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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“[We limit community members to 15 photo uploads per day because] we want people to be a little bit more strategic and more thoughtful with what they’re uploading because our mission is to tell stories together. You need to be thoughtful. You can take a photo, but when you think a little bit more about your title and your caption, it contributes to something larger and, also, because there are only two photo editors right now, and they do look at every single photo uploaded to our community.” -@shortercr
“Our community, they wanted more engagement, so a small group of them, they created their own Facebook group. I joined it a month after I started working at National Geographic, so I’ve been there for two years. I only step in if they tag me, if I need to step in. For the most part, it’s their space, which is awesome.” -@shortercr
About Christina Shorter
Christina Shorter is the community manager for National Geographic, where she focuses on Your Shot, a global community of 800,000+ storytellers. Her interest in community started with her first internship, where she cultivated community for families of U.S. diplomats abroad. In her free time, she’s most likely checking out the latest art exhibit in D.C. or facetiming her nieces.
- Sponsor: Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers
- Christina on Twitter
- National Geographic, where Christina is community manager
- Your Shot, National Geographic’s photo sharing community
- Washington National Cathedral, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the United States Botanical Garden, the Library of Congress and Adams Morgan, all of which Patrick visited on a recent trip to Washington DC
- Daily Dozen, a feature where National Geographic editors select their favorite photos uploaded to Your Shot
- National Geographic’s Photo of the Day, which comes from the Your Shot community
- National Geographic Explorers, a program through which the National Geographic Society, “fund and support groundbreaking scientists, conservationists, educators, and storytellers”
- Enric Sala, of Pristine Seas, a National Geographic Explorer who has participated in the Your Shot community
- “Being Legally Right Doesn’t Always Mean You Are Doing Right by the Community” by Patrick, about Flickr selling prints of photos uploaded by community members
- Your Shot’s Instagram profile and National Geographic’s Facebook page, where photos from members are shared
- “No, You Can’t Use My Photos On Your Brand’s Instagram for Free” by Max Dubler for PetaPixel, which Patrick initially heard from through Jonathan Bailey
- Patrick’s photo of the Can’t Stop Won’t Stop billboard in Brooklyn, above Junior’s Restaurant
- The post on Diddy’s Twitter profile where the photo was republished without permission
- Your Shot’s photo guidelines
- “Frog Wearing Umbrella,” a photo that was determined to have been staged, that they have left online as an example of what they don’t want in the Your Shot community
- Christina on Instagram
[00:00:04] Speaker: You’re listening to Community Signal. The podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers. Tweet as you listen using #communitysignal. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for listening to this episode of Community Signal. We’re talking with Christina Shorter from National Geographic about how they check photos for copyright infringement and Photoshop manipulation, and why they limit users to 15 photo uploads per week. If you’d like to hear bonus clips from the show, please join our inner circle on Patreon like Serena Snoad, Dave Gertler, and Joseph Ranallo already have. Visit communitysignal.com/innercircle for details. Christina Shorter is the community manager for National Geographic where she focuses on Your Shot, a global community of 800,000 plus storytellers. Her interest in community started with her first internship where she cultivated community for families of US diplomats abroad. In her free time, she’s most likely checking out the latest art exhibit in DC or Facetiming her nieces. Christina, welcome.
[00:01:10] Christina Shorter: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
[00:01:12] Patrick O’Keefe: I really like DC. I was there a couple months ago. It just feels so well put together like the metro is really easy. I love the monuments. I’m definitely a person who loves museums. We went to the National Cathedral, the zoo, the Botanical Garden, the Library of Congress. Spent some time at Adams Morgan and had a great time. It all seems to just fit in really well.
[00:01:31] Christina Shorter: Yes. You went all over it. A lot of people like to say, “Oh, I go to New York for cultural events or whatever”, but DC’s got a ton of it too. There’s a lot of our things happening here.
