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- Date : Sept. 7, 2016
- Location : Online
In 2016 I was promoted to head Online Community Manager and began working on ways to expand and grow the community. When I was brought on, I was the only person responsible for a community of roughly 10K. The community initially had no formal rules or any form of automation or approval. Any member could post any kind of content with no restrictions. The site used a default theme that was unresponsive and did not work on mobile.
There was a lot of work to do.
The first year I knew I had a lot to accomplish. I was given full reign to do whatever I thought was best to grow the community. The first few months revolved around updating important community sources like Wikis, formalizing official submission rules and guidelines, and setting some basic automation to check submissions. Most importantly I began to heavily source the community to see what they wanted to see. I had no previous experience, so I wasn't sure what to do. So instead of trying to find some esoteric pro, I just asked the people in the community. The responses were overwhelming.
The rest of the year was spent organizing more automation. I helped setup a bot to automatically posted community related videos. The auto submissions rules were refined to sort and handle categories and topics. Posts would be scanned for specific keywords and members directed to the proper resources. By the end of the year the community was looking to expand to a new and popular platform.
Expanding the Community
Nearing the end of 2016 the last major request was to expand the community to a new platform, Discord. Discord provided a new medium to work through. Most online communities were very forum like and submission driven. While these types of communities can certainly be active but Discord is a real-time platform. To help manage these two platforms I started promoting more staff and we began planning ways to drive up community engagement.
Over the next few years we launched many events to boost member participation.
Over the course of a year we ran multiple events to help middle and high school aged students get more engaged with Computer Science. Most events expected a minimal skill level to encourage as much participation as possible. Many members with little programming experience were hesitant to participate. To lessen this we set aside dedicated time and staff to provide a kind of student lab.
Git is a such a common software development tool, but many schools do not bother mentioning or teaching it. Our week long event ran students through making a gitlab account. Creating a new repository, cloning the repo to their local machine, commit files, and pushing those commits. We also reviewed how to add a README and use Markdown. The end of the event had students utilize all of their newly learned skills to create a Pull Request.
Over the course of a month students were helped install Python and learn about the language and toolset. Our main focus revolved around PyEnv and it's VirtualEnv plugin. The event helped students understand what a Virtual Environment is and why they are important. Students were taught best practices, like not putting your environment into your versioning tool and how to manage dependencies through a requirements file.
This was actually a multi part event that I go into more detail in another post. Over the course of a few months we walked students through contributing plugins to a real OSS Project and Dsicord Bot. Through these events students were able to produce some truly stunning results ranging from moderation tools, functions to help and assist new, functions to aid disabled members, interactive games, simulated escape rooms and even functions working with external API's!
During the pandemic when many people were missing socializing I decided to try to bridge the gap as much as possible with our online communities. Every weekend we would let the community pick a public domain movie or show and we would stream a few hours of it. This turned out to be a surprise hit, as members recommend childhood favorites, nostalgic shows and much more.
Over the course of a few years we began incorporating more education and social activism as well. For Black History Month we streamed documentaries and educational content. During Pride Month we would stream content produced by and for the LGBTQ community.
While the community was primarily high school and college aged members, as we expanded we inevitably gained a larger and more diverse membership. We tried to take advantage of this diversity by offering the younger members a chance to ask questions about careers or professions they might be interested in. With that we gathered a group of professional video editors, voice actors, graphic designers, programmers and more!
The panel lasted roughly 3 hours and was a large success. We were able to broadcast the panel through Discord and Twitchtv. This event saw a 300% increase in our stream viewership!
As our community grew larger new needs emerged. Some members had disabilities and neurodivergences, like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Dissociated Identity Disorder, which were not well understood by the wider community. With that in mind we held multiple events aimed at spreading information about these topics and how to approach them! One event had members building an auto-responder bot that provided FAQ answers for various disabilities. Another project had members build a custom Discord Bot that helped DID disordered people track their important medical information.
As both communities progressed members eventually began producing exceptional content. Whether it was Art, Fan Theories, self made Music, Writing, or Videos we would host the pieces in a special spotlight area and on a custom made community website for everyone to see.
A majority of this community ended up being 15-22 year olds. After a few years the obvious job trends began to emerge. Right after high school many newly graduated high-school or college students start job hunting without really knowing what that entails. A few staff members and myself pooled our knowledge and spent multiple weekends working with younger community members to build resumes and practice interviews. Many members felt this helped prepare them a lot of first time interviews!
In October of 2021 we decided to join the popular internet fund raiser for St Jude's as a community. Throughout the next 2 months the entire community rallied together, ran Twitch Streams, promoted the event on Twitter and built many milestones for donations!
By the end of the 2 months we managed to get nearly 1,600$ in donations to St Jude's!