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Elements of Good Judgment for Community Managers


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The role of a community manager is multifaceted, with decision-making being a critical skill. Effective judgment – the ability to make sound decisions in the absence of clear data or an obvious path – is essential. This article, tailored for online community managers and forum administrators, explores how to enhance this vital skill.

Understanding Good Judgment in Online Communities Good judgment in online communities involves more than just responding to data or trends. It's about understanding the unique dynamics of your community, empathizing with its members, and making decisions that resonate with the community's ethos. For instance, when Reddit administrators make policy changes, they don't just rely on data; they also consider the community's culture and values.

Developing Key Components of Judgment

  • Learning: Active Listening and Critical Reading Community managers must actively listen to their members and critically assess the information they receive. This involves understanding the nuances of community conversations and being aware of biases in information gathering. Just like John Buchanan, who excelled in elicating information through attentive listening, community managers should engage deeply with their community feedback.
  • Trust: Valuing Diversity Over Validation Successful community leaders seek diverse perspectives rather than just validation of their ideas. This approach was exemplified by Abraham Lincoln and is crucial for online communities where diverse viewpoints can lead to richer, more inclusive decisions.
  • Experience: Broadening Your Horizon While past experiences are valuable, relying solely on them can be limiting. Community managers should seek a broad range of experiences, much like Mohamed Alabbar of Emaar Properties, who navigated diverse economic cycles by not limiting himself to past successes.
  • Detachment: Overcoming Biases Detachment involves recognizing and challenging personal biases. Leaders need to be intellectually and emotionally detached to process information objectively, as demonstrated by Christine Lagarde during her tenure at the IMF.
  • Options: Exploring Beyond Presented Choices Good judgment involves questioning the set of solutions offered and considering other possibilities. In online communities, this could mean exploring unconventional moderation strategies or new engagement techniques.
  • Delivery: Considering Implementation Feasibility Execution is key. Decision-makers must consider the practicality of their choices and the capabilities of their team, akin to the U.S. government’s pragmatic approach to completing the Panama Canal.

Applying These Components in Online Communities

In online communities, these components translate into practical strategies:

  • Engage in Active Listening and Learning: Regularly participate in community discussions to understand member sentiments.
  • Foster a Culture of Diversity: Encourage diverse viewpoints in community forums to ensure a well-rounded perspective.
  • Leverage Varied Experiences: Draw from different online community management scenarios to inform your decision-making.
  • Practice Detachment: Regularly assess personal biases and remain objective, especially in conflict resolution.
  • Explore All Options: When facing community challenges, consider all possible solutions, including unconventional ones.
  • Plan for Practical Implementation: Ensure that decisions are feasible and align with the community’s resources and culture.

Elevating Your Community with Sound Judgment

Effective judgment is a pivotal skill for online community managers. By developing these key components, you can make informed decisions that resonate with your community, foster engagement, and ensure a thriving online space. Remember, good judgment is a blend of learning, trust, experience, detachment, options, and delivery – each playing a vital role in shaping successful online communities.

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