[00:01:40] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. I was down there with my girlfriend and she lives in Long Beach, New York but she spends a lot of time in the city. I’ve been in the city a lot, love New York. Even she’d say that the metro was super easy [laughs], I don’t like talking about the metro so much but I liked it.
[00:01:51] Christina Shorter: Yes. It’s accessible for people with disabilities too and that’s amazing.
[00:01:55] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s an important element for a community.
[00:01:57] Christina Shorter: Definitely.
[00:01:59] Patrick O’Keefe: Your Shot is National Geographic’s photo sharing community with a mission of telling stories collaboratively through big, bold photography and expert curation. People can upload their photos, receive feedback from the community and from National Geographic photo editors. Some photos will be featured by National Geographic online and in the magazine. You’re the only community manager at National Geographic. What sort of volume are you dealing with?
[00:02:21] Christina Shorter: It’s pretty big volume. Your Shot itself, you said earlier it’s 800,000 plus photographers. Because I’m the only community manager for National Geographic, I actually manage a group of people that’s 4.8 million plus people right now. If you can sign in to our website, I’m kind of the person who’s there if you have a problem or questions or concerns.
[00:02:43] Patrick O’Keefe: Problem logging in, website tech support type questions like if I have a problem with the website, you’re going to probably receive that inquiry.
[00:02:48] Christina Shorter: Yes, definitely. Right now with how National Geographic worked, we recently shut up our commenting system on our entire website except for in the community in Your Shot. There’s not as much engagement in online branded community elements going on except for in Your Shot but I’m also just responsible for that large volume of people or things like that. Most of the issues are Your Shot though because they are actively on our website, basically 24/7. There’s a large number of people who represent 195 countries. They are on it in any time zone.
[00:03:20] Patrick O’Keefe: How many photos are uploaded to Your Shot every week, month, whatever metric you might measure?
[00:03:24] Christina Shorter: We measure it by day. Every day there’s between 4,000 to 7,000 photos shared with us, which is a ton. [laughs]
[00:03:31] Patrick O’Keefe: It is a lot and you actually kind of I guess throttle that volume ever so slightly by not allowing photographers to upload more than 15 photos per week. Is that strictly a quality thing where you want people only to upload their best rather than unloading their camera roll or is there’s something else?
[00:03:46] Christina Shorter: It is, kind of I guess quality control. We do want people to be a little bit more strategic and be more thoughtful with what you’re uploading because our mission is to tell stories together. You need to be thoughtful. Any of them take a photo but when you think a little bit more about your title and your caption, it contributes to something larger and also because there are only two photo editors right now and they do look at every single photo uploaded to our community. Something like that too just helps with– 15, that’s a manageable number, kind of from an internal standpoint.
[00:04:18] Patrick O’Keefe: So you have two full-time photo editors who focus on Your Shot exclusively. Describe their sort of day-to-day in the community. You mention they look at every photo, what are they doing? What are they looking for? What are they doing beyond that?
[00:04:29] Christina Shorter: They’re looking at every photo uploaded to do kind of pre-edits. We do the Daily Dozen and that’s a place where we select the best 12 photos that have been submitted. It’s not from the day before or that day, it’s any photo uploaded but our editors will curate a 12 and that’s kind of like its own little story in a way. With the 12 best photos, and our members can vote on those photos and they become the top shot. The top shot photo was something they chose as their favorite one and gets shared on our Instagram and kind of in other places so it’s a great exposure place but our editors are editing for that. They’re also editing for other places where Your Shot photos get featured National Geographic including Photo of the Day.
That’s something that used to be about maybe 70% Your Shot photos and as of this year it’s a 100% powered by Your Shot and that’s here on the National Geographic homepage. They’re looking at potential photos that could be there and another photo editor that’s not Your Shot focus goes in and sees what photos he can choose to select for that feature. I would say that’s the big part of their day to day because we also run assignments that are run by other National Geographic staff or National Geographic photographers. They’re also in the discussion boards they’re helping those photographers and help the staff get acquainted with the assignment and discussion boards and all that. I help out too, but I mainly try to leave it to them just because they’re giving a lot of advice for photographers, like “Hey this theme is your family like instead of photographing straight ahead photograph them in the moment unfiltered just doing something, caught off guard per se”, instead of posed shots.
