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Productivity tricks for Community Management

A programmer doing the Community Management?

I’m one of the main programmers here in ‘The Game Kitchen’, working in the point and click horror series ‘The Last Door’. But my roles in the company doesn’t end there, unfortunately! I’m also in charge of the management of the company, and recently, I’m also becoming the part-time community manager of the team.

In the past we used to a have a dedicated CM in the team, but had to leave for personal reasons, and since we are not really making what you’d call a lot of money, we can’t afford to hire one at this time. Being independently funded comes with a lot of challenges, and most of the time, for us, means to operate as cheaply as possible.

So even it’s not specially my cup of tea I’ve taken the responsibility of managing our community, social media presence,  press relations, online marketing, and a lot of stuff that has very few to do with programming.

‘The Last Door’ looks like a simple game, but it’s actually a really big IP that involves handling a complex social media presence, several forums, multiple platforms each one with their separated way to provide support, and like every other indie title out there, a constant need to be present in the media.

Since I took these responsibilities, it wasn’t so unusual to reach the end of the day without having typed a single line of code. That was causing me a lot of frustration, because for starters I love coding, like a lot. And it’s easy to perceive a day without progress in the actual ‘product’ as a waste of time, even though it probably wasn’t. So I know I needed a system to make this new situation work for me.

A daily schedule

My first approach was to split the day into two time zones. First zone, it’s only coding and work exclusively related to making the actual ‘game’. The second zone is about everything else. I usually take a pause for a coffee to help ease the transition between the two mental states.

This was an immediate improvement. Soon enough, I significantly reduced the frustration sensation, since now, everyday I was able to advance the production of the game at least a few steps, every single day.

At this point another issue becomes evident: I’m not as good as planning tasks when they are not development related. So I was often forgetting about approving post for new users in one of the forums, or maybe answering too late to a particular support request. I needed ‘something’ that remembered me of each one of the task that needed to be done, so I don’t forget about a particular one for too much time.

Putting the cloud to work for you

My first take on the subject was to make a huge list of all the things that required attention. Once I had the list, I needed a system that allowed me to secure the appropriate amount of time for each of those things.

I needed a couple of tricks:

  • I wanted a single point to look for tasks that needed to be taken care of each day. This would be my ‘What needs to be done today’ list. This would allow me a method: Everyday, at the beginning of my second ‘time zone’ I would check this list, and execute each of these tasks.
  • Then I needed something that would allow me to schedule the tasks of the big list of things to be done, into the daily task list.

After researching some options, I ended up with a combination of online tools: Trello (which is a well known task manager) and IFTTT (acronym for ‘If This Then That’) which is a nearly magical thing that enables you to integrate many different cloud services to work together. NOTE: Both of this tools has a free plan that’s sufficient enough for our pourpose here.

I created a ‘recipe’ in IFTTT for each of the things on my big list of things that I should care about, they looked like this:

IFTTT recipe

This particular rule triggers every Friday at 5.00 in the morning, and injects a task into my Trello’s Community Management’ board, with the text “Check metrics in Google Analytics”. This way, everything Friday I would check Trello, just like every other day, I would know that this particular day I must not forget about checking what’s going on in the website through Google Analytics. For me, the exact time when the rule executes, it’s not really important, as long as they happen before I come to Trello to check for what’s need to be done. In the end, I guess I’m just using the time as a way to control the order the tasks would appear in my board.

To create these type of rules in IFTTT you must choose a type of trigger called ‘Date & Time’ (first step) and ‘Every day of the week at’ (second step). Then you’ll program which days of week and at what time you want it to execute. Then, just choose Trello as the action channel, and ‘Create a card’ as the particular action to be performed. Fill in the name of the board, and the content of the tasks (tasks are called ‘cards’ in Trello).

Hope you guys find this trick useful. To me has been like night and day, makes me a lot more satisfied with the amoun of work I make every day, and improves a lot the time it takes me to respond to players!