Thoughts on a Consolidated Relay.FM Community Project

On Analog(ue) #76, Casey and Myke struggle with sanctioning some sort of Relay.FM community, likely to take the form of a Slack or a forum.  Having more than a decade of experience in running that sort of thing, I wrote the founders an email (most of which I’ve left intact here, and I’ve edited the email slightly; and I got Myke’s permission to publish this):

Myke and Stephen —
1.  I do not want the job of moderating/leading moderation of a Relay.FM listener community.  I have enough plates spinning.
2.  I have run a fan community since 2002a small CCM/folk band from Texas that had a lot of fans for a while, and when their official fan group lay fallow, some friends and I took it up.  The band hasn’t recorded for years, and one of the artists quite publicly imploded in a public divorce based on infidelity — and yet the community lives on.
We used a forum from 2002 through, well, sometime last year.  The forum is still there, but the traffic was going way, way down over time.  I actually considered closing things, but I decided to start a Slack to see if that would work.  Our traffic, while it will never come close to the peak of 2003-06, is back up.  It’s a tool that serves a purpose.
Here is my basic take on this:
Slack is great for ephemeral conversations (a random channel is great for this, even as it has the capacity to go weird, creepy, or over-the-line) as well as focused ones that get archived.  We use a bot that pushes an announcement out to the Announcements channel whenever a new channel is created.  It mostly works.
Forums are great for longer-form discussion and cross-referencing.  They work if people are good with writing those things.  They can be cantankerous and nasty.  Being a religious-oriented thing, we ended up creating an At Your Own Risk board where the rules were relaxed and people knew that mean things may be said.  That said, it stayed within limits.
In both cases, norms will build on your own, but my strong, strong, strong advice is this:
Whatever form of community-building you choose, you will need to be fairly involved (say 5-15 hours a week) with it for anywhere from two weeks to three months, full stop.  If you are not involved to that degree, you run the risk of losing control of it very quickly.  If you aren’t involved, you cannot effectively pass on the norms and values that you want the place to have.
Our RMFO forum would’ve never existed in the forum that it did at its peak if I and other leaders weren’t able to spend large amounts of time on it.  I estimate that I was on the forums a good six hours a day for the period 2002-06, more if work were slow or it were a weekend.  Note that I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, and while I did have a job — a great job! — I could keep an eye on things if I weren’t terribly consumed with work.  Running the forum wasn’t a job, but I put that level of effort into it.
A Relay community would require a lot of work, and I mean a lot of work.  I think that it would be very successful very quickly because of the breadth and depth of their shows.  If you summed the number of Twitter followers that each host and show have, de-duplicate the group, and argue that maybe 3% of them would even want to join a community like that, you’ve probably got 1,000-ish people there to start.
To manage that group, Stephen and Myke would probably want to hire a few people — 3-5, likely, with someone nominally in charge — to run the thing, plus schedule appearances to be in the community.  That’s an investment in building a community, one that won’t pay off financially in the short term and may not in the long term.  Doing a Relay.FM community correctly requires a time and money commitment that I’m fairly sure that the founders are unwilling to make at this time.
You are free, of course, to start your own Relay.FM fan community.  That’s what Bryan and Megan did back in the day, and what I and others did in picking up the mantle.  Start a good one, prove the concept, and maybe you get the job.  May I suggest #RelayOurCommunity to get started?