5 things The Last Jedi reminds us about community management

Warning: Contains The Last Jedi spoilers!

Last weekend I went to see the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi, and found myself noting frequently how many community-related themes were threaded throughout the movie. Here are 5 community take-aways from the film.

Christmas on Jakku – better with more community members?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/han_shot_first/23890828621/

1. Get to know – and work with – your biggest advocates

As any community manager knows, your community is made up of members with different personalities and activity levels. Your job is to create and maintain a space where they can work constructively together towards a common vision.

There’s been much criticism of Poe in The Last Jedi – the headstrong hero who’s so passionate about fighting for the rebellion that he’s prepared to be increasingly rash in his actions, whatever the cost. But most facilitators of well-established communities will recognise at least one Poe in their midst – the regular contributor who reliably dives in to every single one of the discussion threads, or who happily tells you and anyone else on the Internet who’ll listen how you’ve ruined everything with your latest product update/marketing campaign/editorial the minute it disappoints him.

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Thinking about leadership – what values are key for a good leader?

Last week, I attended the Mindful Leadership Summit which was an interesting few days of talks and workshops about what it means to be a leader today. Topics discussed ranged from the challenges of leadership in startup scenarios, to the specific issues facing women. There were also sessions on local politics, inclusion and presence under pressure.

In addition to the main conference, I also attended a one-day workshop, “Finding the Space to Lead” – hosted by Janice Marturano, author of a book of the same name. During the various workshop exercises, we considered which characteristics define good leadership, converging on a definition of what makes a good leader (also in Janice’s book):

Leaders are able to:

  1. Connect – to themselves, to others, to the wider community
  2. Skilfully initiate or guide change by:

being responsive

being able to hold ambiguity

being collaborative

being respectful

being creative

It struck me that not only are these good leadership skills, but they’re also the skills of good community managers.

In the workshop, it was also emphasised that these two core skills are very deliberately in the order listed – it’s important to connect first before trying to implement change. Which means listening, learning and understanding the people and environment in which you’re working, before precociously heading for a prescribed solution.

What do you think? Are there any skills missing here – or any that often go unrecognised or are harder to develop?

URLs of wisdom (January 18th 2015)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.



  • An old fogey’s analysis of a teenager’s view on social media – Danah Boyd responds to everyone who’s been sending her a recent article by teenager, Andrew Watts. “Andrew’s depiction of his peers’ use of social media is a depiction of a segment of the population, notably the segment most like those in the tech industry. In other words, what the tech elite are seeing and sharing is what people like them would’ve been doing with social media X years ago. It resonates. But it is not a full portrait of today’s youth. And its uptake and interpretation by journalists and the tech elite whitewashes teens practices in deeply problematic ways.”

Other news

  • The tactics of collaboration – Steve Wright proposes 4 stages of collaboration, including vulnerability as the third. Compare with the 3 types of working together (contribution, collaboration, co-creation) discussed at the wikimania conference.
  • Your computer knows you better than your friends do “Computers aren’t yet as smart and sultry as the one in Her, but armed with your Facebook data, they can accurately judge your personality in a fraction of a second. Compared with humans predicting their friends’ personalities by filling out the Big Five questionnaire, the computer’s prediction based on Facebook likes was almost 15% more accurate on average.”
  • Promoting the dead on Facebook – “A page remembering someone who died acts doubly as a space for friends and family to publish memories and as one to help each other grieve. But when that content leaves the page and that network, those two uses of Facebook conflict. The page becomes context-free when it moves outside the circles of friends and family…”

Academia online 


  • Another update from Paige Brown about responses from her #MySciBlog interviews – “I guess the other reason, the other approach to my blog that I took with that, because I have this complete freedom, to write about whatever I wanted to write about, I was going to write about subjects that I knew would NEVER get covered in the mainstream media. Because, because the organisms that I was going to write about were just too obscure, they weren’t, you know, fuzzy mammals… And so, I wanted to offer people content that they would never, almost never find anywhere else.”