[00:06:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Did you mention that National Geographic photographers are actually involved in some of the assignments on Your Shot?
[00:06:09] Christina Shorter: Yes, that’s correct, National Geographic photographers take part in Your Shot assignments to actually help educate our photographers and say like “This is what it’s like to be on assignment with Nat Geo,” which they are all the time for our magazines. Also, we have Nat Geo Explorers, in partnership with National Geographic Society. Enric Sala, for example, he has the Pristine Seas project where he was working to protect our seas. He ran an assignment with us to kind of teach them also about his work but then also how can you photograph the ocean. How can you make this something that people want to care about? We definitely have a lot of involvement from artsy Nat Geo talent which is amazing.
[00:06:48] Patrick O’Keefe: I was curious about that and how National Geographic always being known for these amazing photographs and paying photographers. You have these professional photographers who’ve “worked the beat” so to speak for a very long time and then you have Your Shot and anyone can upload a photo. Has there been any sort of displeasure, resistance, negative feelings from traditional photographers? People who have worked at this trade for a long time and their reaction to seeing something like Your Shot and how it’s working its way into National Geographic content.
[00:07:23] Christina Shorter: I mean I wouldn’t say I’ve seen a ton of that. Some of the user feedback though that’s kind of related to what you’re touching on is “Hey, like I’m submitting my photos, shouldn’t I be getting paid?” or “Hey I’m submitting my photos like I want X Y & Z”. There’s certain demands and certain criteria that they expect from a National Geographic photo community. I will say firstly, with our community every time you upload a photo you agree to our terms of service and that is when photos are shared promoting the community like these are Your Shot photographers and these are the photos they shared with us, you aren’t paid. However, because it’s an amazing source of daily content, photos are used in other areas of National Geographic that are not related to Your Shot. Our photographers are actually paid our standard rates which is something that other international photographers also used to encountering. We do try kind of maintain that level though that, “If it’s not used for what you submitted it to, you are going to get paid”, no questions asked.
[00:08:20] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s define that a little bit, you don’t do things like, “Submit a photo it’ll go in the magazine”, you don’t do that sort of thing where it would be taken out of the website and go in the magazine but you asked for specific things like whales or sea life or whatever it may be. When you take it for something that’s beyond what it was used for, talk about that a little bit more. I see what you’re saying is like submissions for specific assignments that are used on the Your Shot website, what constitutes outside of the normal use.
[00:08:50] Christina Shorter: As you touched on like in the magazine for example, right now the way we set it up is that we run an assignment which is your chance to get published in the magazine. We used to run it as a hashtag but we noticed that the quality of photos for hashtag challenges weren’t as high as for an assignment because an assignment guarantees that there’s an actual story published. That’s something – not everyone is going to get published in the magazine, that’s impossible, but it’s a place where you can still get recognition and feedback and interaction with other members but someone from that story is chosen to be published on the Your Shot page in National Geographic magazine. It’s not every month but when it’s available, which is something amazing that there is a spot, that’s Your Shot in print.
[00:09:31] Patrick O’Keefe: That isn’t compensated because it’s what they’re submitting for?
[00:09:34] Christina Shorter: Yes, the Your Shot branded page in the magazine basically where it is is actually like this is our storytelling community, these are for whatever and so even just that alone is amazing exposure. In the same context of printed in a magazine, we had a photographer whose photos were actually used in Traveler magazine and they were some photos he had previously taken. I believe he actually took some more photos of where he lives to be submitted for a feature on Australia and something like that he was paid for that because that was him choosing to go out and take photos of where he is. It was basically an assignment. Some were taken from Your Shot but again it’s not like he submitted them to be published in a story on where he is. That was an example of where he’d be published and paid for.
