May 21st, 2021 marked 20 years since the launch of KarateForums.com. In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick speaks with five forum members that have been on KarateForums.com for nearly 65 years, collectively. Together, they discuss what keeps them coming back to the community as members, moderators, and martial artists.
While each member brings different experiences and background to the community, Bob, Brian, Danielle, Devin, and Noah all cite the quality of the interactions that they’ve had in the community and how it has brought out their skills as community members, teachers, and students of the martial arts. Those interactions helped these folks launch their own martial arts schools, grow as martial artists, and pay it forward to hundreds of thousands of other folks seeking out knowledge.
Whether you’re listening to this episode with 20 years of community management experience or you’re working on approaching that milestone, a few things emerge as truths from this episode –– that it’s not the size of a community that matters, but the level of care that you find there. That community members can go from the verge of being banned to becoming model community members, if given the chance. That communities thrive when they help their members achieve their goals and pay it forward to others. Whether this is your first year as a community manager or your twentieth, we hope that you find these lessons and stories helpful. And here’s to another 20 years of KarateForums.com!
They also discuss:
- The benefits of your members joining other communities
- How KarateForums.com helped each guest find confidence, friends, and more
- Why Devin describes KarateForums.com as charitable
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop shop for online community.
Martial arts instructors have been shaped by KarateForums.com (07:06): “If we talk about my martial arts career, [KarateForums.com] really shaped … how I approach teaching other people. I obviously went to university; after that, I got a job. KarateForums.com has probably been with me for all of my life-defining moments.” -Danielle Williams
How Danielle’s needs as a community member have evolved since she first joined the community (08:09): “[When I] initially [joined KarateForums.com], I probably would have been talking about techniques, or training methods, or thinking about it as an individual. Now, I come back and a lot of my conversations are, as an instructor, how can I do this? How can I change this? How can I help my own students?” -Danielle Williams
Why Danielle continues to be a moderator after so many years (12:46): “If you get benefits from something, then you need to give back. I’ve been able to take so much from [KarateForums.com]. The experience of others and just having that sounding board, a community to come back to, and just have a chat. I’d classify a lot of the members of KarateForums.com … as friends now. I’ve taken a lot, so for me, it’s really important to be able to give back and help chaperone the community forwards.” -Danielle Williams
What makes KarateForums.com feel like home (17:50): “KarateForums.com is the melting pot for both martial artists and non-martial artists alike, to get together, as a cohesive whole, to discuss a plethora of topics in a safe, fun, and informative atmosphere. … There’s a unique and unbreakable camaraderie that I’ve found that makes KarateForums.com a place that we call home.” -Robert “Bob” Mitcham
Different perspectives on KarateForums.com bring value to all members (33:48): “Being able to talk with so many people with different perspectives in a positive, constructive manner just added to what I could take back to my classes, or when I go read another book, and think about it from my perspective or a perspective that somebody posted on a thread.” -Brian Walker
When an online community stops you from regressing in your martial art (41:58): “[After moving to area where I didn’t have a dojo, KarateForums.com allowed me to] stay connected, so that when I did go back to a place where I had a dojo, it wasn’t starting from scratch. I felt like I had that continuity the entire time I was away. It also gave me things to work on, on my own. Something that I thought was interesting was I actually made progress. When I went back to my dojo, I actually went up a rank rather than regressing, which most people would expect to do after two years away. … It was unexpected.” -Devin Van Curen
Quality of interactions goes a long way for any community (43:28): “The moderators are very invested in [KarateForums.com]. The standards are much higher for interaction, for being charitable, for staying on topic. That really changes the quality of the interactions, even though it might not be as active as the larger forums on the larger websites, the quality is much higher.” -Devin Van Curen
It can take time to appreciate how a community is moderated (51:00): “[That I became a moderator] is actually an interesting twist because when I first joined [KarateForums.com], my initial thought was, ‘Oh man, this is really strictly moderated,’ in comparison to all the other forums that were basically a free-for-all. At first, I actually felt a little stifled. …
Over the first couple of years that I was there, it became apparent to me that it was the one forum that I had found that, while it may not be the busiest – there’s not constant activity flooding threads with posts – the conversations that were there didn’t devolve into nonsense all the time. It stayed on topic. It stayed respectful and beneficial. Whereas a lot of the other communities that I was a part of, somebody would post what was a legitimate question, somebody would answer with some snide remark, and then you’d get three pages of responses just building off of the snide remark.” –@nmlegel
Giving back as a moderator and community member (52:10): “I really value the level of moderation [on KarateForums.com] and so when the opportunity was presented for me to join the moderation team, I thought that was a good opportunity for me to give back in a sense of helping to preserve that … general feeling that if you start a conversation or join a conversation there, that you will be able to engage in a conversation that is respectful and on-topic, and not just a free-for-all.” –@nmlegel
About Our Guests
For this episode, we’re joined by five members of KarateForums.com. In order of appearance, this includes:
Danielle Williams, a KarateForums.com member for over 14 years. If you’re ever in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, visit Danielle’s school, Nuneaton Taekwon-Do.
Robert “Bob” Mitcham, a martial artist for more than 50 years, who has been a member of KarateForums.com for over 13 years. In support of Bob and those fighting cancer, please support Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Brian Walker, who has more posts on KarateForums.com than any other contributor and has been a member for over 15 years.
Devin Van Curen, a member of KarateForums.com for 12 years.
- Sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community
- Nuneaton Taekwon-Do, Danielle’s martial arts school
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Podcamp Topeka, where Brian and Patrick met in-person
- Waza Wednesday, featuring Noah
- Karate Obession, Noah’s website
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for listening to Community Signal. May 21st, 2021 was a special day because it marked 20 years since the launch of KarateForums.com. I’ve been managing this community since before day one, and it is a unique experience, in this work, to be with a community for so long. I’m grateful for it, and I wanted to bring together a small group of our members and staff members to talk about their member journey, what the community has meant to them, and why they stick around in an era dominated by massive consolidated social media platforms.
Our Patreon supporters are a group of listeners who find value in the show, and demonstrate that by contributing to the show’s production financially. We’re really glad to have their support. Thank you to Heather Champ, Jules Standen, and Paul Bradley, and everyone who backs the show. For more info, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle.
To some, KarateForums.com might seem like just another forum, but like many forums and online communities out there that are only known to their members, it’s special. As a profession, when some people get the bull horn, they say things like, “Community is not just forums,” or, “Community is not just moderation.” They say that because they want to broaden the work, or at least their work, and how it’s perceived, but you don’t need to put down core foundational elements of the work in order to boost our profession.
