Level Up Your Community with Amy Jo Kim’s Principles of Game Thinking

Amy Jo Kim‘s work building social systems and online experiences for The Sims, Rock Band, Ultima Online, and the New York Times, to name a few, makes her an industry go-to when businesses and clients have questions about creating engaging experiences for gamers, shoppers, and more.

Amy Jo is the author of Community Building on the Web (2000) and Game Thinking (2018). While some think of her as a community professional because of her writing and others know her more for her work in games, Amy Jo sees her work as continuous and intertwined.

She was tackling questions around user incentives and gamification decades ago and even then she thought, “is it too late for me to write a book?” Let’s all take that as a lesson that it’s never too late to share what we’ve learned and then, as she says: “Keep going, keep getting better, keep developing new frameworks that give people value.”

Patrick and Amy Jo also discuss:

  • Amy Jo’s experience getting a community book published in 2000
  • Why simply just implementing “PBL” (points, badges, and leaderboards) likely won’t take your community very far
  • Focusing on the “middle” of your community experience
  • How inclusivity and diversity factor into game thinking
Continue reading “Level Up Your Community with Amy Jo Kim’s Principles of Game Thinking”

Building Inclusive Communities, Workplaces, and an Inclusive Profession

If you’re reading this, we’re guessing that you are in the community management profession. Hi, how are you holding up? Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and too many other Black people, ongoing protests for an end to systemic racism and inequality, and a looming presidential election that has a lot riding on it, life has been more challenging than usual, to say the least. And as community managers, we’re at the center of many of these conversations.

Whether we’re creating spaces for people to safely discuss these challenging topics, working to build and foster diverse communities and teams, or helping companies make the leap to a fully digital workplace, our skills and work are in high demand.

In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick speaks to three community professionals about how current events have impacted their lives and how they think about building inclusive communities. In the day-to-day, that might mean guiding conversations within our communities. In the broader sense, it’s thinking about how we build communities, tools, and platforms that have diversity, equity, inclusion, and the knowledge from our collective decades of experience in community management baked in from day one.

As our guest Bassey Etim puts it, “we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, and we’re Called, and I mean ‘called’ with a capital C, Called to try to make this a more fair and just world.” 

Listen to Patrick, Bassey, Marjorie Anderson, and Nina Collins as they discuss the following and more:

  • Supporting hard conversations in spaces where they need to happen
  • Building platforms that encourage diversity and stamp out racism
  • Identifying broader candidate groups when hiring
  • Designing systems that allow for proper flagging of abuse
Continue reading “Building Inclusive Communities, Workplaces, and an Inclusive Profession”

The Most Accessible Deserted Island Conference Ever

How many virtual conferences and events have you attended recently? Now compare that to the amount of time you’ve spent playing video games during the past few months. Not giving too much away, Patrick and I would probably agree that we’ve spent more time on the latter. With screen time dominating our lives and in-person gatherings largely on hold, how can we rise to the challenge of bringing communities together in accessible, refreshing, and fun ways? 

In this episode of Community Signal, principal developer advocate Austin Parker shares how he used tools like Twitch, OBS, Discord, and yes, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, to throw a deserted island conference like no other. Austin doesn’t expect every conference from here on out to be hosted in the video game, but he does hope that the pandemic and his experience with Deserted Island DevOps encourages all of us to think outside of the box when it comes to creating experiences for our communities. In his words: “You don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be a master event planner. You don’t need $10,000 to go rent a ballroom at the Sheraton. You can make something that’s engaging, and creative, that people like, and people will come and listen to it. You can share knowledge and you can build a community using stuff that is either free or fairly inexpensive.”

Austin and Patrick also talk about:

  • Pros and cons of in-person and virtual events
  • The moderation tools, volunteers, and code of conduct that helped make Deserted Island DevOps happen nearly seamlessly
  • How Austin grinded to get enough bells to pull off the conference
Continue reading “The Most Accessible Deserted Island Conference Ever”

Community Management Before Section 230, When You Had to Print Out Every Post

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has been a frequent topic of conversation on Community Signal. Its existence as we know it seems untenable given Trump’s recent executive order and Joe Biden’s criticisms of it. On this episode, community and social media professional David Flores shares some of the history of how Section 230 came to be.

David worked at Prodigy just as they were coming under fire for a post that someone left on one of their message boards. While the initial court ruling went against Prodigy and found that online service providers could be held liable for the speech of their users, this decision served as the genesis for Section 230, and the ruling was overturned by the new law.

He also shares how he entered the field of community management and describes navigating moderation at Prodigy in the ’80s and ’90s. For context, all deleted posts were printed so as to maintain a record. He also discusses conversations with early community platforms and how Prodigy attempted to look after its employees’ emotional wellbeing during times of turmoil at work.

Here’s more of what Patrick and David discuss:

  • What was it like moderating before Section 230?
  • Editorial standards as a framework for community moderation practices
  • The popularity of Prodigy’s message boards
Continue reading “Community Management Before Section 230, When You Had to Print Out Every Post”

Facebook Promoted Divisive Content to Boost User Engagement

For years, Facebook executives have persistently shut down efforts to make the site less divisive, according to reporting from Deepa Seetharaman and Jeff Horwitz of The Wall Street Journal.

As community professionals, we’re tasked with helping people start and participate in conversations that matter to them. We’re often held accountable by “engagement” metrics –– such as the number of people participating in conversations and the sentiment surrounding those conversations.

But in this conversation with reporter Jeff Horwitz, you’ll learn that while Facebook obviously wants to gain more attention from users and increase time spent on the platform, there’s less internal consensus around the ethical dilemma of reaching these engagement goals by amplifying divisive groups and content. Alternatively, a lack of concrete metrics to measure impact is perhaps one of the things stopping Facebook from taking a step back and thinking about how their platform is impacting the world.