[00:10:17] Patrick O’Keefe: I would like to pause here to talk about our excellent sponsor, Higher Logic. Higher Logic is the community platform for community managers with over 25 million engaged users in more than 200,000 communities. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring like-minded people together by giving their community a home where they can meet, share ideas and stay connected. The platform’s granular permissions and powerful tools, including automated workflows and consolidated email digests, empower users to create their own interest-based communities, schedule and manage events, and participate in volunteer and mentoring programs. Tap into the power your community can generate for you. Higher Logic, all together.
Now the terms of service, putting it in that context sort of reminds me of, for example, Flickr did something a couple years ago I think, where they started selling prints of photos uploaded to their website and they were just doing it of Creative Commons licensed images that had that designation. Where someone could do something commercial with them, but a lot of people didn’t know that. A lot of people did not know that that’s what that license did and so they were bothered by it.
I mean not a small number of people were hurt, left Flickr, unhappy with Flickr because even though they were legally right they did something that that very protective – as you well know more than I do – very protective of their rights, photographer community, felt was kind of beyond the pale. I’m sure there are circumstances that may come up where for example your ToS – I think we talked about this pre-show – allows you to take photos and put them on a National Geographic Instagram, right?
[00:11:51] Christina Shorter: Well your photos will be shown under the Nat Geo Your Shot Instagram and only photos from the community. But yes, you agree for the photos to be shared there. They’re also shared on our other National Geographic branded social channels, for example, the National Geographic Magazine Facebook page shares Your Shot photos but again they’re all credited to the photographer I should say that first, but it is in context of “This photo was submitted it was our in our Daily Dozen and it was voted as the favorite photo by our community” for example, for Top Shot.
[00:02:17] Patrick O’Keefe: Right, I guess my point and kind of larger point is not so much your photos but anyone is that as we all know ToS’s don’t get read. There can be times where people are surprised that something happens.
[00:02:30] Christina Shorter: There’s an article – well a blog post – going around now of a guy whose photo was shared on Instagram and he was like, “Well, if you’re going show my work you up to pay me”. I know he shared it on Reddit, I know it’s been going. I’ve seen it circulated online but basically, it’s “You can’t share my photos for free”. At least for me when I read that, the bigger issue there was that the brand never asked him in the first place that they could share his photos. I think getting permission is the number one step.
[00:03:34] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s how it should be and in your case, it really has to be because I think it would be brand damaging to do anything else.
[00:03:41] Christina Shorter: I mean, we are known for our photography.
[00:03:43] Patrick O’Keefe: Right, it’s not even like that’s a great thing, it’s like that’s what you should do. This article you referenced, petapixel.com by Max Dubler, we’ll link to it in show notes but I’ve actually seen it this week because a friend of mine is a copyright consultant, Jonathan Bailey. I have been talking to him about something to happened to me. If you know me I’m the biggest Puff Daddy fan in the world. I just am massive, massive fan and so I was in Brooklyn couple weeks ago. He has a documentary out, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, about the tour they did last year. There was a billboard for it above Junior’s cheesecake in Brooklyn. If you’re a follower of him for very long you’ll know that there was a reality show, Making the Band, where he made people walk to get him a cheesecake from Junior’s, across the Brooklyn Bridge, for the reality competition.
That billboard was there I took the picture I posted it, nicely composed shot I thought and sure enough, I see it. He posted on his Twitter and Instagram. Downloaded and uploaded it. No one asked me and it’s not even enough to give credit like it’s still a copyright violation if you don’t get permission. There was no credit if someone asked me, I’d say yes, that’s fine, credit me but they didn’t. My girlfriend was like, “Oh are you going leave it because he’s your favorite?”, and I said “Nope”. He posted this video of him when he was younger screaming “I’m a savage!” and I was like “I’m a savage about this”. What happened was – I actually know some people over there so I tried to back-channel channel and just say, “Hey, delete it and re-post it with credit. That would be ideal. Otherwise, just delete it.” Nobody said anything so I just filed a DMCA and it was down in four hours. [laughs]
[00:15:11] Christina Shorter: There you go.
