Review: Managing Online Forums by Patrick O’Keefe

June 20, 2013 — by Sherrie Rohde2



Review: Managing Online Forums by Patrick O’Keefe

June 20, 2013 — by Sherrie Rohde2

Managing Online Forums

Respond without thinking and you will damage your community. You are held to a higher standard than your users, and you should hold yourself to one, as well.
—Patrick O’Keefe, Managing Online Forums

I first read Patrick’s book a couple years after I had been moderating a high traffic tech forum and shortly before I began strategizing to set up a new forum. While I knew how to moderate, starting from scratch was a completely new game and all I knew was that I needed help.

Though it seems too obvious, Managing Online Forums is without a doubt everything you need to know to create and run successful community discussion boards, just like it says on the cover.

In Managing Online Forums, Patrick takes you through many aspects of:

  • Laying the groundwork.
  • Developing your community.
  • Developing guidelines.
  • Promoting your community.
  • Managing your staff.
  • Banning users and dealing with chaos.
  • Creating a good environment.
  • Keeping it interesting.
  • Making Money.

One of the key areas that stood out to me and proved to be most helpful was the reminder to:

Never add features just to add features, but always keep an eye out for great features that could enhance your community.

It seems so simple but every forum software provider out there is trying to lure you in by their feature set when reality is you need to focus on the minimum that your community needs rather than overwhelming them with fluff and shiny objects.

Overall Patrick does a fantastic job of using his real life experience and examples to cover literally every area of managing online forums. The resources included are also fantastic and extend onto his website as well. I was especially grateful for his examples of guidelines.

No matter what your experience level, if you’re part of a moderator team or in charge of your own forum, I would definitely recommend this read.

A Word from Patrick

I’ve always been impressed by my interactions with Patrick, whether tweeting him after reading this book, spotlighting him as a Community Manager of the Day, or organizing a G+ Hangout for Community Manager Appreciation Day. Patrick is down to earth and eager to help. I even managed to catch him between soda reviews and asked a few questions.

What is the #1 takeaway you hope readers will find in your book?
It’s important to understand who you serve and pursue them vigorously. Cut away the rest. Listen to all voices, but act on few. What makes online communities special is uniqueness and focus. Catering to everyone will leave you with no one.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m very passionate about online forums and online community and was intrigued by the idea of writing a book on the topic. I felt like I had something to share, that I could help people. I wasn’t sure that I could do it at first – my initial emails to friends about the project referred to it as a “Book/Long Article.” It took a while. Online community wasn’t the hot profession it is now. No one wanted to get behind it. But I pushed, along with my agent. In doing so, and in putting a book about online forums and community management in every Barnes & Noble in the country, I believe we helped (in some tiny way) this practice to become more widely recognized as a profession. I’m very grateful for that and humbled by the way the book has been received.

What book (or author), other than your own, would you recommend to Community Managers and why?
I like “Thank You and You’re Welcome” by Kanye West with J. Sakiya Sandifer. Though it is a book about life, when I read it, I can’t help but be struck by how directly it applies to community managers. It provides a foundational understanding that will allow you to navigate a lot of the challenges that you’ll face. It’s a quick, 15 minute read and well worth it.

What is one random thing about you that most people don’t know?
When I was in little league, I led the league in candy selling back to back years, earning myself a $50 check and a Huffy bicycle.

About Patrick O’Keefe

Patrick O'Keefe

Patrick O’Keefe has been managing online communities since 2000 and is the author of “Managing Online Forums,” a practical guide to managing online communities and social spaces, and “Monetizing Online Forums,” a blueprint for monetizing them the right way. He blogs at

Sherrie Rohde

Community Manager at Magento
As the Community Manager for Magento, Sherrie connects people with resources and with each other, and, since she’s just a bit passionate about the topic, she also co-produces a monthly broadcast for community professionals called #CMGRHangout. An ENFP, Sherrie is obsessed with innovation, terrified of status quo, and motivated by adventure. Reach out on Twitter at @sherrierohde. 