I've been laying the groundwork for a couple of big announcements we'll be making over the next month around a couple of my communities. About five years ago I embarked on my first major community project. I'd been doing day to day site operations and community stuff for a long time at that point, but we needed to migrate to two entirely new platforms which meant not only changing everything about our community presence on the web, but also doing some transformation of data because our destination was so functionally different from what we had before.
That summer I went to the Community Leadership Summit and asked for help - in an era when slight tweaks in UI piss of Facebook users, how do you successfully lead a few hundred thousand people through such a massive undertaking? What does success look like in that case?
I knew it would be ugly. I knew people would hate the new platforms just because they were different. I knew that my professional reputation was on the line. If I pulled this off it would be huge - a massive, public professional accomplishment. An accomplishment I could put dollar signs next to - moving away from our old vendors saved my company millions of dollars. Failure could kill my career.
It was weird for me to define success as disaster mitigation, but that's basically what we did. The advice I got was to make sure that everything I said was backed up by being reliable, by sticking to my commitment to transparency even if it cost me something to do that. It was terrifying, but it worked. We had one major, public casualty. I do have regrets, but I learned a lot and it's changed how I've handled things since.
This time, I'm not so scared. It's a challenge, and I'm well aware that I have no clue what is going to go wrong in the coming months, but I'm cool with that. I don't feel bulletproof, but I feel really flexible. It's a nice place to be.