[00:15:11] Patrick O’Keefe: He may be my favorite artist but I’ve spent so much money on Bad Boy Records music, so much money on rare vinyl’s that I could just download pirated off the internet – not that you should do that – and on tour tickets, and merchandise. Even when I ran a blog about their record label, we were always super respectful. Everybody was pirating music. We didn’t do it. We were respectful. I expect them to respect my rights as well. Yes, I don’t feel good about it but it’s not like it was him.
[00:15:37] Christina Shorter: No, exactly.
[00:15:37] Patrick O’Keefe: His social is run by amateurs probably half the time.
[00:15:40] Christina Shorter: Yes. I think no matter what, I see it all the time. There’s like a BuzzFeed article of some tweet that went viral. Well, you realize everyone will copy it, or whatever. Then finally, they’ll find, “Oh, it was originally posted by”. That’s never usually the first thing you see because people sometimes just aren’t willing to give the credit. They just think it’s funny and they’ll re-post it themselves instead of doing it from the app, or something like that. I just think giving credit and asking permission are just so important.
[00:16:05] Patrick O’Keefe: Dirtbags. No. Well, yes.
[00:16:09] Patrick O’Keefe: In that article by Max Dubler, he had a totally reasonable rate of $25.
[00:16:13] Christina Shorter: Oh, yes.
[00:16:13] Patrick O’Keefe: I thought one of the points that was good that he said was, “It’s not even enough to delete it,” because when that image that was posted on Diddy’s Instagram was deleted, it had more than 27,000 likes.” It had already achieved whatever value it was going to achieve for that profile. It had done it. $25 for a photo though, not a lot. That speaks to how photography is. Photographers will say this. It’s just the value of their work seems to be dropping every day because people online take it for granted. It’s easy to find copyright infringements of text, much harder to find copyright infringements of images. Let’s talk about that.
[00:16:51] Christina Shorter: Yes.
[00:16:51] Patrick O’Keefe: The photos that are uploaded to Your Shot, you want them uploaded by the photographer, the person who took it. You want people uploading photos that are theirs to share. You also don’t want photos that have been excessively manipulated by software like Photoshop. How do you enforce those standards?
[00:17:06] Christina Shorter: A lot of it is, we trust our users to follow those rules. However, we do rely on our community using our moderation tools and reporting things to us. I’m the only community manager, I need to rely on that. I help them, they help me. They’re actually really great on that. Everything will range from people who will upload National Geographic photographer photos. We obviously know you didn’t take that shot. It’s definitely, simply not yours.
[00:17:31] Patrick O’Keefe: How do you know that? Do you have some filtering technology or have you hooked up with any of these tech companies that can show you when an image is the same against the database of National Geographic photos. You can’t have an encyclopedic memory of everything, right?
[00:17:43] Christina Shorter: Oh, yes, that’s fair. We do not have that technology in place. That is definitely something that – we’re looking at a lot of things that we can do. However, for that, half the time if it’s something in question I’m like, “I feel like I’ve seen it. I’ll just do a reverse Google Image Search.”
[00:17:56] Patrick O’Keefe: There you go.
[00:17:56] Christina Shorter: It’s something that simple but that also helps it – and there’s some images you see and I’m like– It happened recently, it was like a photo of like a cat and a dog. I was like, “Oh, this feels like it could be a background.” It just felt very stock image generic. I don’t know how else to describe that. Nevertheless, I looked it up and it was. It was something that’s been being shared since like 2004. It’s just one of the things. I was like, “Oh, yes. You clearly didn’t take this photo.”
You can tell sometimes if something’s very clearly Photoshopped or excessively edited. Sometimes we can’t though. There are some images that have been uploaded where they did such a great job. If that’s the case, we need to go a little bit further like speak directly with the user and say, “We need you to send us the raw file.” We need to verify, did this break the rules, did it not.