Social media/networks

  • Creating effective social media networks – why it isn’t all about the numbers. Heather Doran thinks about how we measure social media success: “The problem the belief that people should use a one size-fits-all model. This will not work. Firstly, all social media networks are different so a ‘like’ on facebook doesn’t equal a follower on twitter. Interactions are subtle and hard to measure. You need to be familiar with the platform and how it works to get the most out of it and to understand what is worth measuring.”
  • Scientific societies in the internet age – Sarah Boon outlines some of the benefits of societies getting online “At the simplest level, migration to online platforms and utilization of social media is budget friendly. With science funding in decline across the board, operating costs at scientific societies can also be hard to cover. Sending out e-newsletters instead of printing paper copies, having online membership renewals instead of mailing them, connecting via email instead of in print…all of these activities reduce costs. The other rationale for a bigger online presence is to better connect society members with each other (regardless of age), to recruit new members, and to connect science and scientific societies with the broader public community.”
  • Social media and its impact on medical research – discussion of a recent paper that looked at the effect of a journal promoting half of its papers on Twitter and Facebook via a “social media campaign” of 1 tweet and 1 Facebook post per paper.
  • Frontiers launches Loop – Open Access publishers, Frontiers launched an updated version of the Frontiers Network for scientists which now includes embeddable profiles that can be included on research articles.


  • Scientists as communicators – An interview with AAAS Fellow, Julia Moore: “We are not going to solve the problems of the 21st century unless there is better communication between scientists and the public,” Moore stressed. Unfortunately, this skill is often under-appreciated and misunderstood in the scientific community, she notes: “A lot of people in science want to lecture and not listen. They want people to be where they are, curiosity-driven for the sake of new knowledge—as opposed to where people really are, which is worried about their bills or their children’s health or the world their grandchildren are going to grow up in.”


  • Jono Bacon shares 5 key things to focus on when hiring for a Community Manager – “The word “community” means radically different things to different people. For some a community is a customer-base, for some it is engineering, for some it is a support function, for others it may be social media. When your new community manager joins, your other staff will have their own interpretation of what “community” means. You should help to align the community manger’s focus and goals with the rest of the organization.”

Social media developments

URLs of wisdom (21st December)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.


  • Review of an interesting-sounding book: “Sharing our lives online: risks and exposure in social media”.
  • The readers we can’t friend – on reaching beyond social media communities for sharing of news content. “We have become supplicants to other platforms in order to get our readers. That’s already a problem, and it’s going to be a bigger problem. How do we increase both the broadness of reach and the depth of loyalty with our own names as news organizations and not as a brand page at the indulgence of fickle Silicon Valley trend-chasing? Do we collaborate with other news organizations to create our own social platforms? Will the answer be partnerships and memberships that draw readers into news brands by combining reporting with live events and entertainment and context?”
  • 2015 – the year we get creeped out by algorithms? Three significant factors are outlined. i) One: Our devices are becoming more and more central to our social, personal, financial, and civic interactions. ii) Two: Most digital mediation takes place on platforms and apps in which the true owner, the platform itself, keeps centralized control. iii) Three: Algorithms are increasingly being deployed to make decisions where there is no right answer, only a judgment call.”

Academia online 

  • The latest OKCast episode is an interview with @arfon about open science, citizen science and cultural change in academia.
  • The Mozilla Science Lab blog is reviewing their year – this post on prototyping for change in online research gives an overview of some of their projects.


  • Big changes at the Scientific American blog network were announced this week with the network roughly halved in size as part of a “reshaping” process. Matt Shipman interviewed the blog editor, Curtis Brainard, while Paige Brown speculated about some of the decisions involved and DrugMonkey ponders about the life span of blog networks in general: “networks appear to have a natural life-cycle. The ones that are tied up to a traditional publishing entity perhaps are on a short burn from the start”.
  • “Internal motivations, ‘I blog for myself,’ are the motivations that keep us going when we can’t know whether we are truly making a difference or not to science literacy and broader public understanding of science.” – Paige Brown considers blogging motivations.

Social media

Science Publishing


  • Bad community is worse than no community – thinking about digital engagement: “By coupling a format that encourages intimacy with a network design that encourages out-of-context amplification, Twitter has evolved into something fundamentally volatile.”

Web/social media developments

  • What are MOOCs good for? – “For all the hype, MOOCs are really just content—the latest iteration of the textbook. And just like a book on a library shelf, they can be useful to a curious passerby thumbing through a few pages—or they can be the centerpiece to a well-taught course. On their own, MOOCs are hardly more likely than textbooks to re-create a quality college education in all its dimensions.”
  • Buzzfeed CEO: “It’s not just a site, it’s a whole process” – “We went from the traditional media model of content and distribution to the vertically-integrated model of content distribution technology to the network-integrated model of technology helping at every level.”


  • Wikimedia produces a monthly YouTube recording of discussions of recent research on the platform. Find all the archives here.

Just for fun

Happy holidays!