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Who’s Who: Patrick O’Keefe, iFroggy Networks

Posted on 4.30.2008

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Almost every Web user has been on a forum at some point during their Internet experience. They cover every conceivable topic, from Photoshop to Karate and everything in between. Some are thriving communities in which to interact with others, get advice and network your way to success.
 Forums can also be an excellent way to add value to your website and build a community around your brand. The challenge for those administrating these bustling Web environs is that much like real life, users often need to be led (sometimes kicking and screaming), and difficult users (and spammers) need to be dealt with quickly and sensitively.
 Toss in legal restraints and technology exploits and the sheer thrill of building something of value can quickly dissipate. With the right guidance however, operating a forum can be much more than a hobby; it can become an outright passion and even a fulltime career. One such forum master is Patrick O’Keefe, owner of the iFroggy Network, an Internet network featuring content, community and e-commerce sites covering various interests in what other than…forums.
 For many Web professionals, forums are little more than places to drop a few links and boost search engine rankings. As one that bases his earning power on the legitimacy of forums, O’Keefe has a much different, much more valuable perspective. So why have forums remained an active venue on the Web?
 “Social interaction is a big part of the Web,” says O’Keefe. “The most common form of this is talking with another person or group of people. This is what forums are. You can discuss the latest news, a topic of interest or a hobby; you can organize a group behind some sort of effort; you can receive help with a problem you are dealing with or a difficult period in your life, and more. Forums are simply people talking and interacting around a focus of some kind. It's hard for me to see a time when people will not want to do that online.”
 As beneficial as forums can be, there are also many challenges. O’Keefe cites several which every forum and community administrator should take to heart. “Some people don’t realize that you don't just put a community online and then come back once a week. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it's something best managed if you pay it a little attention every day, rather than trying to pay it a bunch of attention on one day of the week. It can be challenging to maintain your vision and your goals as your forums grow. But, having a good set of user guidelines that are actively and fairly enforced goes a long way to ensuring that you do so.”
 With 21 forums in the iFroggy network, O’Keefe has learned quite a few valuable lessons that he’s sharing in his new book “Managing Online Forums,” a comprehensive and thoughtful look at creating new stand-alone communities and taking over existing ones. What’s the most valuable lesson O’Keefe has learned? “There are so many things you pick up through experience. But I think one of my favorites is to worry about yourself, not so much what everyone else is doing. It’s fine to recognize competitors, learn from them and want to be better than them, but if you get too wrapped up in what someone else is doing, you can fail to focus on yourself and you can lose valuable time that you should be using to improve. Steve Jobs said something that I think covers it well. He said, ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.’”

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