The Broken Windows Theory

“If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.” So says the broken windows theory, introduced by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson in 1982, and widely adopted in law enforcement circles.

Though the theory was created with crime in mind, it has been adopted by many industries and vocations, including online community. I have seen it come up numerous times in our industry and, in talking with other veterans of the space, we’ve been applying it for quite a while.

Broken windows policing has plenty of critics and defenders. Depending on who you talk to, it has either contributed to the reduction crime or served as an enabler of oppressive policing (or both). Dr. Kelling argues that zealotry and poor implementation are the problem, and that leniency and discretion, both vital to good community policing, have been lost in the shuffle. He boils the theory down to the “simple idea of small things matter.” Plus:

  • What he would change about the original 1982 introduction of broken windows
  • How discretion and leniency factor into the application of laws
  • The misapplication of social science and theories

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How a Strict Paywall Affects Community at the Financial Times

Many online news media outlets, especially those that were borne out of print publications, have paywalls. You might be able to view a handful of articles, but you have to pay to keep reading. However, some paywalls are stricter than others.

The Financial Times is strict. I was able to read one article, via a Twitter link, and then no more. How does having such a strict paywall affect on-site community building? Community manager and “comments advocate” Lilah Raptopoulos joins the show to talk about it. Plus:

  • What having wealthier commenters does to the comments
  • How the Financial Times identifies the value of on-site community efforts
  • The thing Lilah would like to do next when she secures development resources for the FT comments

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Keeping Open Source Software Developers Connected to Users

You might not realize it, but you use open source software, where the source code has been released with a license enabling it to be freely used, changed and distributed. Even if you know about open source, you may not know any of the people who contributed to that software.

Traditionally, a lot of the development that occurs in open source happens in code repositories and bug trackers, and those are not places that the users of the software tend to hang out. With this separation between developers and users, those contributors may not always get their due.

Alessio Fattorini, community manager for NethServer, an open source Linux server distribution, believes in exposing that development process to the users who, even if they may not understand the nuts and bolts of it, will then be in a better position to see the work that goes into the project, and appreciate the people behind it. We also talk about:

  • The state of community management in Italy
  • Create a welcoming environment in technical communities, and why they pose a unique challenge
  • Why developers can be tempted to keep discussions around open source development private

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National Geographic Turns to Online Community to Find Amazing Photos

4 years ago, National Geographic, the 129 year old publication known for big, bold photography, launched a photo sharing community. Your Shot provided community members with an opportunity to interact with National Geographic photographers and editors, receive feedback on their photos and possibly even have those photos featured by National Geographic online and in print.

Since then, National Geographic’s usage of photos coming from the community has grown, on their website, on social media and in the magazine. Community manager Christina Shorter is our guest on this episode of Community Signal, discussing the management of Your Shot, including:

  • Why they limit community members to 15 photo uploads per week
  • The work done by the two National Geographic photo editor assigned to the community
  • Their efforts to weed out photos that have been excessively manipulated

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Photobucket Just Damaged Millions (Billions?) of Posts in Online Communities

Many online communities do not allow members to upload images to include in their posts. In such cases, members often rely on third party image hosting services. Among the most popular of these, for a long time, has been Photobucket.

But last month, Photobucket made a change. After 14 years of allowing people to upload images for free and embed them within posts on online communities, in blogs and on websites – they stopped. Without notice. Immediately, quite possibly billions of images across the web broke, and were replaced with what some have compared to a ransom note, imploring people to pay if they want their image to be displayed. The price: $39.99 a month or $399.99 a year.

