Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

What We Learned From Starting the Slack GatherMods

Responding to feedback provided an opportunity to practice engagement with our community.

When we started Gather Slack in early 2018, the idea was that it would be a place for our community of practice, to, well, gather and engage with one another. At that point, Gather as a site was just a few months old, but we were seeing less one-on-one interaction on the platform than we’d hoped when we launched in October 2017. The steering committee thought: Why don’t we put the practices we recommend into action, and meet our community where they already are?

Some takeaways from the project:

  1. Make important information available in a consistent place.
    Your community’s time is valuable, and you show that through your actions. Before the GatherMods, we had been pointing newsletter readers to interesting Slack conversations, but Joy had been surveying a week’s worth of notifications on her own. Now, every Monday our team of moderators shares an update on especially valuable or interesting conversations that happened in their channel during the previous week, and these highlights get curated into our weekly Wednesday newsletter. (Sign up here!) We also put together a guide for our community on how to best set up your Slack notifications, and have been posting tips for making the most of Slack without getting overwhelmed in the #orientation channel.
  2. Be predictable, and communicate a clear timeline for any planned changes.
    We started this project with the idea that it would be a three-month experiment. By the next month, it was clearly making a positive impact. However, we stuck to the plan: Meeting with our moderators every month, asking for feedback at the end of the pilot, and offering the opportunity to step aside at that point from the volunteer commitment if it was taking too much time or otherwise not the right fit. Along the way, we kept our community updated on any changes to the program via the email newsletter mentioned above.
  3. Start with a clear definition of success, but be open to changing it based on feedback.
    Joy and I wanted to make sure our founding moderators felt agency in shaping the project, so we started the first meeting by asking our team how they thought we should define success. After, we realized that we probably should have started by talking about the problems we hoped the initiative would tackle, and then proposing the goals/metrics we wanted to watch. Starting with the definition of success was too big of a question. However, that definition is something we’re continuing to refine, and as always, we welcome feedback from all members of the Gather community.
  4. Surveys are your friend.
    We learned about this issue through regular check-ins with members of Gather Slack, and were even able to use the survey to brainstorm potential solutions. We also surveyed our GatherMod through their applications, and checked in after the pilot period to make changes. These surveys supplemented monthly conversations during our Zoom meetings and day-to-day chatting in our private Slack channel, allowing us to hear about all of the issues and make our community work better for our members. Surveys also allow people to participate on their own time, and address specific questions and topics.
  5. Let your community help you.
    This is the top lesson, I think: Our communities are our most valuable resource. Ours contained subject-matter experts who were willing to contribute to making our platform more accessible and useful. If you’re facing a challenge with an audience-facing project in your newsroom or office, I’d encourage you to think about how your readers or users can help you to solve that problem. You don’t have to do it all on your own, and the end result will probably be better if you don’t.

Here are our current moderators, by channel:

#advocates: Bridget Thoreson
#audiencedevelopment: Nicole Barton
#culturechange: Summer Moore
#europe: Laura Oliver
#facetoface: Max Resnik
#metricsandimpact: Jessica Lee Martin
#moderation: Anna Bold
#newsletters: Tommy Hamzik
#orientation: Julia Haslanger
#paidacquisition: Phillip Smith
#professionaldevelopment: Elizabeth Dunbar
#socialmedia: Beth O’Malley
#teachingandlearning: Andrew DeVigal
#tools: Stephanie Backus

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