Modern Community Building

In late May, Joel Spolsky, co-founder/CEO of our portfolio company Stack Exchange, wrote a great post called Modern Community Building.

Stack (as I like to call the company) is building out a large network of highly engaged communities (57 as of right now) all focused on knowledge sharing.

Joel described the basic problem:

There are an awful lot of technology companies, founded by programmers, who think they are building communities on the Internet, but they’re really just building software and wondering why the community doesn’t magically show up.

Joel points out an important truth. Online communities require both software and people. Sometimes the software part is the easier part. Curating communities is hard work and requires people to do it. It is an inherently social behavior. Joel describes the role of the "online community organizer":

This job will be sort of like being a community organizer at a non-profit. It combines elements of marketing, PR, and sales, but it’s really something different. I don’t expect that there are a lot of people out there who already kn0w how to do this well, so I’m going to train them, personally. Not that I know how to do this, but we’ll learn together. Every workday is going to start with a huddle at 9am and a plan for the day’s activities and an intensive six hours of work. Every workday is going to end with an hour of learning… reading Kawasaki and Godin and Ries and Trout, talking with invited experts, meeting with members of the community about what worked and what didn’t worked. Everyone who joins the program (and survives for a year) will come out with an almost supernatural ability to take a dead, lifeless site on the internet and make it into the hottest bar in town. That’s a skill worth learning for the 21st century.

Many of our companies need both community managers and community organizers. And I agree with Joel that this is a new job type that not many people have a ton of experience in. But as Joel says, those who develop these skills will be in high demand in the coming years.

If you are interested in joining Stack's community evangelist team, you can apply here. If you'd like to see all the open community manager positions in our portfolio, and there are a bunch of them all around the world, you can see them here.

Modern community building isn't easy but if there is one thing the Internet has taught me over the past 15 years, large engaged communities are incredible powerful things, both commercially and socially. Building them is important and ultimately very valuable work.