Breaking: Online Community Consultant Discovers Brand New Concept (Again!)

Online community consultants aren’t unlike consultants for any other area of work. Some are ethical, smart, and talented, and some aren’t. Consultants also don’t often make great guests for the show because they view it as yet another lead generational funnel for them to shout generalities into.

But hopefully an exception is this episode with community consultant Jenny Weigle. On it, we discuss how being humble is often at odds with how many consultants promote themselves, as they place a certain importance on appearing authoritative and revelatory, even if that isn’t actually correct in the context of the history of this work.

Can you even be a community consultant or an online community resource if you haven’t taken a concept pioneered 30 years ago and thrown your logo on it?

We also discuss:

Continue reading “Breaking: Online Community Consultant Discovers Brand New Concept (Again!)”

Kinks vs. Crimes and Gender-Inclusive Content Moderation at Grindr

Bodies aren’t moderated equally on the internet. Content moderation efforts, especially those at large, mainstream platforms, can suffer from policy-based bias that results in moderation centering a cisgender gaze. This reinforcing of heteronormativity can leave some of your most vulnerable community members – and potential community members – feeling alienated, ostracized, and simply unwelcome.

Last year, in her role as CX escalations supervisor at Grindr, Vanity Brown co-authored a whitepaper, Best Practices for Gender-Inclusive Content Moderation. Insightful, with a straight forward approach to making content moderation just a bit better, I found that it was also a validation of good, thoughtful moderation that has been going on for a long time.

Vanity joins the show to talk about these efforts, which are tempered by a realistic acknowledgement of the limitations of this work, and how our need to be in other places (like app stores) can often slow down the progress we’d like to make.

We also discuss:

  • Why it’s not our job to guess the gender of our members
  • The state of AI trust and safety tools
  • ChatGPT, Midjourney, and how much to worry about them
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Safeguarding a Diabetes Charity Community and Knowing if You’ve Done the Right Thing

Safeguarding is a term used in Ireland and the United Kingdom that covers efforts to protect the health, wellbeing, and human rights of people, especially children and those who are otherwise vulnerable.

At Diabetes UK, four people alternate by week as the safeguarding lead, helping to protect those that the charity comes in contact with. One of them is Josh Poncil, the online community and learning manager. Among his responsibilities is Diabetes UK’s online forum.

On this episode, we talk about safeguarding and knowing if you’ve done the right thing at the end of the day, plus:

  • What is considered “too technical” for the average member to answer in a diabetes community?
  • How Josh writes for a vulnerable audience
  • Moderation decisions that could trigger a meltdown
Continue reading “Safeguarding a Diabetes Charity Community and Knowing if You’ve Done the Right Thing”

Empowering Employee Resource Group Leaders With Your Internal Community Platform

Lori Harrison-Smith

Employee resource groups (ERGs) can do a lot to create a greater sense of belonging at your organization. But the folks who volunteer to lead these groups may find themselves in need of help when it comes to utilizing perhaps the greatest tool at their disposal: Your internal employee community platform.

As a community strategist within large organizations, Lori Harrison-Smith has trained employees to help them get the most out of these platforms.

She has also managed two large migrations, both from Jive, and that has led her to have a (in her words) cynical perspective on the resources made available for these migrations, by both companies and the software vendors themselves.

Lori and Patrick discuss:

  • Doing something for an employee vs. showing them how to do it themselves
  • How much the ERG leaders she’s worked with have dipped into moderation
  • The short timeframes given to internal community migrations
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When Companies Sponsor Their Employees to Contribute to Open Source Software

WordPress, the popular open source CMS, powers a reported 43%+ of the web, including this site. It is backed by a global community of contributors who volunteer their time in all sorts of ways, from code to documentation to training. But did you know that many of the project’s biggest contributors are sponsored by their employer to provide that time?

As we discussed with Brad Williams of WebDevStudios, the success of WordPress has created an economy around the software, growing and launching many businesses that serve the needs of its users, from personal blogs to major corporations. And one of the way those companies give back is through these sponsorships.

No company is more tied to WordPress than Automattic, the owners of, which was founded by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. Hugh Lashbrooke is the head of community education at Automattic, which sponsors him for 40 hours a week, primarily to contribute to WordPress’ training team.

Hugh joins us on this episode to give us an inside look at these sponsorship arrangements and how they influence WordPress team dynamics. Plus:

  • What happens when a company stops sponsoring an employee to contribute to WordPress?
  • The flexibility you need to work with volunteers on such a massive project
  • “Public by default” as a standard of work
Continue reading “When Companies Sponsor Their Employees to Contribute to Open Source Software”

The Community Management Jobs You Turn Down

What are the reasons why you would voluntarily end the interview process for a community role? If you give it some thought, you’ll probably come up with some!