This has led to widespread media coverage and criticism, much of it coming from online communities impacted by the change. Former MetaFilter director of operations Jessamyn West, who recently participated in a community-led effort to migrate from one image sharing service to another, joins the show, alongside copyright expert Jonathan Bailey, to sift through this story and what online communities should take away from it. Including:

  • Why Photobucket’s rollout of this change guaranteed people would leave their service
  • How online communities can respond to situations like this
  • What copyright implications community owners should be aware of

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Facebook Doesn’t Protect Black Children, But They Did Add “Community” to Their Mission Statement, So…

There has been a lot of talk in the community industry about the Facebook Communities Summit, and how the company announced they had added the word “community” to their mission statement. I’ve seen a lot of “rah rah” from people saying how important this is for our work.

Less than a week after that event, ProPublica published leaked Facebook moderator training materials that, in no uncertain terms, said that the platform protects “white men,” but not “black children.” The deafening silence in the industry, as compared to the noise about Facebook adding a word to their mission statement, has been incredible.

For a critical look at these issues, we changed the format of Community Signal for the first time ever, putting together a panel of previous guests, who are veterans of the industry: Scott Moore of Digital Promise Global and Venessa Paech of Australia Post. Among our topics:

  • What adding “community” to Facebook’s mission statement actually means
  • How the announced Facebook Groups improvements impact their viability as a tool
  • The glaring problems with Facebook’s leaked moderation training documents

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Why You Should Befriend Your Competitors

In May of 2001, I launched a martial arts community with a focus on respectful discussion and a generally family friendly atmosphere. The very next month, Bob Hubbard did the exact same thing. From an outward perspective, you might label us competitors and expect us to dislike each other.

But we developed a friendship based upon mutual respect, which allowed us to compare notes and share knowledge around common challenges. On this episode, we discuss the benefits of being friendly with those managing “competing” communities. Plus:

  • Community “brigading,” or coordinated attacks meant to disrupt an online community
  • The threats that we received running communities where, more often than not, the members have been taught a form of physical combat
  • How Bob approached selling his forum

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Threats to Civil Discourse Online

It feels like the quality of discourse in the United States, and many other countries, gets worse every single day. Especially political discourse. But in online community settings, it is possible to identify the the threads to civil discourse and neutralize them.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) gives tools and tactics to elected officials, the media and the public, in an effort to help everyone engage in a more civil way. NICD director of social media Tracey Todd joins the show to discuss a series of common threats to civil discourse, and how we might approach them. Plus:

  • The impact of Donald Trump on discourse
  • Has civility become a buzzword used by those who aren’t actually civil?
  • Where Tracey finds optimism in discourse right now

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Facebook’s Wake-Up Call for Jive and Enterprise Social Networks

Six and a half years ago, Kim England, global community director at multinational publishing and education company Pearson, led the company’s transition from a disjointed collection of more than 130 intranets, to an enterprise social network (ESN) powered by Jive.

Recently, she said that Facebook’s move into the ESN space “should act as a wake-up call to Jive that they need to put collaboration and conversation back at the heart of their product.” Kim joins the show to talk about the current state of ESNs and what’s missing. Plus:

  • The recent $462 million dollar acquisition of Jive and what it means for customers like Pearson
  • What will determine the “winners and losers” in the ESN space over the next few years
  • How well-connected ESNs help companies make better decisions across cultures, globally

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GoDaddy’s Community Move

When GoDaddy hired Christopher Carfi at the start of 2014, it caught my attention. GoDaddy was a company that, at one time, I thought I would never want to be a customer of. I didn’t like the brand, didn’t like marketing, didn’t like upselling, didn’t like the old CEO.

But after Blake Irving was hired as CEO, I noticed positive change. That was nice, but they still didn’t have my business. When they hired Christopher, it caught my eye because here was an experienced community mind that I respected joining a company I once didn’t.

I watched their continued cultural shift and their embrace of community. Through 5+ years of solid work, GoDaddy has washed away that old perspective I had and, somehow, they won me over, where my previous registrar, Enom, had neglected me. I am now a GoDaddy customer. Christopher joins the show to talk about this shift, plus:

  • What community means in a world where we’re interacting with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • How community fits into content marketing
  • The things we can learn from Burning Man, which Christopher is a veteran of

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