Yes, again, half the time I would say our users end up reporting things like that. Otherwise, our editors who are looking at every photo uploaded will catch things. It might be a little bit later. Obviously, there are so many photos uploaded a day. It’s not like the day of, like today July 18th, they’re going to share a photo and then we’re going to catch it immediately if our community didn’t catch it first but it’s a teamwork effort.
[00:19:03] Patrick O’Keefe: It sounds like it might be a quick eye-check on the things that are uploaded plus reports. If there is a photo that you do take in a more meaningful way goes into the Daily Dozen, is featured somewhere-
[00:19:16] Christina Shorter: Sure.
[00:19:16] Patrick O’Keefe: – it gets a more thoroughly vetted check where it will run through something like Google Image Search. There’ll be more research done into it. People might look at a little more closely and then research it further with the photographer, where that photo that is going to be featured in a way where National Geographic will be tied to it brand-wise, that goes into a little more detail.
[00:19:33] Christina Shorter: Yes. I will say for the Daily Dozen, for example – because again, it’s the Daily Dozen, we don’t have the time to actually do all of that research beforehand. We do rely on the users just being honest whatever, but sometimes the things get published in Daily Dozen. The community will be like, “Wait a second, either I’ve seen this before, or whatever” then we’ll go through the appropriate actions there, to either remove the photo from the Daily Dozen or just research to make sure. Actually, it’s okay. If a photo is being published in the magazine that goes through a lot more vetting. That’s probably the best way to describe it, to make sure it’s in print. You do need the raw file to make sure it hasn’t been edited a ton, things like that. If it’s being published on our site, we trust our users to be submitting near correct photos and all of that. If it’s going be published in a story for example as well. Generally, our editor will review them before it’s published. He will be able to tell, “Hey, something might seem off with that” and they’ll do a little bit more research.
But so for the Daily Dozen I would say it happens after it’s been published.
[00:20:28] Patrick O’Keefe: Are there any tools you use or lean on beyond Google Image Search?
[00:20:32] Christina Shorter: There’s nothing else I use actually. I use Photoshop but not to the same extent. There’s certain things where I have to just raise it to our editors and say like, “Hey, I’m not entirely sure what was done here.” if that makes sense. Google and reverse image search has been amazing so far.
[00:20:46] Patrick O’Keefe: National Geographic built out a platform for photo sharing essentially, building its own mini Flickr but, I noticed that your shot uses Tumblr for its blog, why?
[00:20:56] Christina Shorter: That’s correct. I wasn’t actually there when that decision was made but right now, it’s definitely something where – we used to use our blog a lot more, maybe in the future we might actually integrate it onto our site but it’s not listed on Tumblr. For right now, we only end up really sharing our top shots and maybe any special announcements that we have for the community. But yes, I wasn’t there when that decision was made.
We’d love to have the pageviews. Certain metrics that are important for online communities to have are things that I would love to see it there and that’s something we’ve all talked about and we’re exploring.
[00:21:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it’s not good or bad. I was thinking you might say that or you might make a case for Tumblr. Maybe the re-shares is on Tumblr, maybe there’s something there you’re watching, right? Tumblr is not bad I’m just–
[00:21:41] Christina Shorter: Yes, National Geographic as a brand is actually pretty big on Tumblr.
[00:21:44] Patrick O’Keefe: Right, makes sense.
[00:21:45] Christina Shorter: There are certain accounts that are big but, yes, just for us. We haven’t really invested enough time to even like explore Tumblr to that extent, to really grow our platform there because we do some of those but I’m growing it on our site. I thought Instagram would be the second additional platform we actually spend time growing and cultivating.
[00:22:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Going back to identifying problems, in the pre-show questionnaire you told me that, “Sometimes it’s hard to balance the need to deal with a situation directly with a user and assuring the community it’s handled and that they don’t need to worry”. We talked about the protective nature of photographers and their work. When I read that quote it made me think of the desire to be professional when you’re handling users versus the need that some might have for say, public bloodshed for someone’s indiscretions. Do people want to see someone strung out so to speak when they see some of these egregious violations?