No matter who I am working with, from big brands like CNN, or FedEx, to one person hobbyist community builders, I routinely draw from what I’ve learned in my 20 years managing KarateForums.com because the work is the work, and it all has more in common than it does dissimilar.
Back in May, we had a low-key celebration where we marked 20 years by sharing stories, honoring members, and talking about the next 20 years. Could I see myself managing the same community for 40 years? I don’t know, but I know that I am not stopping anytime soon. Right now I’m focused on migrating to a new platform and securing the future of this community. That migration has been a big process, and likely will be the subject of a future episode of Community Signal.
I’m really proud of KarateForums.com. I was talking with another community builder recently about self-rejection in a community setting, about what communities will stand for without intervention from an administrator, or a manager, or a moderator. The great thing about KarateForums.com is that I generally trust that they will reject bad actors before our staff even sees them. That’s not easy. It’s not automatic. It comes from a long-term commitment to the work. The secret, the hack to building a strong community is to show up every day and do the work over a long period of time. Not much of a hack, is it?
The reason that KarateForums.com is so special is because of our amazing members. Let’s meet some of them.
I started KarateForums.com as a teenager, and I met Danielle Williams when she registered for the community as a teenager. She quickly became a moderator, and the community has had the privilege to watch her grow as a martial artist. All the way from student to Black Belt, to instructor, to school owner. Her voice has always been one that I felt incredibly fortunate to have in our community. Her school is Nuneaton Taekwon-Do, which is in Warwickshire, England. Their website is nuneatontkd.com.
Danielle, welcome to the show.
[00:03:28] Danielle Williams: Patrick, thanks. Thanks for having me.
[00:03:30] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a pleasure to have you, and it’s been a pleasure to have you on KarateForums.com for about 14 and a half years. Can you talk about Danielle in January of 2007 joining this community and what she was looking for?
[00:03:44] Danielle Williams: Has it really been 14 and a half years?
[00:03:45] Patrick O’Keefe: It has been, yes.
[00:03:47] Danielle Williams: That’s a long time ago. Wow. Okay. I think probably compared to other staff members where I was at that point, it’s going to be very, very different. Which month did I join?
[00:03:56] Patrick O’Keefe: January 2007.
[00:03:58] Danielle Williams: I would have been 16. I’m not going to say how old I am. You can probably work out that, but I would have been 16. Very impressionable. I hate to think probably the type of things I was writing. I’d probably go back. If I looked at it now, I’d probably be absolutely cringing about some of the things I would have said. For me, I was just probably been a 2nd dan black belt. For people who aren’t so well versed in Taekwon-Do belts or martial arts belts, that’s the second level of black belt.
I’d probably had about six years of training at that point, and I guess I was probably just looking for somewhere to have a wider conversation about martial arts and about myself. I guess at 16, late teens, you’re on that self-discovery thing. Before you go to university, before you go to college, you want to know about things. For me, my Taekwon-Do group was quite- I don’t want to say insular, but you only talked to certain people. It was quite a tight-knit community, which is a good thing, but maybe you’re not exposed to the wider concepts, or wider principles, or just how other people do things.
That’s why I came. I was looking for questions. I had lots and lots of questions, and I wanted answers to things.
[00:04:57] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s interesting because one thing I’ve picked up on through being a part of the community for so long is- and they’re always criticized in our community, I think, but sometimes instructors don’t like when students go outside of the school, or the dojo to look for other information, or to find other knowledge, or other takes on things. In some ways, I think online communities and I could be wrong. I’ve been honest about the fact that I’m not a martial arts expert. I rely on you and other staff members, but it seems like this avenue of communities of people seeking out community outside of their school, could be seen as adversarial sometimes.
[00:05:26] Danielle Williams: Oh, for sure. I think a lot of instructors get really precious over that. Sometimes it’s a fear of a student finding something better and then leaving you, or sometimes it’s just they’re coming back with contradictory ideas, that maybe what you’re teaching, maybe it’s not the best thing. I look at my approach in my school, and I’m very much, “Everybody, go try everything, go learn everything. Come back to me, bring what works to the table.” I’m quite happy for people to do that. You’re right, I’m not with my original instructor anymore, but I certainly never told him, at the time, that’s what I was doing. I don’t even think he would know today that I would be involved in something like this. I don’t actually think that most of my martial arts peers would know either. I wouldn’t say it’s a very private thing for me, but it’s something where I can talk to people without prejudice. Nobody knows me, so, it’s just my opinions rather than, “Oh, that’s Danielle. She’s such and such,” or, “She goes to this school. She’s involved with that.” For me, it’s quite a personal thing.
[00:06:17] Patrick O’Keefe: You mentioned how you have a school now yourself. I know it’s tough to sum up 15 years of growth since you joined the community. I know it’s tough to talk about oneself, or it seems promotional whatever, but could you talk a little bit about the journey from then to where you are now as a martial artist?
[00:06:32] Danielle Williams: Oh, like I said, when I joined, 16 years old, second dan, I hadn’t really done much at that point outside of my own school, except maybe done a few national tournaments or a few exchanges with local clubs, but I’d never really seen any of the martial arts or done anything like that. I think I’d been with you maybe two years, three years, then I went across to university. That introduces you to a whole wider community. There is seeing lots of other things going on, so, I took part in the martial arts.
I took part in a different style of Taekwon-Do, and it was interesting to me to see some of the parallels between what I was seeing, and what I was discussing in KarateForums. If we talk about my martial arts career, it really shaped how I approach my teaching nowadays, and how I approach teaching other people or just different opinions. I obviously went to university, after that, I got a job. KarateForums has probably been with me for all of my life-defining or life-changing moments, which is interesting that that has become, Taekwon-Do is obviously a real important constant for me, but KarateForums has also been there through those changes as well.
I set up my school late 2018, so, September 2018. That was probably because I was quite frustrated with how things had been done at my current school, but I’ll be honest, I thought I could do it better, or at least that I could have a different approach to it. I’d had various experiences in those 14 years, not just at KarateForums but elsewhere. Everything I was talking to the guys at KarateForums, it was just saying to myself that, actually, I do know what I’m talking about, maybe I could give this a go. Today, the club has grown from strength to strength.
I always come back to the guys at KarateForums. It’s nice to have that. Whereas I think initially, I probably would have been talking about techniques, or training methods, or thinking about it as an individual. Now, I come back and a lot of my conversations are, as an instructor, how can I do this? How can I change this? How can I help my own students?
