I hate Community Management

People’s “relationships” are emergent and thus can’t be managed. That is, they can be influenced but not controlled.
[ via Charlie Ehin ]

a.k.a. Why I Think ‘manager’ is the worst word to follow the word ‘community’

I prefer the phrase Community Cultivation and try to map all tasks and skills against gardening metaphors:

  • planting seeds
  • mindfulness about environmental factors
  • neighborhood kids who like to kick over the tomatoes
  • too much water is bad
  • not enough water is bad
  • fallow fields
  • weeding
  • harvest time
  • sharing with and helping the neighbors
  • getting up early
  • canning

What would you add to the list?
or What metaphors do you use?

  • • The amount of water needed is different from plant to plant.

    • Thank you Dwight! (hey, nice last name) =P

    • Thank you Dwight! (hey, nice last name) =P

  • Yes, 'manage' is a bit bossy and condescending.
    I think the neighborhood analogy (in addition to the garden) is useful:
    Checking in with the neighbors.
    Keeping an eye on the neighborhood– from a caring perspective, not the nosy neighbor 😉
    Cultivating
    New growth

    • Ooooh! I like the neighborhood metaphor as well. I wonder how far we
      could extend that one?

    • Ooooh! I like the neighborhood metaphor as well. I wonder how far we
      could extend that one?

  • JennyB

    I definitely use this analogy all the time too! They are right on and there really is no better way to describe them. I always tell my team our community is like a garden. We have to get the dirt ready, plant the seeds and give the garden a lot of nurturing for it to grow. They think my favorite word is “organic”..

    • Ooooh, yeah. I like organic, and “nurturing”.

  • I love the focus on the wording. The words we use make a HUGE impact on the actions and strategies we take.

    Engagement is also a great work. How can I engage in a meaningful / relevant way. I personally LOVE people. I'm curious – however I spend most of my time looking for commonality that were BOTH passionate about.

    That is quality engagement.

    my2cents.

    P.S. Love the blog format!!!

    • Thank you!

      Yeah, it would definitely be interesting to look more into how much naming a thing affects the actions of that thing. i.e. Do I act differently when I call myself, “like a farmer” than “like a teacher” than “like a principal” etc.?

  • Sue

    Don't forget “Fertilizing often” 😉

    • Which also begs the question, how much and what kind of fertilizer is healthy vs. unhealthy. =)

  • Sorry, not a garden metaphor: Circus Ringmaster.
    You can take the garden ideas too far. 🙂

    • Are you calling your community a bunch of clowns? =P

  • To your gardening metaphor, I would add:
    – unable to control weather, sun, extremes — you have to work with them
    – Dealing with birds, bugs and gophers (not malicious — just their nature to eat your garden).

    As for metaphors, I sometimes call a distinction between “authoritarian” (top down) and “authoritative” (bottom up). It's fine to be an authoritative voice/influence in a community, but not authoritarian.

    This leads to the other metaphor I used in the past: Aikido and the idea of not being able to directly stop or block the actions or intent of others, but to step forward into their movement, match it and then support it, deflect it, or guide it elsewhere.

    From this comes the other metaphor of standing on a shifting rug. If you stand still or try to dig in, the rug will pull out from under you and you wind up on your ass. However, if you learn to move your feet, you will be dancing along with the shifting of the rug.

    Oh and then there is the party metaphor with creating a space, offering food and drink, connecting guests so they are enjoying each other and not being the center of attention.

    For myself, I prefer to use “foster” and “facilitator” as they both imply guidance, influence, and autonomy of members.

    • Scott, thank you for digging in so deep!

      Yes, and your comments (In Real Life) earlier today also have me thinking about mapping improv skills against community cultivation/facilitation

  • Name

    fertilization

  • Totally agree ! As well as in french, the “managing” point very related to “lead” or “direct” things.

