Today is community manager appreciation day so we managed to track Spiceworks’ own community manager Nicholas Tolstoshev down for a quick interview. Nic does a great job ensuring the community is up working and me and Scott aren’t fighting too much.
- To start us off can you give us a quick overview of who you are and how you ended up working at Spiceworks as the community manager?
The details of my life are quite inconsequential… very well, where do I begin? My first job as a community manager was at Intuit on their QuickBooks community. I started at Intuit in tech support, but then when a position opened up on their community team I jumped at it. Most of my career prior to that was spent as a sysadmin at SMBs, which combined my interests of people and technology. I had majored in both CS and psychology in college – I didn’t want a job that only fulfilled one of those interests. Being a code monkey was too isolated, and doing clinical or research psych wasn’t technical enough. Turns out that community manager for an IT community was the perfect marriage. I should have seen the clues earlier in my life (hindsight is 20/20, right? In high school I had interned at the National Institutes of Health. It was there that I got my first Unix account with email and Usenet access. When I wasn’t writing AWK scripts or playing Nethack, I spent all my time in the Usenet groups.
- What’s a typical day like for you as the Spiceworks community manager and what tools help you get though it?
I come in every morning to a full inbox which I empty (I earned my zero inbox merit badge! http://www.nerdmeritbadges.com/products/inbox-zero) Once I’ve cleared that out, read all the discussions I’m keeping track of, answered all user inquiries and requests from my coworkers, I update my daily to-do list (go GTD!) The rest of my day will either include some meetings with Tabrez & the community dev team, working on projects such as interviews, contests, planning new community features, and keeping track of SpiceRex. Then I’ll write answers to interview requests (good lord, will the questions never end? At the end of the day I do my daily moderation, which includes reviewing all the new topics for the day, the new profile pictures uploaded (we get some interesting ones) and all the posts by rule-following challenged. In between all that I manage to squeeze in some time in the IRC.
- Every job has it’s challenges, what ways does the community challenge you?
Two major ways: Spammers (or anyone who wants to abuse the community for their own benefit), and dealing with flamewars. Both of those can make it hard for me to keep my cool, as I’m passionate about protecting the community for the benefit of the greater good. I have to remind myself to not misattribute the intentions of everyone involved. 99% of the time there is no bad intention, just ignorance of the rules. Mostly I have to educate people rather than scold them.
- Every job also has its upsides, what moments on the community have made you sit and say I’m proud to be an important part of that?
When we have our community releases, and I get feedback that a feature has helped make the community better, then I’m super proud of the community dev team and all the work that we put into designing, testing, coding and promoting the new feature. I’m also very proud of the contributions of the community. Each week when I select a Contributor of the Week, it makes me proud to see a someone taking the time to share their knowledge with others.
- Have you got any advice you could give other community managers looking to developer such a close relationship with their members?
Be authentic. It sounds like a platitude, but 99.99999% of success in the online space is not giving people a load of BS. It also helps to really love your users and the purpose of the community. I could be the community manager for an online community based around My Little Pony, but I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much as the Spiceworks Community. Except for posts like this, as they would make me chuckle:
- What about a new IT admin joining the community, where should he checkout first? it’s getting rather large now with over 125,000 topics…
I think we’ve gotten so large that there is no single good place to direct a new SpiceHead. We’re working on some solutions to improve personalizing content just for your interests. Meanwhile, reading up on the rules is always a good first step for newbies:
And of course, they should visit Unofficial Spiceworks! http://www.unofficialspiceworks.com/
The Water Cooler is a must, that almost goes without saying
- Other than Spiceworks what other communities are you on and does being a member of them help you work out what’s next for Spiceworks’ community?
I lurk a lot of places, but ironically I don’t contribute a lot on any other communities. Back in the day I was on Usenet and BBSes. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Rockband forums, which seem to have a good setup. I also hang out on Reddit, Slashdot and Facebook. I admire the job Reddit has done at keeping the community feel as they grow in size (although I don’t admire their uptime stats Quora is a new up and coming site that shows promise.
- How do you think communities in the future will evolve?
I see two big challenges: first is the problem of reputation – how do you know that someone is who they say they are and is trustworthy? The second is scale. How do you grow a community beyond the size that human beings evolved to handle? (see Dunber’s number: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number) On the plus side, I think that online social activity will increase transparency of all levels of human activity, as well as helping you stay in touch with all the people and things you care about. In the future we’ll all have one "feed" of things we care about and things we have to do, and it will stream us the perfect next thing. Like having the ideal executive assistant.
- What are you looking forward to the most at tonight’s community manager party?
Doing keg stands with my fellow community managers. We’re such party animals!
- If the community and you were animals what would each of you be?
The Spiceworks Community is a unicorn, because it is rare and magical, and only virgins can touch it – bazinga! I’m a liger, because it’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed… bred for its skills in magic.
- And finally the most important question that the community wants to know the answer for, how do you like your bacon?
Traditional – fried up crispy hot and delicious. I like it on a bacon cheeseburger, on top of a Cobb salad, or with eggs for breakfast. Pretty much any dish can be improved by adding bacon!
Thanks Nic for taking the time to chat to Unofficial Spiceworks and here’s to another great year with and for the community!
You can checkout all our other “Unofficial Interviews” here.