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Sanya Thomas Parts with EA Mythic

Posted May 02, 2007 by Keith Cross

Sanya Thomas Parts with EA Mythic

Dana Massey of the WarCry Network recently conducted an interview with Sanya Thomas, formerly Director of Community Relations for EA Mythic, where they discuss her recent departure from EA Mythic, her experiences as a community manager, and her plans for the immediate future.

WarCry: When you began at Mythic, prior to Dark Age of Camelot's launch, you were one of the - if not the - first community managers. Now it's a full blown profession people can get an education for. Tell us about how you see community management, its evolution and your role in it.

Sanya Thomas: Oh, I wasn't the first. Jon Hanna was the Ur-CM. And Gordon Wrinn was already famous before anyone ever heard of me. But I definitely have the title of longest-lasting. It would have been six years in June.

Somewhere, I have a copy of a message board post that says "she won't last six months."

Originally, community work was reactive. Something happened, and some poor schmuck was assigned to hit the boards and respond. Or worse, it was considered marketing, and not even GOOD marketing - carefully controlled information leached of all life by someone who wants to "control the message." And either way, the community manager was to blame if players didn't like what they heard. At a lot of companies, it's still no different. Even companies that start well sometimes morph into a more marketing/reactive pose.

I think my greatest contribution was I demonstrated that it doesn't have to be that way. I used my real name, and shared actual information. I felt that a community is a living entity that cannot be controlled, and deserves respect.

If you hire someone off the board who "seems really nice" and pay him minimum wage, you will get what you deserve. Community work is a professional specialty, with standards of communication, turnaround time, media responsiveness, and more. There are known benchmarks for message board personnel requirements, beta cycles, and professional behavior. There are techniques that can be mastered, assuming the basic skills are in place.

Good community is a little marketing, a little CS, and a little old-fashioned mud-wrestling on behalf of your players. It's important to work with the whole team to achieve a consistent message, of course, but at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the community weenie to stand up for players, for player feedback, and for realistic expectations. If that means a few bruises (from all sides), so be it.

I could go on for hours about this. I usually do, when I've been drinking in Austin with my fellow comrades in arms. (Comrades. How cool is that? Back when I was walking to school uphill through the snow, there were a tiny handful of people who knew what the hot seat felt like. There are dozens of us now, and we don't have to inflate our numbers by counting silly marketing stunts as "community.")

I'll just add that the Herald and the Herald's content will, I hope, go down as my legacy. An official place where you could see your stats and the stats of other players, and get first hand news that didn't sound like a shovelful of peppy? In 2001 there was no such thing, not on the scale or tone that we achieved with the Herald. (Originally we thought we'd just use www.darkageofcamelot.com - but it soon became apparent that we needed that URL to be very smooth and professional in tone. Hence www.camelotherald.com.)

What I did on the Herald was professional, in that it was entirely considered and intentional. Every good writer can work in any number of different "voices," and the voice of the Herald was meant to be casual and friendly. But not smooth, not over-produced, not "official."

I wish I could take the credit for the Herald, but honestly, the site design was as much Scott Jennings as it was me. We had similar ideas and feelings about The Right Way To Treat People, and The Importance Of Talking Honestly To Customers. And if we're being honest, Showing Off Your Epeen Is Fun, Admit It.

Little known fact: The original version of the Herald was Scott's blog software. Yes. It was built onto the Lum The Mad skeleton. That cracks me up to this day.

Read The full story here.

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