Today because of some news, I pm’d a friend a mine that I had questioned last week about something. I wanted to reassure her that no, it had nothing to do with the news at all. She understood and had never thought that, but I am me.
I then babbled about Denise, and offhandedly mentioned that I fell in love with her community skills, before I fell in love with her. I then promised to tell that tale at some point. I forget that it has been a long time. I forget that many of the first hand observers are still forged in our relationship, in some cases stray children who were old enough not to know they were stray until they had us as mommies, in some cases the yoda like advisors who talked me down from the ceiling and talked me into a crazy mushroom dish. Some of you just keep popping into our lives, as Internet grows, changes, and stays the same.
This will be a WAYYYYYYYYYY back story though. You see, when I worked for iVillage, I sometimes got sent on projects codenamed in my house “Siberia” –officially called a competitive set. Usually this coincided with me having too many questions, opinions, or being just generally useful at this thing called Internet Community. In the very beginning, it was mostly the last. I could go look at a community and give a read on it, write a report, and hit all the right points. So, I would wander our competition and check out their communities. Women.com was one of them. (No state secret there) I would go and poke around and look at their numbers. I would open their message boards. I would analyze what was going on.
I would duly pan their message board layout. I would talk about their numbers. Then I would add in that they had a great community moderator whose message boards just sang. They were lively, had great numbers, and really connected. It was beautiful community. That moderator was Denise. I was still better and had a bigger empire (in my mind) but wow. What a catch she would be and Women.com was lucky to have her.
Things happened. Women.com got sold to iVillage. Denise had left the company, I don’t remember those details. Then she showed up on iVillage as a CL. (volunteer community leader–they were the lifeblood of iVillage IMO) At that time, I was the Message Board Coordinator at iVillage. (or as some said “Message Board Godddess) I tended boards. I did major flame war management. I took over difficult boards. I turned around slow boards. I taught the CLs how to do the same. I did great work. I loved it. But, I was the only game in town really. At that time the world was small for community management. But this upstart cl caught my attention. I saw her taking over and getting great numbers from boards that were…slow. I started talking about her in the weekly phone meetings. “Have you seen this CL-Smiely?”(we all had weird names then.) Maybe we can find a job for her. Then she showed up on my behind the scenes coaching board for message board cls. Suddenly the board blossomed. And it blossomed with a lot of competition from the two of us. Not the ugly kind, but the challenging each other was stimulating to me. (no more coasting with Denise saying “so why don’t you…”) And I became ever more desperate to get her a job ANYWHERE in iVillage or somewhere else, before someone noticed that not only was she good, she was maybe better than me. Or maybe, just because she would be an asset in any online community.
WebMD came along and gave her a cool job there. She did amazing things with that community.
Then Lisa Stone came calling and after much crazy decision making, Denise became the Community Manager at BlogHer. She was worried on her first day that she wouldn’t find enough to do. She did…and has for the past 7.5 years. In the past 14 and a bit years, I have watched her work. I have seen her flow with changes. I have seen her make things that looked unworkable–work great. And still I am in awe of her work. Every damn day. Because…she is better at it than me. I could be better than her…but I am not. I am not the only one that thinks so. I can’t really tell you how many people have come up to me and gushed about how great it is to work with Denise, how smart she is, how patient, how intuitive, and more. I agree.