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Tips on running a developer community

For the last 7 years or so, I’ve run a private community for developers who want to build a simpler, more resilient web. Today, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about running a thriving online community.

Let’s dig in!

Which platform should you pick?

Slack? Discord? Something else?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter much. They’re both great and they’re both awful in their own unique ways. Discord has some nicer moderation features. Slack has “Remind me later,” which is absolutely essential for how I run my business and my ADHD brain.

Both support channels and restricted access to things and threads and all the other essentials.

I’d recommend picking the one you find easiest to get started with and not worrying about it all that much beyond that.

You get the community you deserve

It’s important to model the behavior you want to see, make expected behavior clear from the start, and weed out people who violate expectations early and publicly.

The places without good moderation are cesspools of awful.

I’m REALLY quick to call out behavior that impacts marginalized groups.

It’s almost never intended. People (specifically white men) often use hurtful language without realizing it or thinking about it. I tend to be soft about it.

Hey, I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by this, but {harmful behavior} is often perceived as {bad thing} by {group}. Can we avoid doing that?

For intentional violations, I boot people without hesitation. You’re gone in 60 seconds, with a very public message about what happened and why.

Here are my community guidelines, which everyone agrees to before joining.

Stoking the conversation fire

Early on, when have not that many members, you’ll likely need to stoke conversation by asking provocative questions and encouraging participation.

Like a good fire, once the community gets going, that starts to take care of itself.

Don’t jump in to respond to questions too early

While it’s important for you to have a strong presence, don’t jump in to respond to questions too early before others have had a chance.

Once the “perceived expert” responds, conversation can often die on the vine, stifling the community and making it more of an Ask Me Anything forum with everything directed at you, rather than a group of people helping each other.

Tag relevant people

Conversely, if conversation isn’t happening, don’t be afraid to jump in with some loose thoughts, and tag some folks you think might also have valuable perspectives to share.

I think Web Components might be a good choice her, but @AwesomeMember has done this kind of thing a lot more than I have. @AwesomeMember, what do you think?

A supportive community of developers

If this sounds interesting, you might want to join the Lean Web Club.

The Lean Web Club is a membership community for developers (both current and aspiring) who want to build a simpler, more resilient web. And this week only, membership is 30 percent off for life.

When you join the Lean Web Club, you get...

  • Exclusive 24/7 access to a vibrant Slack community
  • Invitations to live Q&A and training events 🗓
  • Access to recording of all past events 📺
  • A trove of free bonus gifts to help accelerate your learning 🎉

If you’re interested in joining the Lean Web Club, use the code CLUB30 at checkout to take 30 percent membership forever.

Anything else?

Have you run a community before? Are you part of one now? Anything you’d add to this?

Send me an email and let me know!