Managing Communities of IT Pros and MMORPG Players

Every community has its own shared language and for the Spiceworks community, that shared language revolves around IT. Made up of IT professionals and service providers that support them, the Spiceworks community convenes to share their collective expertise and find solutions.

In this episode of Community Signal, Sean Dahlberg, director of community at Spiceworks, shares how his team approaches community management and how they ensure that the community continues to offer value to its members, even as the company endures organizational change. Spiceworks was acquired last year by Ziff Davis and co-founder Jay Hallberg rcently announced his resignation. In response, Sean says that he and his team have prioritized being as open and honest with the community as possible in an effort to avoid rumors and reassure the community that the company is still committed to offering value to its members.

Sean and Patrick also discuss:

  • Sean’s transition from the Marine Corps, to the gaming industry, to Spiceworks
  • The pepper scale system, which allows Spiceworks members to level up based on their specific area of expertise
  • How Sean balanced the needs of Star Wars fans and MMORPG players

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Big Quotes

Highlighting expertise in the Spiceworks community (20:16): “We use what we call the pepper scale system. You get points for engaging the community. Everyone starts as a little Pimento, and you can work your way up to Pure Capsaicin. One of the challenges with that is we have individuals who are up at Ghost Chili, Thai Pepper, even Pure Capsaicin and, when they’re making posts, people are automatically giving it an assumption of expertise. The challenge there is with IT professionals, there’s so many avenues, there’s so much technology, technology is changing so much that just because I’m a Pure Capsaicin, that just means I post a lot. [We started a new status system, which] gives you a level expertise [based on those] different technology areas. I could be an expert when it comes to Active Directory, but I may know nothing at all when it comes to Linux. Now that’s highlighted on my profile, but also in the topics themselves.” –@ashentemper

Making the most of your data resources (34:05): “I used to be a front end developer myself. I know a little SQL. Don’t ever hire me for it. We do data downloads, every day, of what’s going on with the community. I was running my own reports in spreadsheets. One of our business analysts came by one day, and they saw this Excel sheet with 50 tabs, doing all these weird things. They’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘This is showing my first-time posters. This is showing my retention rate based off of the different pepper levels.’ I guess they were so insulted about how bad these Excel sheets were that they actually went and built the real dashboards [for me].” –@ashentemper

The importance of anonymity for some community managers (42:20): “Back when I just started community management, at least in the game industry, you didn’t use your [real] name. Part of the reason was fear of people coming and finding you and putting pies in your face. [Once], a user found the office and had a VHS of just videos of someone getting a pie in their face for 40 minutes. Then, at the end of it, said ‘see you soon.’ You never use your real name. If you go look at the game industry, especially back in the early 2000s, everyone had these weird [usernames].” –@ashentemper

About Sean Dahlberg

Sean Dahlberg is the director of community for a vertical network dedicated to technology professionals called Spiceworks. He attended nine different schools growing up while living in various parts of the globe, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, and transitioned from there into the massively multiplayer online game development industry and now to working in the B2B technology space.

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