[00:08:19] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re younger than me by a few years but not very far. It’s really been amazing to watch, from a very outward online friend perspective, of your growth from being a student, an instructor, now operating and owning your own school, which is an endeavor unto itself. I just want to say real quick, actually, Danielle mentioned TKD, Taekwon-Do, and its KarateForums, but it’s a martial arts community, so, we talk about all sorts of martial arts.
Danielle, you mentioned earlier how you were scared to look back at what you posted 14 and a half years ago, but I was there. You became a staff member and a moderator very quickly. You’ve been a staff member for 14 years, and besides Brian, you’re the longest-running staff member that both this community and I have ever had. Your posts back there may be different based upon where you were at experience level, but always outstanding. Just to become a staff member so fast meant that not only I felt that way but other staff members have felt that way, too.
This is my way of getting to this other thing I wanted to ask you about, which just is, we talk about this passage of time, and 14 and a half years as a member, now 14 on staff. Definitely, a long time, as you’ve said. Why do you stick around?
[00:09:29] Danielle Williams: That is a good question. First of all, thank you because, as a 16-year-old, I remember getting the private message from you, because I went and told my mom. I went in, I said, “Mom, look at this. This kind of thing has happened to me. I can’t believe that they asked me to do this.” As a 16-year-old, I wouldn’t say I was the most confident 16-year-old, but that was reinforcing that maybe the way I was interacting with people was a good thing, coming from quite an insular community within Taekwon-Do. I was like, “Oh, maybe people are listening to what I’m saying and I’m saying things in a good way.”
[00:10:01] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s awesome. I assume she said yes and encouraged you, so, thank you. [laughs]
[00:10:06] Danielle Williams: You know what? Actually, no, no, I don’t think she cared– I don’t think she knew, A, what it was, what a forum was, and B, whether she cared or not.
[00:10:13] Patrick O’Keefe: Oh, got you, okay.
[00:10:13] Danielle Williams: Not in a bad way, not in a bad way. She was encouraging.
[00:10:16] Patrick O’Keefe: Well, thank you for not stopping Danielle, then. Some moms would say, “No more of this.” It’s funny you say that in that confidence-building because that’s amazing to hear. Also, as someone who started moderating forums when I was 13, I had this feeling, it’s tough because when someone found out how old you were if they did, it was a knock on the value of your opinion. Not to say that it’s not totally undeserved in some cases. There is a value to lived experience, but on a wholesale basis, putting down someone’s opinion obviously just because of their age is not a good thing to do.
For that reason, a lot of teenagers don’t really share their ages online for safety reasons, but also just for being taken seriously. I’ve heard a million times, “Do you feel mighty and powerful from your mom’s basement?” Stuff like that, as a teenager running communities. A lot of teenagers have started a lot of great communities, moderated a lot of great communities, and really made these spaces that a lot of people have found benefit in. You’re one of those people, not to interrupt you, sorry.
[00:11:14] Danielle Williams: No, I think it’s a really good point. I didn’t know you started when you were 13.
[00:11:17] Patrick O’Keefe: Why have you stuck around so long?
[00:11:19] Danielle Williams: To be honest, for me, I could say that it’s a nice community outside of my own echo chamber because it’s not a problem I had this really wide network, and I’m fortunate enough to have this really wide network globally almost, of Taekwon-Do. I’ve had a lot of experiences traveling, I’ve got to train with people from other countries. However, they are reinforcing the same things over and over again, so, they teach the same things, and they generally teach in the same way. We do get some variation. For me, it’s nice having a safe, supportive community that I can come back to. I can ask questions, and I can bring ideas by them. They don’t have to agree with me. It’s usually better if they don’t agree with me, and give me some sort of a contrast to my opinion. For me, it’s always been quite a nice sounding board even just to figure out my own ideas. I’m not always right. In fact, majority of times, I’m wrong. Especially because, for me, throughout my journey from age 16 to where I am now, a lot of the things were first to me, or new things for me, so, when I started competing, that wasn’t something I dabbled in it when I was younger, but I started taking it seriously. There were other people with those experiences already on KarateForums, and same with teaching. There were other people who have made the mistakes, they’ve done things wrong, and now they can advise me. For me, that’s so beneficial, being able to have a chat with people outside of my own echo chamber, who’ve probably got something to give me.
[00:12:36] Patrick O’Keefe: Why do you think you’ve stayed on staff?
[00:12:37] Danielle Williams: Because I’m sad and have nothing better to do.
[00:12:40] Patrick O’Keefe: Don’t we all?
[00:12:41] Danielle Williams: No, no, no. You know what? For me, my feelings with these, with Taekwon-Do, with KarateForums, is that, if you get benefits from something, then you need to give back. I’ve been able to take so much from it, like I said. The experience of others and just having that sounding board, a community to come back to, and just have a chat. I’d classify a lot of the members of KarateForums, people like Brian, Bob as friends now. I’ve taken a lot, so, for me, it’s really important to be able to give back as well and help chaperone the community forwards.
[00:13:10] Patrick O’Keefe: Danielle, thank you for, first of all, being such an outstanding member on KarateForums.com and being such an outstanding detail-oriented moderator. I really think of you as just the best at what our community has to offer. Thank you for that, and thank you for spending some time with us today.
[00:13:25] Danielle Williams: Thank you, Patrick. It’s been great, thank you.
[00:13:28] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ll be talking with the Brian I referenced in a moment, but I love hearing from Danielle, how influential KarateForums.com has been on her journey and how it’s been with her for all of her life-changing moments. How it helped give her the confidence to believe in her knowledge and expertise and open a school. I also wanted to highlight what she said about pseudonymous communities, meaning communities where you have a username, and then choose what to disclose about yourself. Those types of communities, she said, had allowed her to find a space where people could, “talk to people without prejudice.” I think that’s a really important observation and something that is worth thinking about when you create systems of identity.
[00:14:08] Patrick O’Keefe: I want to stop right here to thank our generous sponsor, Vanilla.
Vanilla provides a one-stop-shop solution that gives community leaders all the tools they need to create a thriving community. Engagement tools like ideation and gamification promote vibrant discussion and powerful moderation tools allow admins to stay on top of conversations and keep things on track. All of these features are available out of the box, and come with best-in-class technical and community support from Vanilla’s Success Team. Vanilla is trusted by King, Acer, Qualtrics, and many more leading brands. Visit vanillaforums.com.