[00:22:35] Christina Shorter: Definitely. Our community, they wanted more engagement, so a small group of them, they created their own Facebook group. I joined it a month after I started working at National Geographic so I’ve been there for two years. I only step in if they tag me, if I need to step in. For the most part, it’s their space which is awesome. However, usually what I’ll first notice is something – and I’ll use Daily Dozen an example – there’s a photo in there that’s like, “Wait a second, I think this is completely Photoshop.” that is inevitable. So the group will start to raise a concern and they’ll all be like, “Wait a second, wait a second.” I’ll get tagged in and I’m like, “Thanks for bringing this up.” I was like, “We’re going to look into it and deal with it directly with the user.” Of course I’m not going to publicly start being like, “Wait a second, is this even right?”
[00:23:17] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re not going to have like the donkey of the day up there? In the headline you’re not going to have like, “The dummy of the day”?
[00:23:23] Christina Shorter: With any issue you know, confidentiality. We’re not putting anyone on blast, we’re not, whatever. We just want an answer. Once, we’ve done, that I would say, the photo gets removed in the Daily Dozen. Some users will just be like, “Oh well, clearly we were right judging it up, What did they say? Can you tell me Christina? Tell me what’s up.” I can’t but sometimes it’s just very tough when something that’s dealt with and they’re like, “No, I still need to know more.” I’m like, “We heard your concerns and we looked into it and thank you again.” But usually, that’s not enough for some people and I think they just want to see that happening in real time. They just want to know the answers and we’re all curious so I can understand. Some people have that element just a little bit more than others.
[00:24:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, and it works in our favor and against us sometimes to be professional to not air dirty laundry. There are cases where you’d kick someone off the community and people want to know why and adhering to that standard doesn’t provide people with a satisfying answer where they would be okay with it. They’ll say, “Oh yes, that was an awful thing.” You could be dealing with just the worst person but because you have that professional standard, they might be viewed as great because you couldn’t explain why.
[00:24:28] Christina Shorter: Yes, and actually just the point you brought up too, in order to leave our community you actually have to ask us. You can’t delete your account yourself but you just ask us and we’ll do it. Recently, we were doing user testing for a new feature and someone brought up “Hey, I knew this person was on there and they used to really engage with me and comment on things and they’re gone.” I was like, “Well, they actually asked for their account to be deleted.” It was just funny because some people they were like, “Yes, I just want the reasons why and it’s known”. I’m like “Well, people do things at their own discretion and that’s definitely some dragging within the community people forget that, I think if you will engage to someone, you don’t know what’s going on in their offline life. They could have various reasons for doing something. That’s also something too that we have to balance. People are very engaged on our site, they notice when you know, someone’s gone or some things happen.
[00:25:17] Patrick O’Keefe: I would say for some, it would be an accomplishment to have a group of users of a sizable number who have taken it upon themselves to create an unofficial Facebook group for the community. Some people might fear that but I think it’s inevitable, like you don’t control people and it’s kind of a good thing and, that you’re tapped into it, is a good thing.
[00:25:36] Christina Shorter: They felt a need for something and we embrace that. We can’t provide a space exactly like that for them. They made their own. We think that’s great.
[00:25:43] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it’s a great point because it’s not a chitchat platform. It’s not really a platform for chitchat. I’m sure it goes on in the comments there’s some off-topic chatter that always happens.
[00:25:51] Christina Shorter: Yes, it goes on the discussion boards for assignments but the discussion has to be about that assignment. We try to keep it on topic.
[00:25:58] Patrick O’Keefe: A lot of what goes on in the comments is like, “Great camera or what settings or what kind of technical discussion?” If you want to talk to someone about, I don’t know, whether they’re planning to shoot next April or something, then it’s not quite ready for that. It’s not the focus of the platform.
