Blog in isolation There is a radiant darkness upon us

has your company got a Community Manager ?

My support for the Disqus commenting system used on this blog is well documented. I have also had great support whenever I have had minor issues with a service I paid precisely nothing for.

Disqus are a small company with less than 10 employees. However, Disqus are not a cottage industry operating out of Daniel Ha's garage. Disqus are funded by venture capital (Union Square and angel investors) and raised $500,000 in the last round of funding (March 2008).

So it's not surprising that Disqus are growing and hiring people. However, what fascinates me is that in addition to hiring talented developers to develop, improve, enhance and fix the product, Disqus have recently appointed Giannii as a 'Community Manager'.

Ignoring the lack of a surname and some of the Web 2.0 terms sprinkled in this introductory post; for example, 'Chief Happiness Engineer' is frankly cringe worthy, it is worth noting that Disqus have many channels available for people to contact them:

  • Twitter
  • Disqus forums
  • Email
  • GetSatisfaction

More importantly, Disqus don't just sit by the computer waiting for people to call in - they proactively monitor all these channels and participate. Moan about a Disqus problem on Twitter and count the seconds until you get a response.

What is interesting about Disqus hiring a 'Community Manager' is not necessarily that a small startup can afford one but Disqus (and presumably the people controlling the purse strings) actually view this role as one of the first ten, and most important, positions to be filled in the company.

So what ? Every company has a 'Community Manager' - they are just called different things 'Sales', 'Marketing', 'Partners', 'Customer Care', 'Public Relations' - every company does this stuff but they don't a) shout about it and b) dress it up in Web 2.0 tinsel.

To pick just one example, Apple are a big, successful company who make clever videos and sell expensive, stylish computers, iPods and iPhones to this type of demographic so surely they must have a 'Community Manager' ?

Surprisingly, they don't. In September, Apple released the 2.1 firmware for the iTouch and this update broke WPA2 wireless connectivity. Having recently acquired an iTouch and been hugely impressed with the device, I was surprised Apple could have introduced such a fundamental bug but I ignored it and waited patiently for a patch.

Unsurprisingly, lots of Apple customers experienced the same issue and multiple threads arose to discuss the issue on Apple's official support forums. The most popular thread now has 36,208 views and 436 replies.

  • How many of the 436 replies came from Apple ? None.
  • Did Apple respond to any of these threads ? No.
  • Did Apple even acknowledge the problem ? No.
  • Do Apple care about their customers ? Not sure.
  • Am I encouraged to give more money to Apple by spending in the iTunes Store ? No.
  • What impression does this give to a recent Apple convert ? Arrogant.
  • When is 2.2 scheduled for release ? Not known.
  • Will 2.2 include a fix for this issue ? Not known.
  • Is a fix even on the horizon ? Originally, I would have bet money on it but, given Apple's lack of response to date, I am now starting to have doubts.

It's obvious that Apple don't have a 'Community Manager'. Does your company ?

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