This week’s books covered three types of management: management of online communities; management of growing companies; and management of self.
Managing Online Forums by Patrick O’Keefe
I really enjoyed this book. O’Keefe is an expert on the subject of forum management, having administered several over the course of many years.
The book deals with all aspects of forum management, from the initial setup right through to managing a thriving online community. Sharing milestones, having a “General Chat” space, and the importance of good design were all key points that kept coming up over and over again.
One of my favourite things about Managing Online Forums was that it brought a touch of humour to what can be a very dry subject. This was evidenced by the dedication page:
From chapter headings like ‘Dealing with Chaos’ to advice such as “Don’t be despicable”, Managing Online Forums is a straight-talking guide to forum management for people who want to cut through the crap and learn exactly what they need to know.
Building Successful Online Communities by Kraut & Resnick
If, like me, you enjoy academic writing that’s somewhat dry but gets the message across with a lot of suggestions for further reading, this is an excellent book to read.
From a team based at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, Building Successful Online Communities spans years of research and draws on papers, books and comments from world experts in the field.
And they don’t only talk to forum administrators, either. The book quotes research in psychology that can be applied to the realm of internet forums, as well as taking a realistic approach to some of the more difficult aspects of community management:
“Many hands make light work, according to the proverb. But only if all those hands actually do some work.”
Wise words indeed.
Community Building on the Web by Amy Jo Kim
I found this book less helpful than the others, but perhaps that’s only because it’s the one I read last. By the time I got to it, I’d already covered much of the ground within and there wasn’t a huge amount of unique information there.
There were also parts of the book I disagreed with purely from my own experience with forum management. I think, to be fair, that it’s probably a time thing. The book was published in 2000, and although the author attempted to predict the future of online community management, she wasn’t entirely successful. She can’t be blamed for this of course, but it does mean Community Building on the Web isn’t really one I’d recommend when options like those above are available.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
I think this book would mainly benefit people who have very different life goals from my own.
Horowitz is an immensely experienced businessperson with a lot of big company names under his belt. His advice will be invaluable for people who want to build a traditionally-structured company, bring it to corporation size, and then think about selling it. The Hard Thing About Hard Things takes a ‘tell it like it is’ approach, which I tend to appreciate.
And there were a few quotes that I particularly enjoyed.
“Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all.”
“Leadership is the ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity.”
“Take care of the people, the products, and the profits – in that order.”
“Being a good company is an end in itself.”
And my personal favourite:
As someone who doesn’t want to run a corporation but instead wants to encourage more freelancing (I’ve already been through the process of watching a startup gradually lose its soul and become part of a conglomerate mass, I don’t want to do that again), The Hard Thing About Hard Things spoke about lots of elements of business that aren’t so helpful to me.
However, it is a useful book anyway, and it’s refreshing to see someone who’s obviously been very successful admit their mistakes and talk about the most difficult parts of business life.
A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
I’m going to try to be nice about this one, because I could see whilst reading it that a lot of people would no doubt have that wonderful experience of just relating to everything the author is saying. You know the one: when you feel like an author finally understands exactly what it’s like to be inside your head.
However, I hated it. I didn’t even get all the way through, which is really unusual for me.
I think I just didn’t like the writing style, and found some of the psychological research a bit sketchy.
But BUT if you’re into mindfulness, or you think you’d like to be, or you spend your whole life feeling really frazzled and you’re a fan of Ruby Wax, then you’ll probably love it, so go check it out.
What have you read this week? What do you think I should read next?
Do you have a book you’d like me to review? Drop me a line through the Contact form.