Our next member is Robert Mitcham. Bob has been a martial artist for more than 50 years, and a member of our community for 13 plus. He has a really interesting history with the community, which I’ll let him tell you more about. Bob asked that we promote Cancer Treatment Centers of America, cancercenter.com, as he’s engaged in a fight against cancer, a fight he is sharing with our community, where members are supporting him.
Bob, welcome to the show.
[00:15:02] Robert Mitcham: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it very much.
[00:15:04] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s my pleasure. You’ve been a staff member on KarateForums.com for almost a decade. A member for 13 plus years, and a martial artist for obviously much, much longer. Why do you keep coming back to this community?
[00:15:17] Robert Mitcham: That’s a very interesting question. There’s three distinctive reasons why I keep coming back in no particular order whatsoever. For the 13 years I’ve been a KF member, KF has provided me an escape valve away from the Shindokan administrative bubble. I talk about that all the time, the Shindokan bubble, and from my current medical issues. Shindokan’s administrative side will chew you up, spit you out, and will do it so unmercifully. It’s a very harsh world to live in when you’re in the administrative side of karate than there is the technical side of karate.
In the five and a half decades that I’ve been a member of the SKKA, the Shindokan Karate Kobudo Association, I’ve been a staunch proponent of the SKKA’s hierarchy. That’s been going on for about 30 years now. 30 plus years, from being a member of the regions to being the elected kaicho, which is a president of the governing body. A traumatic horizon was before us at the SKKA, with the passing of Soke and Dai Soke, came confusion. The near closing of the SKKA and the Hombu, that was terrible.
I was elected to the kaicho, and, with that, came the return of order. The SKKA experienced a dramatic and tragic moment in their history. When my scheduled end as the kaicho of the SKKA came about, the new hierarchy took over. Then slowly but surely, it down spiraled into no existence. Matter of fact, it splintered so bad, Patrick, that there is no more SKKA, there is no governing body no more. That’s fine. That’s fine. I guess things like that are supposed to happen, maybe even more so in the martial arts world, but I thought, for sure, SKKA would be around beyond me, it would still be around.
When Soke and Dai Soke, passed away, that really changed a lot of things, so, an escape valve was very necessary for me. Thank God for you, Patrick, and for KarateForums.com. I can’t thank you guys enough for everything. That escape valve was very important to get me away from the SKKA administrative bubble. That’s number one. Number two is, KarateForums is the melting pot for both martial artists and non-martial artists alike, to get together, as a cohesive whole, to discuss a plethora of topics in a safe, fun, and informative atmosphere.
Of course, that’s due to your professionalism, your mentorship, and your leadership. That makes everything. I think if KarateForums didn’t have Patrick, KarateForums would have been a moment, and that’s all. Instead of what it is now.
[00:18:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Thanks, Bob. I appreciate that. You’re going to make me blush here, but it’s very kind. Obviously, it’s a lot of people in the community, a lot of special members who help to make it such a great place. I’m one person who helps facilitate that and I do my best, but yes, I appreciate the kind words. Please continue.
[00:18:40] Robert Mitcham: No problem. You deserve all the accolades. You deserve them all. You deserve them all, sir. There’s a unique and unbreakable camaraderie that I’ve found that makes KarateForums a place that we call home. Guess where people go a lot? They go home. KarateForums has been my home for 13 years, and I keep coming back. I keep coming back because this is home to me.
KarateForums is the exclamation point to the theme behind Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese? That is, change is inevitable. Without change – you either change, or you die. You’ve made so many changes to KarateForums. A matter of fact, we worked on some things recently, and we’re still working on things to come up with a new format and et cetera, et cetera. That change is like that new freshness that companies need to do. What’s that expression? They need to–?
[00:19:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Reinvigorate?
[00:19:43] Robert Mitcham: Yes, a business needs to do that, and to me, karate is a business. I ran my own dojo for a long, long time. I never treated it as a dojo, I treated it as a business because I had bills to pay. You have bills to pay, so, because of that, let me say this, we are very excited about the new changes.
[00:20:03] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m glad because I hope they work out so we’ll see.
[00:20:04] Robert Mitcham: Very excited. Every time we read one of your posts announcing changes, and where you are in the process, I get a big old smile on my face, and go, “Man, I just can’t wait to see the changes.” Once again to the nth degree, you are making it so that KarateForums.com is not stagnant. If it isn’t renewed, then you will be, I guess like the other people in this media that the KarateForum lives in. Next thing you know, we don’t reach 20 years like we’ve done. For you to reach 20 years, and you talk about it a lot, that’s a milestone that you cannot ignore.
Because this is home, that’s why I come back. The last reason why I come back is, first and foremost, as the martial arts is concerned, I’m a student. Nothing more, nothing less. As a student of the martial arts, I’m quite aware that there’s no such thing as the most complete or the best martial art. That’s an illusion. Ever since I’ve been a junior black belt, I’ve cross-trained in so many other martial art disciplines. Never just one because limitations exist in every martial art. At KarateForums.com, that melting pot exists, where martial arts, non-martial artists can exchange a wide plethora of ideas with one another.
I come back still to KarateForums because, as a martial arts student, I want to increase my martial arts betterment, my knowledge, my experience, and I never know what’s around the corner. They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there is. I’ve skinned many a cats because if I had stayed with just Shindokan, Shindokan is all I need, then I have really, really limited myself. Because I can come back to KarateForums, and I can talk to other martial artists, talk to other people that aren’t martial artists, and just talk about–
We have a lot of things on there. We have so many different threads and forums that we don’t have to talk about martial arts all the time, and we don’t. That’s the beautiful thing about it. I returned to those three reasons. One because it was an escape valve for me. Two, it’s home, and three, I’m a student in the martial arts. I can converse with both martial artists and non-martial artists about a wide, wide variety of topics. You never know what’s around the corner.
[00:22:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Why have you continued to be on staff?
[00:22:45] Robert Mitcham: Let’s go back to my beginnings at KarateForums. I know it’s in the past, but I keep it first in mind.
[00:22:51] Patrick O’Keefe: Distant past, and water under the bridge.
[00:22:53] Robert Mitcham: I understand it’s water under the bridge.
[00:22:54] Patrick O’Keefe: Dead and buried.
[00:22:57] Robert Mitcham: Had it not been for that moment, where it could have been the very end, KarateForums needed more out of me than, “I’m a martial artist, and I know this, and I know that. If you don’t like it, tough.” No, they needed more than that. I had to learn a lot of things. I was surprised when you promoted me to sempai. I was surprised. I was excited about it because behind the scenes now, I could go behind the scenes. I had to learn a whole different things that we were responsible and accountable for as sempai, as part of staff.