    I like the metaphor of the conductor of an orchestra, being the one who coordinate conversations around a brand or a product. This metaphor have another side I like : the conductor alone, without his orchestra is nothing but a moron with a stick ! We are nothing without our community, and I think it's important to remember this everytime

    • hA! I love it! I have definitely been a “moron with a stick” at times.

  • “Manager” has so many negatives associated with it — micro managing, seagull managing, over managing, etc. that it is, indeed a terrible term to use in terms of building and maintaining a community. I like “nurturer”, but admittedly that may sound too hippy-dippy for some corporate types, and “cultivator”. “Faciliator” still sounds too corporate and structured to me.

    In terms of analogies, whenever anyone asks what I do and I reply “Community Management”, the inevitable follow-up question from non-Web people is always: “Oh … er, what's that?” I've always used this analogy (which has been touched on already). If you think of the Internet as a city with many streets, and an organization's web site as a house on a street whose doors are permanently open, my job is a little bit like being the hostess of that open house — you help make introductions and stimulate conversations, you make sure your constant flow of guests are enjoying themselves and you also ensure they don't get out of control and trash the place.

  • Yep – I agree 'pest control' is definitely a community cultivation chore, as is cultivation of the ground before planting 🙂

    There are also different styles of cultivation – where the nature of community is either allowed to grow 'organically' or is forced by the use of 'intensive' techniques of fertilising etc… there is a fine line between intensive farming and feedlots 😉

  • something that is important to gardens is also the stuff below ground. That is, the soil has to be healthy. There needs to be nutrients. And Microbes, worms, coexistence…and then there's the micro-ecosystem of bugs, and birds, etc that interact, eat etc. Diversity in a garden is good – lots of different species. Not the mono-crops of agribusiness. Organic growth. Not genetically modified…okay, some of this is my opinion as well;) But I think it has ties to thinking about community engagement, activation, cultivation…conscious stewardship and design of community – there's the permaculture movement that talks about this very eloquently and thoroguhly

  • something that is important to gardens is also the stuff below ground. That is, the soil has to be healthy. There needs to be nutrients. And Microbes, worms, coexistence…and then there's the micro-ecosystem of bugs, and birds, etc that interact, eat etc. Diversity in a garden is good – lots of different species. Not the mono-crops of agribusiness. Organic growth. Not genetically modified…okay, some of this is my opinion as well;) But I think it has ties to thinking about community engagement, activation, cultivation.

  • Great post. Now making me think about how my title should change. I like the term “Community Architect”…

  • Red

    “Manager” is a tough word – it's in my job title too, as many who've already commented on this topic.

    I like gardening/farming metaphors since I grew up on a mini-farm. Some I can think of off the top of my head:
    – Weeding out the really bad comments (foul language, racist/sexist, vulgar, spam, etc.)
    – Throwing out the bad apples before they spoil the rest 🙂
    – Planting quality content for conversations to grow on
    – Leaving room for the animals to exercise so they don't go stir crazy (I equate horses needing room to roam in a pasture to smart people needing a place to explore their creative/innovative sides with some freedom.)
    – Let the barking dog off the chain and it'll shut up (Rough wording there, but sometimes if you let go a little bit, the “tough” ones get a little easier to manage.)

  • Red

    “Manager” is a tough word – it’s in my job title too, as many who’ve already commented on this topic.

    I like gardening/farming metaphors since I grew up on a mini-farm. Some I can think of off the top of my head:
    – Weeding out the really bad comments (foul language, racist/sexist, vulgar, spam, etc.)
    – Throwing out the bad apples before they spoil the rest 🙂
    – Planting quality content for conversations to grow on
    – Leaving room for the animals to exercise so they don’t go stir crazy (I equate horses needing room to roam in a pasture to smart people needing a place to explore their creative/innovative sides with some freedom.)
    – Let the barking dog off the chain and it’ll shut up (Rough wording there, but sometimes if you let go a little bit, the “tough” ones get a little easier to manage.)