? WebDevStudios is a 34-person agency that does nothing but WordPress. Brad Williams, their CEO and co-founder, is the guest on this episode. Plus:

  • What good developer relations look like for WordPress
  • Why every WebDevStudios employee dedicates at least 2 paid hours every week giving back to WordPress
  • How the community benefits directly from WebDevStudios client work

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20 Years Since This Community Software Was Released

Rosemary O'NeillTwenty years ago, this month, Ultimate Bulletin Board was released. You may not know the name, but this early community software introduced or popularized numerous conventions that we now simply take for granted.

UBB wasn’t just on the market before practically any community platform available today, they were among the very first web-based community platforms available, following the days of BBS and the closed network of AOL. Rosemary O’Neill co-founded Social Strata and, once upon a time, they developed UBB. We get into the history of the project, plus:

  • How UBB might have invented emojis
  • The evolution of community software
  • Why people are returning to more focused, niche communities

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Community as a Product

Julie HamelTreating community as a product is really about the technology that powers the community. Improving it, adjusting settings, releasing updates and communicating those changes. This shows everyone involved that you are regularly progressing the user experience.

While community professionals have been improving their software and announcing those changes forever, thinking of community as a product can help you to better communicate and execute your platform strategy. Julie Hamel, senior manager of community and social media at Alteryx, joins me on this episode. Plus:

  • Being effective as a remote professional, when most of your company is in an office
  • Why Alteryx merged support with community
  • How B2B companies should recognize the experts in their communities

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The First Chief Community Officer

Jenna WoodulJenna Woodul was the first chief community officer. She and Peter Friedman co-founded LiveWorld, a company offering what are now known as community management services, more than 20 years ago.

Her professional backstory is a fascinating look at the history of our profession, including early BBS days at Apple, the transition to the World Wide Web and the evolution of community for business. Plus:

  • The opportunity of real-time messaging
  • Apple’s place as a pioneer in using digital community tools for business
  • Should community professionals aspire to the CCO title?

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Serving Communities in Need

Susan TenbyCaravan Studios builds apps that empower local communities to tackle big problems, like finding shelter for domestic abuse survivors and ensuring that kids don’t go hungry.

With more than 16 years of experience, Susan Tenby heads up community efforts for the organization, bringing app developers and non-profits together to serve communities in need. She is also the founder of #OCTRIBE, the biggest online community meetup in San Francisco, which turns 10 years old this month. Plus:

  • How Caravan Studios determines which issues to dedicate resources to
  • The history of #OCTRIBE
  • Mentoring in community management

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When Fitbit Took Their Private Community Public

Allison LeahyAllison Leahy, Fitbit’s director of community, is the architect of the company’s 80+ member community team. After building a large private community that required login to view, she led an effort to make that community publicly viewable by all.

This type of move presents a series of challenges. How will current members react? What are the legal ramifications? Will it lead to an increase in disruptive members? On this episode, we discuss how Fitbit navigated these issues, resulting in a 300% increase in traffic and a 175% increase in content. Plus:

  • The struggle to unify customer service data
  • Allison’s favorite KPIs
  • Why Fitbit tries not to answer community questions for at least 24 hours

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Stealing From the Community

Jennifer Sable LopezWhen you are hiring for your community team, you might post a job online, read through applications, identify candidates, conduct interviews and choose the best one. It’s a long process, and it can be difficult to get to know any candidate all that well.

Jennifer Sable Lopez, the senior director of community and audience development at Moz, has found a quicker, more efficient way to identify qualified candidates they already know well: poach them from other departments and from their community. Plus:

  • How Moz divides responsibilities between the community and audience development teams
  • Investing money in quality forum answers
  • Making sure that your team takes their vacation time

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You Are What You Tolerate

Derek PowazekWhen large online communities have problems, they are often talked about as if they are new. But usually, the issues have been simmering for a long time and are the result of choices that were made by community leaders long ago.

The foundation of healthy community is really the focus of today’s episode. Derek Powazek is truly an online community veteran. He authored one of the earliest books about our work, Design for Community, which turns 15 years old this year. If you want to be reminded that good community strategy endures the test of time, pick up a copy. Plus:

  • What community professionals can learn from farmers
  • The cause of bad community behaviors
  • Why addiction should be left out of your project goals

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Convincing Companies Not to Invest in Community

Sarah Judd WelchNot every company is ready to invest in community, or what they think of as “community,” anyway. Half-hearted, impatient efforts can do more harm than good and leave both the company and it’s customers unhappy.

Sarah Judd Welch heads Loyal, a community agency that helps brands develop and leverage their communities online. But that doesn’t mean that every company she talks to gets pushed off the community cliff. Plus:

  • Why the ROI of community doesn’t actually matter
  • Metrics to measure community quality
  • The viability of Slack as a community platform

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When Community Members Die

Sue JohnIf you manage an online community long enough, you will have members who experience the ups and downs that life has to offer. They’ll accomplish great things. They’ll find love, get married and have kids. But they’ll also deal with personal loss. They’ll fall ill, and they’ll die.

Sue John, a community manager and engagement specialist at Emoderation, launched the definitive community for British expatriates. She guided it for 15 years, and it grew to more than 10 million posts. Not one, but (at least) four couples met and were married, because of that community. Members have also passed away. On this episode, we explore the joy and pain that comes with the long term management of an online community. Plus:

  • The credibility that comes from being the community founder
  • How to leave a community that you have managed for a long time
  • Why forum-based communities are Sue’s “first love”

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