Then I was even more surprised when you promoted me to sensei. I was really surprised with that. Then again, I had to learn more stuff. I had to learn more responsibilities and accountabilities that I had to, as a member of KarateForums staff, I keep coming back and as a staff because there is still so much for me to learn. I am the most computer illiterate in the staff. I really am. I’ve not kept that a secret. I’ve shared a lot of things about myself over the 13 years. One of them is that, man, I don’t know anything about computers at all. I’m learning those things. I’m learning things from you. You mentoring me on how to do some certain things.
Once in a while, you still have to constantly remind me and other staff members that, “Hey, remember we don’t do this, we do this instead.” Then we come back going, “Yes, you’re right, Patrick. Yes, that’s what we should have done.” I keep coming back because, like in karate, I’m a student of karate. On the administrator side of KarateForums, I’m a student learning this new media that is so, so brand new to me. I got to keep coming back because man, I am at the bottom of the totem pole of experience with any other members that we have now, or have had in the past, in my opinion. That’s my opinion. My opinion.
[00:25:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Bob, you may have had a rocky start many years ago.
[00:25:06] Robert Mitcham: I may have? What do you mean I may have?
[00:25:11] Patrick O’Keefe: Just to provide some context for people as sometimes members will come into the community, violate the guidelines, that stuff happens. Sometimes they do it repeatedly. That happened with Bob, and there was definitely a point where me and Bob had a conversation. It was just like, “Hey, Bob, you make all these great posts, but then these are also violations. There’s a point where this comes to an end. I need you to go in a different direction if you really want to stay on this community.” It’s a conversation I’ve had with let’s say 20, 30, 40 people over the years, across different communities.
A lot of the time, it doesn’t go very well for me. That person ends up being banned, but sometimes it does help, and much to your credit, Bob, it did. You leaned into the things you were already doing that were strengths, and that were really good, and that the community valued. You’ve become over the last, I don’t even know when that happened, it’s so ancient now, 10 years ago, whenever that was. You’ve become an important figure in the community. I think it’s obvious to me that your contributions to KarateForums.com have helped, it’s always hard to estimate, but it’s hundreds of thousands of people, I think. People that we don’t know about, people who access your contribution through a search engine, don’t register, don’t post, don’t reply. We never meet them, but they just read those things and see them.
You’ve obviously gone from almost being banned to being one of the most, in my opinion, well-liked and beloved members in the community. First of all, thank you for all the contributions that you’ve made to the community over the years. It’s made an incredible difference. It’s helped to what you have helped to make KarateForums.com, the special place that it is.
Thank you for that, and thank you for coming on and spending some time with us.
[00:26:43] Robert Mitcham: Thank you. Thank you from the first day, 13 years ago, to now, because there was that moment where I had to look at it. There’s a person who said this very well. He says it’s difficult, to be honest with yourself. When I almost faced that ban, I had to look at that mirror. I didn’t like what I saw. I feel that I went from the before picture to the after picture, then the after picture is much better than what it was before. I had to learn. Again, I come back to KarateForums, what I explained earlier, I come back as staff. The same thing, I’m a student.
I still have a lot to still learn. I have to remember where I was, so I don’t repeat those. Oh, don’t kid yourself one bit for one second, Patrick. There are moments where I just want to type, “Are you kidding me?” but I don’t because that’s not the right way. That’s the old Bob, and I don’t do it because, one, it’s wrong. I keep coming back as staff because I have a lot to learn from you still. I still have a lot to learn from you, a lot to learn from the other staff member, a lot to learn.
There are a lot of staff members that I miss a lot that we used to have. I miss their voices. I miss their conversations and even members that have gone to the wayside, same thing. I missed them because I’m a 9th Degree, Black Belt, but I can listen to a White Belt all day long. I can listen to the non-martial arts all day. Why? Patrick, I don’t know everything. I don’t, I don’t. You want to talk about Shindokan? I’m top of the heap. I know that. I keep coming back because I want to learn. I’m going to keep learning. I’m going to help people. I want to give them whatever I might have within me that helps them. Whether it’s martial arts or anything.
I’ve been in business for a long, long, long time. That’s why I get on forums for that one forum we have that’s owners. Owners, and–
[00:28:37] Patrick O’Keefe: Instructors.
[00:28:38] Robert Mitcham: Thank you. Owners and instructors can have all that experience because I’m going to be able to help, but I learn so much from other people too. They bring me ideas, I go, “Wow, five and a half decades later, I never even thought about that.”
[00:28:49] Patrick O’Keefe: I know what I know, and it’s a limited set of things. I know online community building, and I know breathing, and then everything else, I try to fill in.
[00:28:57] Robert Mitcham: You are quite humble.
[00:28:58] Patrick O’Keefe: My point is that I rely on you and other staff members, just as much, in areas where I’m don’t know things like the martial arts. I’m well aware of my limited knowledge in that area, and so, I’ve definitely not only relied on but learned a lot from you and from all of the great staff members that we’ve had over the years. I appreciate the kind words and throw them back at you. Thanks, Bob. It’s been a pleasure.
[00:29:22] Robert Mitcham: It’s been a pleasure. I thank you once again for bringing me aboard and sharing these moments. Nothing can replace you, Patrick. I thank you so much for everything.
[00:29:31] Patrick O’Keefe: Funny enough, I cut the recording off there because his praise was starting to embarrass me, and the very next thing he said was, “I’m sure you’ll cut this out.” I kid you not. He was right.
Bob’s story is a great one because it illustrates how so many great members might initially stumble a bit, and even go all the way to the brink of being banned, but if you try to be direct with them, sometimes you can turn it around. There’s a reason we warn people about things, there’s a reason we try to talk to people and try to use guideline violations as an educational opportunity instead of a punitive thing. A lot of the time people just end up being banned, but sometimes, it ends up in a much more positive place. As I said, Bob is one of our most well-known members, widely respected in the community, and that past is but a distant memory.
Brian Walker has more posts on KarateForums.com than anyone else. As you’ll learn from hearing him, what makes him a great member isn’t the numbers.
Brian, welcome to the show.
[00:30:29] Brian Walker: Thanks for having me, Patrick.
[00:30:30] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s my pleasure. You’ve been a member at KarateForums.com for well over 15 years and a staff member for almost as long. You’ve made more posts than anyone else on the community. Assuming you don’t leave us in the next couple of months, knock on wood, you’ll be the first staff member to reach 15 years on the team.
[00:30:45] Brian Walker: No, don’t think so.
