There has been a lot of discussion recently about qualities necessary to move into the CM field. Not just academic qualifications, but extra-curricular activities and even personality traits that can contribute.
To be very general, because I want to keep this short, I've always been a believer that there are certain personality types that excel in the field of Community Management, and others that fail miserably. These types of personality are the number one qualification for the role, with most other things being obtainable after the fact. I wouldn't like to sound as if I'm suggesting psychological profiling to discriminate candidates, but well... actually yes I guess I am.
I'm stepping on the verge of a topic I want to explore in a much larger blog post, so I'll get to the point; I'd like to tell you a little story about a person who inspired me to take community seriously as a future...
A long time ago in an MMO far, far away there was a fairly notorious (I prefer the term 'prolific', but have since been corrected) member of one of the larger fansite forum communities. Prolific because he attempted to be constructive and proactive, putting up articles and guides for players with less experience. Notorious because you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and his campaign against misinformation was no different.
Long story short he made life hard for the admins; Never really doing anything they could punish; bending the rules, but through always remaining civil towards others and contributing to the forum he dodged a lot of bullets.
However, as is the way of these things, eventually it caught up with him. He slipped up in a response to a particularly silly individual and stepped over the line. Rest assured when he logged on the next day there was a ban notice awaiting him, informing him that his account would be disabled for 30 days.
When his ban was finally up and he revisited the forum a curious thing awaited him. In his inbox was a PM from the head admin of the website, saying that he would like him to head up their developing PvP section.
He was dumbfounded, having gone from a lengthy ban to being offered a senior moderator position in the blink of an eye. Somehow the admin had recognized in him the qualities necessary to wield that kind of responsibility, and entrusted a large chunk of the forum to him.
Even as what some may see as a trivial role, a fansite moderator, he set himself a number of strict guidelines that would later become the foundations of his work ethos in the community realm. It had sparked something inside him, an outlet for his passion, but not just for the game but the community as well, and not just that community but online communities in general. He was beginning to realize how much of a difference someone in his position has the potential to make.
He laid out a new forum structure, recruited moderators and content generators, and set a tone that would last long after his eventual departure. That PvP section went on to be the most active and interesting place to discuss game mechanics and strategies. Members who had long ago given up trying to find useful discourse there returned, and it seemed like the base had been laid for a much healthier community.
So what was it that the admin had recognized in him? His huge passion for the game? Ability to stay civil under criticism or argument? Attention to detail? The deep understanding of game mechanics? Ability to sway and influence people? That he was articulate and well written? Well yes, but more than all of that - he simply had the right personality type. Passionate, but without letting it get out of control. Thick skinned, but not cruel or insensitive. Driven, but still interested in helping others. Personable, but always professional.
I see a lot of people in the community field who fail to meet the above criteria, and sooner or later it causes big problems for their community or for the company they work for. There are people who are in community because they think it's all about being a socialite, or it's just another type of marketing, that it's a position that commands respect, or that they are just there to drink the Kool-Aid, and it's mightily disappointing.
It particularly frustrates me because their actions have lowered expectations of the role. There are far to many people both in and out of the field that think it's all about being a glorified forum admin, when there is so much more to it that doesn't often see daylight. Honestly I can't blame them for thinking that when that approach is demonstrated to them by so many others.
As an example, when I got my first community management gig I had in fact applied for a designer role, but it was suggested I would be more suitable in community after a lengthy informal interview. Design has always, and will always be an interest of mine, not least because I consider it pivotal in my role in community. There are CMs out there who couldn't give a rat's ass about x mechanic or how the back end of y works, and it shows in their work. They look to the players like little more than a mouthpiece. How can you reliably understand and translate feedback on design, a huge part of the job, with no understanding of it? Equally as important, how can you build a good working relationship with your design department?
...But I digress; the point of this article is, I suppose, a prelude to another I plan to write over the weekend which will go into more depth about the impact of personality on the role.