Searchfest 2009 Interview: Dawn Foster
Dawn will be speaking about “Social Media” at Searchfest 2009 which will be held March 10th in Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets now.
1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’m basically a Consultant, Community Manager, Event Organizer, Blogger, Podcaster, Vegan, and Technology Enthusiast
I grew up on a farm in rural Ohio. I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Kent State University and an MBA from Ashland University, which helps me see things from both angles to help people bridge the gap between technology and business. I’ve worked at companies like Intel, Jive Software, Compiere, and a Midwestern manufacturing company in positions ranging from Unix system administrator to market researcher to community manager to open source strategist.
My current focus is on providing consulting services for companies wanting to engage with online communities through various social media technologies including discussion forums, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and more. I’m also the community evangelist for Shizzow, a new Portland startup. I have more than 13 years of experience in technology and software with expertise in open source software, web 2.0, social media, blogging, and community building.
I’m the author of the Fast Wonder Blog and also blog on GigaOm’s WebWorkerDaily and in other places. For fun in my spare time, I organize events for geeks. I am an organizer for the Portland BarCamp event and help organize Ignite Portland. I’m also a co-founder and board member of Legion of Tech.
2) At what point in time would an online community benefit from an “online community manager”?
It usually makes sense to have someone managing the community from the very beginning. For a large community, this is probably a full-time community manager. For small communities, it might be a small percentage of someones job (web manager, product manager, etc.)
A good community manager will help facilitate conversations, write content for the community, evangelize the community, and make sure that the community evolves and doesn’t stagnate. If you don’t have a person defined for this role, the human tendency is to assume someone else will handle things, and you end up with nobody facilitating, writing content, evangelizing or growing the community.
I have a few related articles about online communtiy management that provide more details about what they do:
- Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job (Slideshare)
- Why Companies Should Have Online Communities
- Reflections on Community Management: AKA “What Do You Do”
- What Does it Take to Manage a Community?
- Community Roles: Manager, Moderator, and Administrator
3) How important is networking in the Portland Tech community?
I sometimes have a hard time defining the Portland Tech community because there are so many different elements from the Software Association of Oregon (SAO) to Legion of Tech to the various user groups and meetups. On any day of the week, you can usually find several event to attend, and Calagator is a great place to find the aggregated list of all of these events.
The importance of networking is also a relative measure depending on your individual situation. In my case, it has been very important. Within the Portland tech community, I have met so many brilliant people and learned so much from them. I also try to share what I know, and I hope that others have also learned from me. Networking, especially in this community, is all about giving back and not just taking from the community. If you come prepared to both learn and share, you’ll have a much better experience within the Portland tech community.