[00:30:49] Patrick O’Keefe: You are the longest-running volunteer moderator I’ve ever had on any community I’ve managed, and probably longer than anyone listening to this in the communities they’ve managed. That’s a long time. I’m sure that when you joined KarateForums.com, that’s not maybe what you thought would happen, but here we are. Can you talk about why you have stuck around KarateForums.com, and then what the community means to you?
[00:31:15] Brian Walker: Probably stuck around as long as I have, for about the same reason that I have stuck around with martial arts as long as I have. It’s always been what I do. When I found KarateForums, it was a way to express more about Taekwon-Do. That’s what I do, not just Taekwon-Do, but other martial arts as well. Even though I do Taekwon-Do, that’s what I’ve spent most of my time doing, I’ve dabbled very little in some other stuff, but I have a library that is not solely inclusive to Taekwon-Do. I’ve got so many other books. My wife refers to our basement as a fire hazard because of my library. I have so many books down there, and just being able to read those, and then being able to come to KarateForums and share anything from my own class experiences, to what now has become more of teaching experiences, it seems like I do more teaching than I do learning now. Although there’s a saying that goes when one teaches to learn, so, I still get my fair share of learning in. Being able to come to a place like KarateForums, and just being able to bounce ideas and topics off of so many other people, people like Danielle, who do Taekwon-Do, but a little different flavor of Taekwon-Do than I do.
Then people like Alex, that used to be on a lot, that did a lot of self-defense-related stuff, and then started his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy. Getting to meet guys like Bob, sensei8, who had a style of karate that I’d never heard of. Eventually even actually being able to meet with him, and train with him, and see what kind of stuff he did. Those are the kind of things that drew me into the community, having such a wide base of different flavors, different people doing different things, but all a common interest. Just having all the different flavors to kick around, everybody’s different perspectives, and everything.
The fact that we’re able to get together and discuss those things in an environment like KarateForums where there isn’t a lot of arguing that goes on, it’s all, this is my point of view, this is this person’s point of view. We come together, and we may not always agree, but we don’t end up tearing each other down or anything like that. It’s just always been a constructive environment to talk about stuff like that. The stuff that those of us that are at KarateForums, stuff that we love, martial arts in general. Then most of us, our own style in particular.
Still being able to talk with so many people with different perspectives in a positive constructive manner just added to what I could take back to my classes, or when I go read another book, and think about it from my perspective, or a perspective that somebody posted on a thread or something like that.
[00:34:06] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve met in person, in Kansas, several years ago.
[00:34:07] Brian Walker: Yes.
[00:34:09] Patrick O’Keefe: Bob is actually out in Las Vegas now just recently, which is about four and a half hours from where I live now in Los Angeles.
[00:34:15] Brian Walker: You guys will be able to hook up then.
[00:34:16] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, I know. We just talked about that yesterday when I recorded with him. Maybe we’ll get together at some point because we need to get together say hey, take a picture for the forum.
[00:34:24] Brian Walker: There you go.
[00:34:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Show everybody that we met up.
[00:34:26] Brian Walker: Exactly.
[00:34:27] Patrick O’Keefe: I know that because we talked about it, and the funny thing about Bob coming over to KarateForums.com is that Bob is there because you referred him to KarateForums.com years and years ago because you were in another community. It’s something that we’ve talked about because – how to say this? Even though you’re a staff member at KarateForums.com, there’s no territorialism here. You are a martial artist and a person with your own freedom, and so you participate at other online communities.
[00:34:53] Brian Walker: There just weren’t any better.
[00:34:55] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s what I wanted to ask you. Maybe you touched on this a little bit as far as not tearing each other down. Maybe that’s a big reason, but you’ve been out there, you’ve participated in various communities, as well as KarateForums.com, over the past 15 years. You haven’t just been here. Is that the main thing that continues to bring you back to KarateForums.com is just that there is that collaborative spirit that you won’t tear each other down, or is there anything else that comes to mind immediately?
[00:35:18] Brian Walker: That’s a big part of it is just the positivity there. If there’s any kind of criticism, it’s constructive criticism, which is helpful, because it comes with ideas to get better, or something different to think about, and stuff like that because it’s not just an echo chamber. It may seem like we’re just a bunch of martial artists, and we talk martial arts, and we all just love what we’re talking about, but it’s not just an echo chamber. There are so many of us there that just have differing opinions or different experiences that we can bounce things off of.
That’s what’s always been appealing is the constructive part of it. I remember one thread, and it was some time ago, it was back when I was working in our jail, I posted about an incident that I had, where things got physical, and I had to take someone down at the table. I talked through what I did and how it went. I don’t remember the name of the thread, if it was the thread I started, or if it’s something I just posted in as a response to that subject matter. I remember somebody saying, “Here’s how I see the way you said it is like maybe you’re not where you need to be.”
I was grateful for that. I was like, “Yes, I understand what you’re saying exactly. I know I can get better.” Receiving, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a form of online instruction, but just getting feedback like that, that helps me. I take it back into my school or my club, and I can work on it, and try to apply different things that people mention. It’s things like that, that have made it so appealing. When I got to meet with Bob, and we trained for three days, I honestly don’t know if I taught him anything. He had so much experience and had so many years doing it, I picked up so much stuff from him. He was extremely knowledgeable. Just being able to have that kind of thing in person manifest from posting into forums like that, that’s the only time that I’ve been able to meet somebody to train through KarateForums. I know we got to meet in a different environment at the–
[00:37:13] Patrick O’Keefe: Podcamp Topeka conference.
[00:37:15] Brian Walker: Exactly. Even then, you were more than happy to allow me to join you in some of your discussions where you were bringing up KarateForums and moderating in particular.
[00:37:23] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it was fun.
[00:37:24] Brian Walker: Just being able to learn from other people, and then to take that back, and being all done in a positive constructive manner, just makes it that much easier to receive.
[00:37:36] Patrick O’Keefe: You’ve likened being on KarateForums.com to being a martial artist, and how this is just something that you do. It’s part of your life. Presumably, it makes you happy. It gives you purpose. It helps you in many ways. As you know, the community just turned 20, and one thing that you think about when you’ve done something for so long sometimes is, how does it end? When does it end? Does it ever end? When do I step away? When do I stop? You’ve been an active member, to my memory– Really, everyone steps away for a while, has a vacation, has some things with their kids.
Whatever it is, and needs a break, and that’s always encouraged. For the most part, you’ve been pretty active without any really substantial lulls, to my memory, for the last 15 years, which is a long time. Your contributions to the community have been immense and have helped a lot of people. Is there an end in sight? Is this just par for the course? You’re a martial artist, you’re someone who contributes to KarateForums.com, and that’s just something that you see as something you’ll continue to do for a long time?
