What community management can teach you about teamwork

Everyone at Disqus is a community manager,” says Tony Hue, who holds the official title at Disqus, the world’s most popular discussion platform, used by millions of websites.
The team of over 60, which is divided between offices in San Francisco and New York, takes its inspiration for teamwork from the spirit of their company: listening is one of the most valued practices among teammates. Tony says that at Disqus, “every opinion counts.”

How listening manifests itself at Disqus

Daily team check-ins

Because the majority of the team’s engineers are in San Francisco while sales is in New York, communication is vital for the team to maintain a dialogue around what everyone is working on. To ensure that everyone is in the know, some teams hold checkins virtually every day.

Carolyn Murphy, who works on Disqus’ account management team in New York, adds that these checkins allow her to feel more in sync with colleagues on the West Coast, creating a stronger sense of team, even if she’s only seeing teammates on a computer screen. “They’re really short, but allow us to all know when product announcements are happening and to generally cross-pollinate ideas,” says Carolyn.

Tip: Scheduling a daily checkin with your team — even if it’s just 10 minutes — can be a great way to get up to speed, share knowledge, and create a more connected team.


Early on, the Disqus team realized that one of their greatest assets was the Disqus community, so they created Discuss Disqus in order to listen to everything users were saying about them — positive or negative — and to empower users to share their opinions. Since launching this community, Tony says, “we’ve learned a ton about how our products are being used and the problems that our users face. It’s shaped the development of core features like notifications, discovery, and starting your own discussions.”

Daniel Matteson, a member of Disqus’ product support team, shared that one of his favorite examples of this kind of feedback loop is when the company blogs about a feature release (like this one). Product managers and designers from Disqus jump right into the thread, and they have direct conversations with users and collect people’s critiques and responses to be considered for future changes. It’s a natural way to collect feedback (through discussion) and feels more friendly than a one-way web form.

Daniel says, “From a product support perspective, having a public channel where users can post their questions has been key in helping us quickly identify product issues or friction. The public channel format works well for collecting a bulk of information about an issue because users will self-organize and share knowledge with one another in a single thread. For example, this awesome bug report concerning IE 11 quickly attracted other users experiencing the problem. The back-and-forth between users and people on the Disqus team helped escalate and clearly define the issue at hand.”

Discuss Disqus reflects a key aspect of how teams collaborate at Disqus: everyone is encouraged to participate in the conversation. The company relies on a variety of tools (including Asana) to encourage discussion. Tony notes that everyone brings their own story with them whenever they join discussions on their favorite sites, and the same can be said of conversations around community management, product development, account management, and so on. Perspective matters.

Tip: Take a cue from Disqus and make your community’s sentiment more widely known in your company. Share their frustrations, joys, and feedback in whatever format works best for your team.

Changing the tone of conversations

Community managers know that just being heard is at the core of what people want — why not apply the same standard to your teammates?

Disqus is built to allow publishers of all sizes to manage a community.  For the team at Disqus, overseeing the dialogues that are happening across various publisher sites is invaluable for becoming better communicators themselves. One way to do this internally? The approach of welcoming all well-balanced dialogue, without insulting one another, to set the tone for the day.

Tip: Change the tone, when needed. If a project isn’t going well, or comments are turning negative, step in with positive reinforcement, share some honest feedback, and remember to be humble.

A lot of site moderators are afraid of comments, but all it takes is a little step to change the tone of the conversation. This requires good listening skills from the moderator, and also, from teammates. Disqus team members try to infuse this attitude into everything they do both internally and externally.

“We’re big believers in highlighting the good stuff happening in the communities we’re building online,” says Tony. “Upvoting comments and featuring the very best comments are easy ways to encourage more good discussions. And then of course, in every community, you will encounter the bad apples from time to time. Moderator presence is crucial in those situations. Moderators are like the referees at an NBA game. Without them, it would be total chaos; players would ignore the rules and the competition – the thing that attracts the fans – would no longer be interesting. Same thing with discussions.

When you think about it, every company is a community. Disqus is no different and just like the online communities that use Disqus on their sites, Disqus has their our own ‘Community Guidelines’ that establish the foundation of the company culture and values. Recently, Disqus’ People Ops team introduced something new called ‘Upvotes’ which — just like comment voting — is an easy way for Disqussers to give quick shout-outs to those who best exemplify the team’s company values. During each family meeting, the upvotes are called out and everyone high-fives each other in unison (ok, that last part is only partially accurate).”

Listening is a skill most of us possess, but often forget to employ, particularly when we’re hyper-focused on getting things done. Community managers know that just being heard is at the core of what people want — why not apply the same standard to your teammates?

We recently gave our blog a refresh and are excited to now use Disqus for comments. We’re looking forward to some great conversations with you here.

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