[00:26:14] Christina Shorter: Some people, too, it’s like, “I have these two photos, which one should I submit?” It’s even getting that question answered. As we talked about earlier there’s a 15 photo a week limit. Some people like, “I took like 20 photos at this one place”. Before I upload it online to Your Shot, they’ll upload it to the Facebook group and they’re like, “Which one do you think is best?” That’s something great if they found the place where they can do that. It’s back to, they are being a lot more thoughtful, which is amazing. The educational aspect of Your Shot is also something to that we push which is why it’s open to anyone. Anyone can take a photo, anyone can share but given no matter what level you’re on, there’s always room to grow and that’s why we think being thoughtful and all of that helps with educating you on taking better photos with more meaningful captions.
[00:26:57] Patrick O’Keefe: Something we talked about on the show, before, but it’s a good case for limiting activity. Limiting something because too often the default behavior is just to allow it. Especially at the start, it’s just everything – you don’t want to stop people from contributing. If they want to be there, if they’re locked in, if they’re on your community that’s great keep them there. There are all sorts of reasons why you might want to limit something in your case for quality and for just the sake of volume. Also, like newer communities, communities with noise issues or moderation shortages or any number of things.
You could say, “You can post three topics this week, make them good”. Some people would say that’s bad but honestly for some communities it makes a ton of sense to say take a step back and say, “Okay you get this number of stuff this week. You know, use it wisely”. Beyond copyright and image manipulation, your photo guidelines also require that you behave ethically when you’re taking your photos. Don’t harm or manipulate the subject or its environment for the sake of getting a great photo. Be honest in your caption, no cloning. What are some lies that you’ve caught people in?
[00:27:59] Christina Shorter: A great example would be for nature photography. Back to don’t manipulate your environment. We had an image that was in Daily Dozen where a guy was on a boat and they were feeding fish. He took a photo of that moment but some people thought, “Oh no he’s just trying to get them, he’s just doing whatever.” He was actually on a nature reserve and that was just part of it, they were just feeding. That was a natural moment happening. There are some cases and there’s actually a photo that was uploaded, kind of in the beginning of Your Shot, where it looks like a frog is holding a leaf, as if it’s an umbrella.
Well that photo – and we kept it on as an example of this is what you’re not supposed to do, that the guy posed that the frog in that position, which is again not something you’re supposed to do. Especially for National Geographic, we photograph what’s happening in the world. We’re not posing things. It was definitely a lie. That’s an image we’ve kept online just because and there’s a note on there to say, “Hey this is not what you’re supposed to do.” This is exactly what our photo guidelines – perfect example, don’t pose things in the wild. I’d say nature photos actually are probably the biggest way to catch something like that. Where it’s like that’s not an animal’s natural habitat or something’s going on or you placed it there. I think things look at that too, we have resources at National Geographic where we can like raise that concern of like, “Hey, is this unethical photo, is this actually that animal’s habitat or is this how they would normally pose or be”.
[00:29:22] Patrick O’Keefe: Are there any photos that you’ve had to deal with that were so obviously wrong but the person was insistent. “I feel like, this is real, this is totally real.” Even though you can clearly see this is not right.
[00:29:35] Christina Shorter: Not in the nature sense. I will say in the not-safe-for-work sense. I would say there are some photos that are very clearly not safe for work, which is also not allowed in our community. Some people have defended the photos they’ve shared for artistic reasons. It’s still not something allowed. Regardless of what your intent was for that photo it’s not allowed and I’ve been very shocked at some of the responses I’ve gotten back from people defending the images they’ve shared, I get a good laugh out of it. It is surprising. It is something, too, where I’m like, “This isn’t the platform for you sharing a very not-safe-for-work artistic photo. Find another community, find another platform where maybe something like that best fits.” That’s actually something that we do deal with on a larger basis.
[00:30:18] Patrick O’Keefe: Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show today and for sharing your experience with us.
[00:30:22] Christina Shorter: Thank you for having me.
[00:30:24] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Christina Shorter, community manager for National Geographic. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @ShorterCR. For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad; see you next week.
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