[00:38:31] Brian Walker: Yes. Unless the internet and computers go away, I don’t see me going away from KarateForums anytime soon. Even if it got to the point where physically it was difficult for me to do Taekwon-Do anymore, even if I can’t do something physically, I’ve still got so much going through my head. I can always talk about it. I maybe not be able to do it, but I know there’s people I can help do it. I don’t see me going away from it, like you said, unless the apocalypse happens, and then we’ve all got bigger things to worry about.
[00:38:58] Patrick O’Keefe: Then you’ll have to get out there and fight with your martial arts skills.
[00:39:01] Brian Walker: Exactly.
[00:39:03] Patrick O’Keefe: Brian, there’s a reason you’ve won the Community Spirit Award six times, and you’re the most nominated member in the KarateForums.com Awards ever. You are one of the people who really exemplifies the community with just your kind spirit, the expertise that you bring, but also the openness for other people to create space for other people, and to be open to what they say as well. You really set a great example for the community and really exemplify what it’s all about. Thank you so much for that, and thank you for spending some time with us today.
[00:39:28] Brian Walker: Hey, thank you for having me, Patrick. I appreciate it.
[00:39:31] Patrick O’Keefe: One thing I wanted to call out from talking with Brian is the brief part where we discussed his usage of other martial arts forums. Brian is a member with the most posts in our history. If there was any member to be protective over from a traditional community standpoint, it’s probably Brian, but that’s a broken mindset. Brian didn’t become an active member because, I don’t know, I was protective of him, or catering toward him in some way. He became one because he loves the community. The way to ensure Brian continues to be a member isn’t to do something like forbidding staff members for being active on other forums. Not only is that short-sighted, it simply doesn’t work. Instead, the way to do it is to make sure that KarateForums.com keeps being a solid community. In other words, to continue to be that place that he, I, and others consider to be a home, online. The ironic thing, as I mentioned is that my open mentality on these issues has brought us more members. The most obvious example, as we discussed, is that Brian brought Bob from another forum where they met because Brian had registered and was participating. All that happened naturally and organically. I was never involved or even knew about and until after the fact.
Next up, I want to bring on Devin Van Curen. Devin has a great story about where the community entered her life at a point where she was unable to train in the martial arts, and how it kept her involved and even helped her rank up when she was finally able to test in person again.
Devin, welcome to the show.
[00:40:53] Devin Van Curen: Thank you.
[00:40:54] Patrick O’Keefe: Thanks for coming on. You joined KarateForums.com back in 2009, and you have a great story about why you joined. Could you share it with us?
[00:41:02] Devin Van Curen: During that time I was serving with AmeriCorps, which if you don’t know what that is, it’s like the Peace Corps, only instead of serving in other countries, you serve in low-income areas of the United States. I was working on the Navajo Reservation as a second-grade teacher out there. I basically lived in the middle of the desert. There wasn’t very much karate out there.
There weren’t very many dojos, no places to train, so, I looked to KarateForums.com to help me with my training, and with developing a community aspect, interacting with the martial arts community while I was out there, apart from a community to train with. I found that very, very helpful.
[00:41:45] Patrick O’Keefe: You didn’t have anywhere you could go train in person, so, it helped you to continue your interest in the martial arts, talk to people about it, maybe even train some yourself, and maintain that interest in the arts.
[00:41:57] Devin Van Curen: Yes. I was able to, first of all, stay connected to that, so that when I did go back to a place where I had the dojo, it wasn’t starting from scratch. I felt like I had had that continuity the entire time I was away. It also gave me things to work on on my own. Something that I thought was interesting was I actually made progress while I was working on my own. When I went back to my dojo, I actually went up the rank rather than regressing, which most people would expect to do after two years away.
[00:42:32] Patrick O’Keefe: You came back. First night back, according to you, and got promoted the first night back despite not having been in that class for two years?
[00:42:38] Devin Van Curen: Yes.
[00:42:39] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a fun story.
[00:42:40] Devin Van Curen: That was really fun. It was. It was unexpected.
[00:42:43] Patrick O’Keefe: As I mentioned, you’ve been a member for 12ish years now, and there are a lot of places, as everyone knows, you can go online. There are a lot of places you can talk about the martial arts. There are a lot of things you can do with your time. You’ve continued to be an active member on KarateForums.com thankfully, and you made just so many great contributions over the years, helped a lot of people through your contributions. Why do you continue to come back to a community like KarateForums.com?
[00:43:09] Devin Van Curen: It definitely has a different feel, a smaller community feel than, say, finding a group on Facebook or Reddit, sub-Reddit, or something like that. I do go to those forums, but KarateForums has that small community feel. Just being an independent site, it’s very well managed. The moderators are very invested in it. The standards, I think, are much higher for interaction, for being charitable, for staying on topic. I think that really changes the quality of the interactions, even though it might not be as active as the larger forums in the larger websites, the quality is much higher.
[00:43:51] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re one of the reasons for that. All of your outstanding contributions, over the years, both as a member of staff and as a member, have helped to set a tone for people and to guide new members as they come in and helped maintain that. I really like the phrase you use there, being charitable with each other. I think it’s an interesting phrasing. It’s obviously been a stressful time for a lot of people for any number of reasons over the last year and a half, and being charitable with each other. Another thing we say around here is giving grace to each other.
Being charitable each other is not necessarily something that– You find it a lot online, but it’s in certain pockets. It’s in the right spaces where you find people that are charitable to each other. That’s a really interesting phrase that you used.
[00:44:33] Devin Van Curen: It’s something that I try in my own personal life to just really keep in mind that it is another person on the other side of the screen, and we lose sight of that a lot. I think the larger the community is, the more likely people are to lose sight of that.
[00:44:48] Patrick O’Keefe: Devin, thanks so much for all the contributions you’ve made to KarateForums.com over the years, and also for spending some time with us today. I really appreciate it.
[00:44:55] Devin Van Curen: Thank you for everything that you’ve done in keeping the forum going, and just making it such a positive place.
[00:45:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Thank you. I really appreciate that. Being charitable, I just love that description of our community.
Our last guest is Noah Legel. A sysadmin by trade, Noah has been a member for over a decade, and a staff member for about as long. During that time, his martial arts experience has grown, and he’s become an instructor. He runs KarateObsession.com, which is on both Facebook and Instagram, @karateobsession.
[00:45:26] Noah Legel: Thank you.
