Rap Genius was not my idea - it was entirely Tom Lehman’s brainchild: he came up with it, and he built it. Similarly, Everipedia is not my idea at all - Sam, Tedde and Travis took a year building that shit before I ever even saw it. In both cases, I got involved with an existing, working thing - even though I wasn’t responsible for building it, nor was I responsible for the vision. I don’t know how to code, so I can’t even help improve it. That’s a pretty cool deal, right?
Why do these companies let me on board? Well, I’ve never had a title at either one - just “cofounder” - but I guess my main purpose in both cases is to be the dude who builds a community of users. That's funny, because I am a misanthrope: I hate people - especially young people! Their youthful curiosity and enthusiasm just totally grosses me out. Still, can't argue with results: Genius didn't get to an Alexa ranking under 1000 without attracting a few people.
People Be For Profit
If you think about it, building communities is the only valuable on the Internet. Even though internet software is extremely difficult to build, it is, in fact, all a huge commodity. Rap Genius and Everipedia were extremely complicated projects, but at the same time, I’m guessing the engineering team of Facebook or Google could build either of them in a day. So the thing that actually makes these sites valuable is that there is a community of intelligent people who think this is the best outlet for their wisdom.
On Everipedia, we have ballers like Laval, a USC med student who uses Everipedia as his poetic outlet, the Renaissance Man that he is. We have Anne Cohen, a brilliant blogger and model who takes pleasure in running arts and entertainment coverage on Everipedia, and makes it a part of her media empire.
Genius has a lot of Geniuses, too, of course. There is the famed EwokABDevito aka William Goodwin - a man who will undoubtedly win a lot of money on Jeopardy someday, and I have no doubt that his massive contributions on Genius will have helped prepare him for the big showdown when that day comes! William even has a higher IQ score on Genius than I do - almost unheard of.
Become the Most Exclusive Club Around
How do I attract these users to my sites, you ask? Well, the truth is, I really don’t want them there. This was especially true with Genius. I didn't care about money or growing the company - I am a Socialist - when we started Genius. I just wanted it to be a custom blogging platform for my brilliant witticisms. When other people started using the site, it always made me jealous and angry! To this day - even though Ewok has a higher IQ than I do - I have one of the highest IQs on the site, even though I’ve been banned from it for about a year and a half. If you go back and look up any TRULY classic rap lyrics, from the Biggie/2pac “Golden Age” of rap music, 9 times out of 10 I will be the one who wrote the annotation. To win over VIPs like Ewok, you've shouldn't just make it the most exclusive club, but you should have the most fun of anyone on it.
With Everipedia, I am trying to be a little bit more inclusive. I’m older now, more mature, so I actually want others to join me! Also Everipedia is a more interactive experience. Unlike Genius, multiple people can contribute information without feeling like they are crowding each other out. But still - I have the 3rd highest IQ on Everipedia! I’m running pretty close with Anne, the only dude who is truly killing me is my cofounder Travis Moore, and I am committed to eventually handing him his ass!
And so, in conclusion, I believe that the best way to build an online community is to be a hardcore misanthrope and try to just keep the site all to yourself. I don’t think of myself as a “Community Manager” to be honest, I think of myself as “Chief Executive User” ...or “User-in-Chief”.
Plus, if my strategy doesn’t work for you, you never build a community and your site simply stalls - look at the bright side: you will have a really neat, unique blog that you can call your very own!