What Makes an Online Community a Home?

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

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Big Quotes

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 an 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.

Noah Legel, who has been a member of KarateForums.com for over a decade. Visit Noah’s Karate Obsession and find it on Facebook and Instagram.

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Your Thoughts

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