[00:45:27] Patrick O’Keefe: I’d love for you to talk about your journey as a member at KarateForums.com. You joined almost 11 years ago, where were you then, and where have you gone in that time?
[00:45:36] Noah Legel: At the time that I joined, I would have just recently started training with Richard Poage, who would become my main or my primary karate instructor until his passing. I had just gone through two years of martial arts training by myself karate-wise. I trained at an actual Judo club during those two years, but karate-wise, I didn’t have a place to train, so, I was doing a lot of studying, and a lot of research on my own, and practicing on my own. I had just gone through a big transition from one style to another and had a total mindset change in what I was looking for, and so then I started looking around for that sort of community online.
There were a lot of different places available, and a lot of them still are available. Just trying to find like-minded people in various places that were looking for the kind of karate that I was. Even people who weren’t necessarily, but had good things to provide input-wise, and trying to restart my martial education in a way. Not that I had ever stopped it, but that I was switching directions. It was very much a watershed moment in my life in general at the time that I joined. It was a key pointer then.
[00:47:01] Patrick O’Keefe: I know it’s hard to sum up 11 years, but now, obviously, you’re still a martial artist, you instruct other people. You have a website that is read by a fair number of people, maybe talk about that growth a little bit. You said you were just starting a new art at that time, now you are, I know martial arts expertise, and a lot of people are humble, but you have expert level knowledge and proficiency. Now you’re out there talking about it and helping people learn about it, so talk about that a little bit.
[00:47:26] Noah Legel: Sure. Ever since I started training in martial arts, I’ve been obsessed with it and training in it as much as I can. That wasn’t any different when I joined a new school with a new instructor and a new style. I tried to help out as much as I could because I did have previous experience, it was in a different style. I did some things differently, and I had a different curriculum, but I could still teach White Belt children and things like that, and so, I helped out as much as I could. Over time I ended up becoming my Sensei’s right-hand man in a lot of respect.
I was not by any means the highest-ranking member of the dojo, there were several people who outranked me. There were a couple of people who technically outranked him but chose to train under him because of how good he was, and how much he knew. Over the course of that time, we developed a YouTube series that ran for three years called Waza Wednesday, that a lot of people were familiar with. People got to know me through that as well since I was involved in it.
I was his uke for most of it, his demonstration dummy. I got to learn a really great collection of material from him, and I ended up earning Nidan, which is a 2nd Degree Black Belt rank from him before he passed. I’ve also been training in another martial art called KishimotoDi. While Shorin-ryu is my primary art, KishimotoDi is a secondary art that I started practicing in 2014, very old school, not even really karate. [chuckles] I brought all these things in along with my Judo experience, and the style that I started in. I’ve been making articles online.
I’ve been trying to engage with people in various forums, including forums such as yours, but all over social media as well. Just trying to educate people about the sorts of things that you can learn in karate, and what all there is within it that may not necessarily be taught everywhere that my Sensei was kind enough to share with me. I’ve gotten to the point where I teach here in Arizona. I have done seminars in various different states across the country, and I’ve done webinars with people all over the world. It’s been a really, really cool experience to get to connect with so many different people over the course of the years.
I think as far as my involvement in online communities, I’d say I’m essentially doing the same thing now as I was then. I probably don’t engage quite as frequently as I used to, but I also have a lot of things that I can just point to. Yes, I already addressed that in this article or this video, but I’m still that excited person who wants to talk about martial arts, so, there.
[00:50:16] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, and then almost 11 years later, you continue to contribute on a regular basis, and you’ve made an incredible mark in the community with your posts, helped- it’s always hard to estimate numbers, but I always think a single post can help 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 people. The views are certainly there. A great contribution can help so many people. You’ve been a staff member for eight-plus years, as well as a volunteer moderator. After all that time and so many different things you could do on the internet, why do you continue to be both a moderator and an active member at KarateForums.com?
[00:50:49] Noah Legel: As I said, part of it is just the wanting to be engaged and talking about the stuff I’m interested in, and being able to share that kind of material with people, so, obviously, remaining a contributor is part of that. The moderator part is actually an interesting twist because when I first joined the community, my initial thought was, “Oh man, this is really strictly moderated,” in comparison to all the other forums that were basically free for all. At first, I actually felt a little stifled, like, I’m not sure if I should share this thing because I don’t want it to be advertising.
Over the first couple of years that I was there, it became apparent to me that it was the one forum that I had found that while it may not be the busiest, there’s not constant activity flooding threads with posts, the conversations that were there didn’t devolve into nonsense all the time. It stayed on topic. It stayed respectful and beneficial. Whereas a lot of the other communities that I was a part of, somebody would post what was a legitimate question, somebody would answer with some snide remark, and then you’d get three pages of responses just building off of the snide remark.
I really tend to value the level of moderation that the community had, and so when the opportunity was presented for me to join the moderation team, I thought that was a good opportunity for me to give back in a sense of helping to preserve that, I don’t want to say sanctity of the community, but that general feeling that if you start a conversation or join a conversation there, that you will be able to engage in a conversation that is respectful and on-topic and not just a free-for-all.
[00:52:50] Patrick O’Keefe: There is something, they’re not sanctified. There is something beautiful about it. I find it helpful to think of those things that I do as art, whether or not they are. [laughs] There is just something beautiful about being able to do that. One of the reasons that it’s like that is because of the outstanding contributions that you’ve made, and the efforts that you’ve made as a member of staff to not only get it there but help it stay that way. Thank you, Noah. Thank you for everything that you’ve done, and thank you for stopping by today.
[00:53:15] Noah Legel: Absolutely. Happy to do it.
[00:53:17] Patrick O’Keefe: I thought what Noah said at the end was interesting about scale and scaling thoughtfully, being quieter but more purposeful, just as Devin had said earlier. Also that, initially, the moderation felt stifling, but as he looked around to other communities he came to value it and the environment that it contributed to, and wanted to give back and help to maintain that environment as a moderator. That’s really interesting. That’s our show.
A huge thank you to Danielle Williams, Bob Mitcham, Brian Walker, Devin Van Curen, and Noah Legel for taking the time to chat. If you find yourself in Nuneaton, Warwickshire ,England, visit Danielle’s school Nuneaton Taekwon-Do at nuneatontkd.com. In support of Bob and those fighting cancer, please support Cancer Treatment Centers of America, cancercenter.com. For a great karate resource, check out Noah’s Karate Obsession at karateobsession.com, and on Facebook and Instagram @karateobsession.
For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. Thanks for listening.
If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.