Book Review: Managing Online Forums

I’ve been reading Managing Online Forums by Patrick O’Keefe over the last few days. The book was an interesting read because Patrick has an interesting, very hands on background. He has a lot of experience running some very large and very successful forum communities and as a result of that, the advice in his book is extremely practical and hands on.

O’Keefe focuses on the “how” and provides a plethora of information about “how” to do things. The book isn’t academic and it isn’t really that marketing focused (i. e. run a community to help brand awareness, etc.) — it’s focused almost entirely on actually running an online forum or community. The book is for those who are looking to learn how to do it, not why to do it.

Managing Online Forums is essentially divided into ten parts:

1) Laying the Groundwork (planning and overall goals)
2) Developing Your Community (setting up and configuring the forum)
3) Developing Guidelines (community rules)
4) Promoting Your Community (self explanatory)
5) Managing Your Staff (working with the people who will help you run your community)
6) Banning Users and Dealing with Chaos (self explanatory)
7) Creating a Good Environment (working well with your members)
8 Keeping It Interesting (games, features, resources, etc.)
9) Making Money (self explanatory)
10) Appendix (resources, templates, etc.)

If you are a customer service manager looking to start a community for your company, you can probably skip parts 5 and 9. While these apply (and are very important) to traditional online communities, communities run by companies usually don’t deal with volunteer staff members or making money (the company handles both aspects). The other chapters, though, serve as a great introduction and overview of what it’s like to run a community. Experienced community managers probably won’t pick up too much from this book (there are still some really helpful tidbits), but for those new to community management, this book is a great book to start with. It is a perfect book to give to the customer service supervisor you want to be your community manager. That manager can have it right on their desk as they go through the process of setting up, starting, and eventually, running, the community.

Managing Online Forums is a dead simple read. It’s easy to skim and you won’t have to think too hard about what’s on the page – it is all pretty logical. Communities, like customer service, require thinking things through and making the logical choice. The topic isn’t that complex and it certainly isn’t abstract, so the simple tone and style of book is appropriate. The content is organized and written in a way that makes it easy to understand and easy to put into action, making it perfect for a newbie.

Bottomline: If anything, Managing Online Forums can serve as a useful and practical guide and overview for starting and managing an online community. O’Keefe provides the reader with an easy to follow how to guide that can be applied to almost any community without difficulty.

Pros: Easy to follow, useful templates and examples, lots of information covering a broad range of topics.

Cons: Because the book covers so many aspects of managing a community, it doesn’t go too far in depth on any particular aspect (with community rules / guidelines being the notable exception).

More on Service Untitled: For some more information about communities, check out this post about looking at communities like parties.

Note: According to the author’s web site, the book’s publication date is April 28. It is currently available in most Barnes & Noble stores.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Managing Online Forums”

  1. Patrick said:

    Apr 09, 08 at 9:51 am

    Thank you for the review. 🙂

  2. “Managing Online Forums” Featured in The Daily Advance Newspaper - said:

    Apr 13, 08 at 11:23 am

    […] There have also been a few reviews of the book in the last week or so, from Blake Thompson, Douglas Hanna of Service Untitled and Lee LeFever of Common Craft. Thanks everyone! Is this worth sharing? […]