Let’s get personal: What does it mean to me to be a top contributor in a community to a community manager in SUMO ( Mozilla Support Community)?:
What better way to define a community culture by the community members that make up the community? That would be the realistic approach right? Well after speaking to the staff that maintains and dictates goals to the community I run and am involved in, I have learned what we hope the community culture to be like is often ideal like a weight loss program. Without measurable goals, often times, ideologies are just dreams. Milestones and achievements happen over time from day to day contributions in the community. Then new community goals realistically come from the reflection on personal goals for community members and what community discussions that recently took place. So this is why it is really important for a community manager to no be an enforcer, but an enabler.
What is an enabler? An enabler in a community is someone who creates relationships with people then invites them to a community where their goals can be actually attained, measured and linked to. An enabler is also a combination of a mentor, a discipliner at times, and a leader, even if your community in the past have been a bunch of cats
So let me take this writing assignment and take an attempt at resolving the ideals with the attainable actions as a support community manager that I can integrate into the relationships we have as a community.
## Ideal 1: Quality Control and Customer Soft Skills
Reality: Yuk, I am spending my free time to help out people that use the same free software I do, what is quality, when you can have my perfect personality?
I agree with this statement, when I am at home and on my computer, I don’t mind answering a message from friend on chat, but if it is from a user, after work, that message is going on mute. Now if it is something that you like doing, then that is a completely different mindset. What I have heard from many of you is “I like helping people”, “I like solving problems”, and ‘I like getting thanked and seeing people happy’
These are the right mindsets that quality and soft skills follow. Now you can want to help someone and not have any soft skills, that is ok, if you are open to learning, that is a top contributor in training in my mind.
Action I recommend: When the words quality and soft skills are thrown around in a support forum training, replace those words with this what you do when….specific user behavior here….
Quality control guideline: Please greet the user and rephrase their issue in a statement of your first sentence so they think that you are listening and understand their problem.
Now replace that with: Let the user know you are human and are there to help.
Much better? Same meaning and same goal, just one is what you would see in an enterprise environment and the other is simple.
Soft skills do not mean that you have to be charming. Not everyone on the internet is charming. But it does mean that you have interacted with a human before. The only way to improve on this is to practice. If you are not very good at this, go on IRC. Start conversations with people. You can do it at the check out counter at the grocery store, you can do it at the bus stop, you can do it in the break room, or even after class with a teacher. Send an email if you need to gather your thoughts, talk to the wall, a mirror, even yourself depending on your comfort level. Once you become more comfortable at talking to strangers the next step is to learn how to do it and keeping the interaction pleasant and easy. (hense ‘soft’)
I can teach you to fish, but I cannot control if you decide to fish when you are hungry. And I can teach you where the fish are, but I cannot tell you what kind of fish you like to eat. And I can teach you by example, but cannot kill the fish for you. So go search for a video on fishing, and go fishing. (metaphor)
## Ideal 2: Tone of Voice ~ What is empathy?
This is a challenge on the internet, you never really know what someone means by the order of words that they have typed into a prompt and hit enter. You can see if there are lots of spaces they used a translator, or if there are strange words in the wrong place it is either a Speech to Text software or a mobile device with Auto Correct. These things you pick up as you make the same mistakes while interacting with other humans on tech devices.
Other challenges with multicultural communities like this one include: sarcasm, insults, and deliberate personal comments. “Hey nice shirt,” could turn into “Hey your shirt is something I noticed and I want to make you feel weird” - not everyone wants personal attention. What I learned from being on the phone with users as well as in past emails, they just want to solve their problem. If they start to get upset, sure, throw in a calming tone. You want to be between helpful grocery clerk, and the automated phone message tone when you call the bank or the pharmacy to reset a password or refill a prescription. (can everyone relate to that?) Or maybe you like sharing compliments because that is how you start a conversation, with a simple compliment. Assuming good intentions is a very vulnerable approach, but generally if you are nice, others tend to be nice. There are a lot of grey areas, and a top contributor is someone that has practiced this alot.
Action to practice: I would recommend when contributing to read your post more than once. Do not hit enter right away, it is not a race. Ask for help. A top contributor is humble in tone and presence.
Empathy is practiced and is not natural. To compromise, you need empathy in order work together and see the other person’s side to find ways to meet one another half way. With text, video, IRC chats, your tone is the first step to helping a user easily reach a solution.
## Ideal 3: Everybody is polite and says thank you ~ What is “human” -ing?
Realistically: No. Not everyone is polite all the time, especially when they are hungry, tired or they are volunteering after a long day at work and they could be watching their favorite show or being paid more for the time they are spent helping out users of free software with their own opinions and feelings. I do not say that out of insensitivity, but you may have caught my tone at the end of a long day of answering tweets.
Action I recommend: Take breaks. Conversations can be draining, especially when you are teaching a user a new feature or you both do not agree on how you understand the product should work. And be you when you write.
Mindset: Make a game out of it, where the goal of the game is that everybody wins if they walk away happy. Or think of it as you can offer what you know as the expert, and maybe learn something if you have an open conversation about reaching a solution or conclusion to the conversation.
A top contributor is not a robot, but does have a few sentences here or there they repeat too many times. They learn to cherry pick the conversations they can be human in.
## Ideal 4: The companies goals are the communities goals ~ Why am I here? Really?
Reality: Sometimes, sort of.
Ideally the company wants to create a product that is perfect and gets all of the users on the internet to believe that their browser is is the one you want to use. Not really. The compromise that I have seen between the business side of the browser and the community is that, it actually is a product I can get behind. They care about my privacy and they care about my security on the internet and its free. So I want to be a jerk to the hacker that found the security hole and stole my password, but if they did not find it then I would have never known that it was stolen. Resetting it is annoying, but it is important to me personally.
So when the company says “We are doing great financially this year and we really want to grow out user base and diversify our products in the market” what does that look like at a dinner table? Or even between friends on an instant chat?
It looks more like this:
This is where I would measure Thank yous!
Ideal 5: Professional ~ What is diplomacy
Reality: What is that on the internet? LinkedIn speech? Talking to a game boss? Begging for a free iphone on a survey taking site (story for another time) this is not my strong suite, I have always been a shut up and do what they say to not lose your job kind of worker. With the imposter syndrome training and participating in Tech Women and having other mentors, I have learned otherwise.
Diplomacy is the word to use here, not professional. Professionalism applied, in my opinion of what a top contributor, is seen in the diplomacy between two or many people. I can dress professional, but unless my actions, tones, and words are expressed in a similar way I try to dress, I am not being tactful or diplomatic.
A top contributor is someone who minimized the number of arguments or hostile conversations that they get into.
Conclusion: This is my proposition and message to your computer screen on what I think a top contributor is, I hope to learn what you think a top contributor is in your community. I will still be taking notes