Ryan Arsenault and Patrick share real stories from their careers, giving the reasons why they decided against continuing to interview with certain companies, including some you’ve heard of.

This leads to a conversation on the community opportunists, and how Web3 and NFT projects often fit into this category. What does it mean for your career if a rug pull happens on your NFT project? What responsibility do community industry players have in hyping these projects? After they remove the .eth from their handle, who is left holding the bag?

Patrick and Ryan also discuss:

  • The simple question Patrick asks recruiters to understand if what they are building is a community
  • Using “community” as a manipulation tactic
  • Why Web3 hype feels different from Web2 hype
Continue reading “The Community Management Jobs You Turn Down”

Cohort-Based Online Communities: Exploitation or Real Connection?

If you threw a random group of people together, united primarily by a shared educational goal that they can accomplish with or without the group, and had two weeks to build a sense of community among them, what would you do?

That’s what Alex Witkowski spends time thinking about. He’s the community lead for Section4, which offers business courses they call sprints. These sprints are typically around two weeks long and then the experience is over – if you want it to be. If you don’t want it to be, you can continue to benefit from and collaborate with the students that took the same course.

Alex oversees a team of four community managers that guides this growing number or cohorts and hopes to bring then together through an upcoming alumni membership program. He also believes that cohort-based communities often exploit community rather than build it. We chat about that, plus:

  • Alex’s transition from English teacher to community pro and the condescension he felt when making the move
  • How he determines when a community manager simply has too many cohorts
  • Why Slack may not be the right tool for their alumni product
Continue reading “Cohort-Based Online Communities: Exploitation or Real Connection?”

While Making a Mixtape, Asher Roth Built an Online Community

Photo: Drew Dennis

In between his three albums, rapper Asher Roth has released several mixtapes, including 2011’s Pabst & Jazz and his The Greenhouse Effect series. The third entry in that series, The Greenhouse Effect Vol. 3, hit streaming services on September 3, 2021.

But there’s something about his latest mixtape that makes it unique from every album, EP, and mixtape he’s released so far: It was a collaboration with his online community of fans and supporters.

As Asher contemplated making music during the COVID-19 pandemic, he came up with an idea: What if The Greenhouse Effect Vol. 3 was “entirely produced by fan/friend/follower submissions?” He set up a Discord, and off they went. He’d post acapellas – audio clips of only his vocals – and community members would produce song submissions, which Asher would review live on Twitch. The project would adopt a narrative story, adding guest verses from the community, too.

With the mixtape out, Asher stops by to talk about the collaborative process behind the release, the tools he used, and the community building lessons he learned along the way. One of the great things about this story is that the creation of this mixtape has helped birth an active online community, which Asher hopes will foster further collaborations between members.

Asher and Patrick also discuss:

  • How guardrails help encourage sustained creativity
  • Why Discord?
  • Now that it has achieved its first big goal, what’s next for the community?
Continue reading “While Making a Mixtape, Asher Roth Built an Online Community”

Section 230 and the Freedom to Remove Objectionable Content

Section 230 is a vitally important law for online community builders in the U.S. That’s why we’ve consistently talked about it on Community Signal, and the growing threat to its existence.

The volume of legislation being proposed, that would amend Section 230, is increasingly rapidly with 6 bills proposed in September and October alone. These bills will impact online communities small and large – not just Big Tech.

Whenever new Section 230 altering legislation is proposed, Jess Miers analyzes it. Jess works as a legal policy specialist at Google, while finishing up a law degree, and she joins the show to talk about what’s on the horizon.

Jess and Patrick discuss:

  • Why are legislators so focused on Section 230 right now?
  • Trends from the bills that are on the table
  • Regulators efforts to stop communities from moderating things that aren’t illegal
Continue reading “Section 230 and the Freedom to Remove Objectionable Content”

Trump’s Executive Order is a Danger to Online Communities

Black Lives Matter.

As community professionals and hosts, we have the power to cultivate thoughtful spaces online. We serve communities and, if you’re a regular listener of this show, I doubt you’re serving racists.

Systemic problems can feel overwhelming, but small things make a difference. Your community and how you manage it, regardless of the size of it, can be a part of the solution. I encourage you to think about that as you make choices that shape these platforms.

On May 28, a couple of days after Twitter added a fact-checking notice to one of his tweets, Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting online communities and platforms.

I believe that holding Trump accountable for his rhetoric and fighting white supremacy are the same fight. This executive order is designed to stop you, me, and big platforms from doing exactly that. On this episode, we’re talking with attorney Anette Beebe about the resulting fallout and answering some of your questions.

Among our topics:

  • What damage has Trump’s executive order done already?
  • How does this impact community moderation right now?
  • The publisher vs. platform “debate”
  • Does adding notices to content make you liable?
Continue reading “Trump’s Executive Order is a Danger to Online Communities”