Community forums that build human connections: Episode 41

Daryll Swager
Daryll Swager

This week we talk to an IT Community OG, the founder of the VMware Community, Daryll Swager. We talk about community forums, being customer-centric, and about Twitter forcing brevity as a communication style. Daryll, who by his own admission has no brevity within him whatsoever, now leads a customer engagement team at an enterprise software company.

  • Why Daryll started the VMware Community site, and why he didn’t like John at first
  • Forums vs Blogs as participatory platforms
  • Your intent is shown by the content you produce, and explaining that to marketing managers
  • Getting geeky with metrics: Visitors via social media had about 2.5x time on site and 3x pages viewed. Communities are top social referrers to the corporate web site
  • Daryll’s Dad’s rules for starting a community: 1. Customer-friendly employees; 2. Cool technology; 3. Nothing to hide
  • Don’t buy technology when you can’t see their user forums; communities as a health check in the buying process. Influence marketing affects the layer below PR and above Support. If you hide your forums, customers will go talk trash about you somewhere else
  • Community culture — keeping it civil. Keeping out the trolls and hard sales spammers. Emailing forum threads to executives: “Just read what the people are saying about us”. An actual human responding to a complaint is amazing in its power to defuse the situation
  • The broken window theory of community policing. Users as forum moderators. Your community on other people’s forums
  • Twitter as a not-so-good conversation vehicle. Going beyond Twitter to get human contact. Your community will defend you on other communities. It’s always better to be someone who lives there and is familiar with cultural norms
  • Consolidation of brand accounts. “… a series of negotiations with all the account owners and you have to get some top-down support too”. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter change their rules without warning
  • Your org chart is showing: Conway’s Law “organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communicationstructures of these organizations”
  • Daryll is heartless about new social channels without plans
  • “Every time I’m sure somebody proves me wrong”
  • Community and the last 4 years of push-marketing
  • Daryll is not a fan of the brevity of Twitter, unlike the Geek Whisperers, but you can reach him at @dswager or his blog.

The earliest snapshot of the VMware Forums from the Way Back Machine – Dec 16, 2003:


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  1. Daryll Swager
    20 March, 2014

    That screenshot just brings a tear to my eye. Question: Who was the first EMPLOYEE POWER user on the VMware community that wasn’t me? He made the community really take off

  2. larstr
    20 March, 2014

    That must have been Jason Mills (JMills). He would go into the source code to find answers to hard questions if needed.

    A bit later we also had Brian Gallob (BrianG) arriving who was the quickest poster and point collector of all.

  3. Daryll Swager
    20 March, 2014

    Jason Mills was an EXCELLENT guess. However, that was not him!! Lars: I will never forget meeting you for the first time. I saw you with your Board Warrior shrit on at VMworld, and tapped you on the shoulder, and stuck out my hand to introduce myself… you got one look at my name tag and gave me a big bear hug. I’ll never forget it.

  4. ron mckelvey
    21 March, 2014

    I get a kinda mention, last poster on GSX and ESX… Funny that back then that was me (PHDVirtual/esXpress) fighting with the Ranger guys, and now were partners in Liquidware Labs…

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