Lessons learned managing a 600+ member slack community

This post adds onto the original lessons I've learned since I wrote the article Lessons Learned building a 100+ slack community

The original article goes over more how to manage a growing community. This one is tailored towards how to manage an existing community that has gotten decently big, and has enough traction to sustain on it's own

Here's the lessons:

Naming channels and channel management is hard

Naming anything is bloody hard. You have only one shot to do it right, and reverting any changes down the road will lead to members feeling confused, or just annoyed that these things are happening.

People grow attached to channel names overtime. It's their "safe spot" to talk about issues so to speak about various topics like pets, career, software-development, and more

When you rename a channel down the road, you are violating that "safe spot" and people go elsewhere for their community needs

You also need to name a channel correctly the first time. For instance, say we want to create a channel for talking about problems - #therapy, #mental-health, #encouragement, #wellbeing, etc

Depending on what it's named, it'll be positioned differently across the page. A letter starting closer to "Z" will be near direct messages, and people will be more likely to directly message each other

You want to make sure the word has a positive-spin to it. A channel like #therapy might just end up as a place for people to put quotes, #wellbeing might be both mental and physical wellbeing, etc. #venting would only encourage people to complain, so probably not the best naming

You want to predict and lump together topics into as many easy to remember, positive channel names as possible

Predicting this all ahead of time is challenging. The reason we had a flamewar in #job-listings happened is because people didn't have another channel to vent about career-related topics.

So we created #career-and-education

Community Automation Tools

Some form of automoderation tools are needed to grow a sustaining community

We use a tool to syndicate our job board to #job-listings, but we also connect our open source codebases from github straight into 3 seperate channels via github actions:

  • One for our main informational website
  • One for the job board
  • Another for tampa.dev, a homepage for all upcoming tech events

We also set those channels as default across our slack, and have very specific naming for channels that are public.

The power of having a CI/CD pipeline for slack channels to our github is we make it easy for members to contribute to Tampa Devs codebase

We can foster mentorship this way, and provide proving grounds for people that want to support Tampa Devs. Likewise, we can add them into contributor graphs too

We saw the power of this first hand when I opened up an issue on Github to fix some <a> tag links on the site. Super easy work, and we had someone fix it in <30 minutes of me posting it

Within another 30 minutes, it was approved by one of our community code managers.

Here's that screenshot in action:

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We also have integrations from google admin calendar and meetup syncing directly into #meetups channel too. So we can auto send reminders when an event is coming up

Closing thoughts

Managing a growing slack community is challenging. Since we started a little over a year ago, over 34,000 messages have been sent

slack5

A vast majority of our users are lurkers who read public posts

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and send private DMs

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We have about 150 weekly active members which is about 25% engagement rating with ~650 members

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For reference, Orlando Devs has about ~300 weekly active members with 3500 members since I've been on the board over there

What I've learned in managing a slack community is that most people just watch silently and lurk. It's not that dissimilar to reddit.

Slack however is a really powerful place for me to handle logistics on planning Tampa Devs events

We might down the road faciliate discussions more with additional spoofed users, this is a pretty common solution to helping the community feel more active until enough net promoters / content creators are on there

Hi 👋

I'm Vincent Tang, a software engineer specialized in product design and manufacturing. I [learn without boundaries](https://www.vincentntang.com/learn-without-boundaries/), and write lessons I've learned to my past self. From engineering, to manufacturing, to leadership, and psychology. I'm the founder of Tampa Devs and I also run a coding podcast called Code Chefs

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