Is Facebook already too much of a monolith to change its path? Or is Mark Zuckerberg still not convinced that the company is at the center of a moral dilemma when it comes to polarizing its members and advancing the spread of misinformation?

In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick talks to Jeff about the article and dives into the context surrounding the story learned while talking to Facebook employees. They discuss:

  • The engineers that are continuously pushing to build a more fair and just Facebook
  • How decision-making works at Facebook
  • Why “social good” has fallen out of favor
Continue reading “Facebook Promoted Divisive Content to Boost User Engagement”

How HER Puts Its LGBTQ+ Community’s Safety First

People have gotten crafty when it comes to staying connected during this time of social distancing. Zoom calls with family and friends, Animal Crossing weddings, and drive-through birthday parties are just a few of the ways we’re showing up for the people we care about. HER, a dating and social app for LGBTQ+ womxn and queer people, is also doing its part to foster safe socializing for its community. That said, you might say this comes as first nature to HER, because safety has always been a must when it comes to representing and providing a space for their members.

In this episode of Community Signal, HER’s head of community, Shana Sumers, discusses the recent changes that have been made to help community members stay connected during the pandemic. She also shares some of the tools and policies that keep members of HER safe from scams and persecution because of their sexual identity or gender orientation.

Patrick and Shana also discuss:

  • How community moderators make a difference on HER
  • Reasons why members find value in HER even after finding a partner through the community
  • Delivering a premium and safe experience on HER without forcing everyone to pay a premium
  • Why the 40+ community is Shana’s favorite on the app
Continue reading “How HER Puts Its LGBTQ+ Community’s Safety First”

Building Community During a Pandemic at Pandora and SiriusXM

We’re several months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the daily loss of lives is still devastating and the longterm effects on our communities and society as a whole have yet to be seen. For many of us, the pandemic has affected our routines, our families, our work, and our livelihood. While some online communities have seen more engagement from community members (I love this story that mentions how Ethel’s Club pivoted from a brick and mortar social club to an online one), we’re also seeing tremendous layoffs across all industries.

Amidst all of this and despite being just a few months old, Pandora’s community is aspiring to be a space where members can connect over music and everything impacting their lives right now. In this episode, community manager Erick Linares shares the strategy behind the launch of the Pandora community and how he’s working with his team to foster great conversations.

Patrick and Erick also discuss:

  • Why Erick thinks a superuser program will be integral to the Pandora community
  • The challenge of making the case for a new community during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How the mentorship Erick received at Fitbit propelled his career growth and how he’s paying it forward
Continue reading “Building Community During a Pandemic at Pandora and SiriusXM”

Community Programs for Brands, Ambassadors, and Your Team

Nicholas Tolstoshev is talking programs. Brand representative programs, where brands pay you for access to your community. Ambassador programs, where you reward your best contributors. And empathy programs, where you help your coworkers see things from the eyes of your members and customers. 

This discussion also ends on a note that we probably all need to hear right now, and that’s the importance of leaning on and being honest with each other about our shared challenges of navigating life and work during the pandemic. Nicholas shares how he has worked to start these honest and difficult conversations at Automox. Here’s to workplaces that are being encouraging and understanding during these difficult times.

Patrick and Nicholas also discuss:

  • Building ambassador programs and empathy programs to strengthen communities
  • Empowering community members to create and moderate conversations of their own
  • How Nicolas cultivates the internal employee community at Automox
Continue reading “Community Programs for Brands, Ambassadors, and Your Team”

Managing Communities of IT Pros and MMORPG Players

Every community has its own shared language and for the Spiceworks community, that shared language revolves around IT. Made up of IT professionals and service providers that support them, the Spiceworks community convenes to share their collective expertise and find solutions.

In this episode of Community Signal, Sean Dahlberg, director of community at Spiceworks, shares how his team approaches community management and how they ensure that the community continues to offer value to its members, even as the company endures organizational change. Spiceworks was acquired last year by Ziff Davis and co-founder Jay Hallberg rcently announced his resignation. In response, Sean says that he and his team have prioritized being as open and honest with the community as possible in an effort to avoid rumors and reassure the community that the company is still committed to offering value to its members.

Sean and Patrick also discuss:

  • Sean’s transition from the Marine Corps, to the gaming industry, to Spiceworks
  • The pepper scale system, which allows Spiceworks members to level up based on their specific area of expertise
  • How Sean balanced the needs of Star Wars fans and MMORPG players
Continue reading “Managing Communities of IT Pros and MMORPG Players”

How Online Communities are Responding to Coronavirus COVID-19

We started recording this episode about a week before its release, and since then, coronavirus COVID-19 has continued to spread across the globe. News and governmental guidance is being updated frequently and people in many regions are being mandated to stay home as much as possible in an effort to help flatten the curve.

The pandemic has obviously impacted online communities, too. In this episode of Community Signal, I (Carol), along with community professionals Serena Snoad and Rose Barrett share our communities have changed in recent weeks. But amongst the three of us, there was a common theme –– the work of maintaining our communities as sources of helpful and reliable information is more important than ever.

If you have a story to share about how your community has been impacted, we’d love to hear from you. But most of all, we hope that you are well, practicing social distancing, and doing your part to stay at home as much as you can.

Here’s some of what you’ll find in this episode:

  • How we can help restaurants and food industry professionals as they brace for the impact of the pandemic
  • Tips from a remote work community on how to adapt to working out of your home
  • Evaluating misinformation about COVID-19 and maintaining your community as a space for accurate information
Continue reading “How Online Communities are Responding to Coronavirus COVID-19”