10 things I've learned from bumblebee-herding

Seven years ago today, on September 14, 2008, I became Section Leader (moderator) in Diana Gabaldon's section of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, which is the online forum where Diana hangs out. (Look here for a description of what that role involves.)

Diana refers to what I do on Compuserve as "herding the bumblebees". I love that image -- herding bumblebees is harder than herding cats! -- but as I often say, the trick to bumblebee-herding is to do it without getting stung. <g>

I have learned a tremendous amount in the last seven years about how to manage a large and constantly shifting group of forum members. Here are ten of my favorite tips, techniques, and strategies for bumblebee-herding. I think most of these could be applied to managing any online community, Facebook group, etc.

10 Things I've Learned from Bumblebee-Herding

1) Keeping discussions organized and on-topic is an art, not a science, and it takes time and practice to learn how to do it effectively.

2) You can't please everybody. Inevitably, some people will disagree with your decisions. Don't take it personally.

3) Trust your own judgment.

4) Encourage people to ask questions. Even if the topic has been discussed many times before, there will always be newcomers who haven't seen the previous posts.

5) Make an effort to acknowledge new people and make them feel welcome. This is especially important in a group where many of the members have known each other for a long time.

6) Nobody's perfect. Even bumblebee-herders make mistakes from time to time. <g> It's OK to admit it if you screw up.

7) Lead by example. Be polite and show that you have a sense of humor, and most people will reciprocate.

8) Discussions tend to run in cycles. If you hit a rough patch, try to remember "this too shall pass".

9) Even in the midst of the busiest "thread explosions", take a break once in a while. "Me time" is important! (I made a conscious effort to do this during the TV-series discussions in April and May, and it definitely helped.)

10) Don't be afraid to yell for help if you need it.

This past year on Compuserve has been quite a challenge for me, but I'm still enjoying my role on the forum tremendously!


TK said...

That's a good list and useful for many situations. Moderating a group takes grace and you've got it!

Somerset Wedding Girl said...

Well this is certainly a very niche topic, but if I ever try bumblebee herding I'll keep this in mind!

Michelle said...

I like your list. Years ago I tried to join in on an online discussion group about a favorite TV series. I got royally jumped on. It was clear that my thoughts and opinions were not considered worthy and not wanted. I have since avoided joining in, but sometimes read the discussions on authors' sites, etc. Recently I have occasionally dropped a comment on Facebook on favorite authors' pages, but I'm still not really comfortable about it. I get the impression there is a solid clique already formed and a bit scornful about newbies who aren't up on everything already discussed.

That said, I have consistently enjoyed your columns and have felt comfortable in commenting from time to time. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

We are blessed to have you. You have been there for me when I needed your guidance many times. I truly appreciate you and what you add to the pleasure of reading the Outlander series. Thank you truly.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Michelle. The same thing happened to me. I was on a very popular book review site I used to frequent it before purchasing a book. The topic of discussion was about a particular members health, pages and pages long of these women chatting back and forth. This particular member didn't like my comment about the book and said so and went right back to posting her personal life. So I asked her to use Facebook to chat with her so called "friends" and boy did she get angry; she basically told me to "bugger" off.

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