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
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsors: Vanilla, a one-stop shop for online community and Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community.
On fostering communities that embody inclusivity and empathy (3:55): “What’s the tone that you set the minute that people sign up to come into your community and participate? What does that look and feel like? If it’s not one where it feels like people can speak up and have their voices be heard, then it’s really hard to course-correct [later on] and start to cultivate that feeling of belonging.” –@MarjorieAyyeee
Is the time for sarcasm over? (21:35): “Earnesty, applied over time, just wins people over. It’s hard to combat it with sarcasm, irony, anger, all of those things.” –@BasseyE
Do paid communities encourage less moderation and more ownership? (22:10): “I’m finding now on The Woolfer community, we have people who behave; people are in bad moods, people are feeling sensitive sometimes, but generally, they are much more earnest, and I’ve attributed it to the fact that they’re paying for it, that people value things they pay for so they take better care of the space.” -Nina Collins
When what you share is what people will hold against you (37:34): “There is always this Libertarian utopian edge to [Mark Zuckerberg’s] promises and the promise of the internet where once we free ourselves of all of our clothing, once we put everything we are out there and everybody else is naked, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, well we’re all naked. Whatever.’ It turns out that some people, even when they’re naked, they’re going to be extremely judgmental about it. I don’t think this was necessarily something that was unknowable from the perspective of a lot of the folks who built platforms that undergird the internet today.” –@BasseyE
Talking to your community members (in a real way!) about the issues that impact their lives:
“Open up the conversation gently. It doesn’t have to be, ‘What do you think of Black Lives Matter?’ It can be, ‘This is an unprecedented time that we’re in. I want to know how you’re feeling,’ and let them talk. … You know there are people who are likely hurting and [if] you ignore that, how much does that make them feel like this is the community for them?” –@MarjorieAyyeee (51:23)
“This moment is a real moment for humility and for people to show up vulnerable and honest and careful about boundaries, but to be able to really talk about [race and racism] is vitally important. We’ve tried to make the space for them to do that.” -Nina Collins (55:08)
Our responsibility as leaders and community builders (1:23:16): “The domination of the major [social media] platforms isn’t infinite. It’s going to end one day. It’s our responsibility to think about what are we going to build in its place.” –@BasseyE
Choosing to talk about race (1:26:54): “As someone who runs a community for women over 40, where we talk a lot about sex, health, and relationships, I’m known in my little teeny world for talking about anything. I’ll talk about my vagina. But I realized I was not talking about race with these women. Here I am, a Black woman running a community of lots of white women, and I was never talking about race. I’ve decided that’s over. I’m going to be having these conversations, and I’m okay with it.” -Nina Collins
On the responsibility of speaking up for diversity and inclusion within our organization (1:28:27): “As Black folks in America, if we’re in positions in organizations where we have voices that are going to be listened to, a big part of the legacy is that we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, and we’re Called, and I mean ‘called’ with a capital C, to try to make this a more fair and just world. … We need to be agitating for getting professionals who can work on these things. We need to be agitating for change. … For folks who do have the emotional energy to be able to deal with this, I definitely encourage you to make your voice heard.” –@BasseyE
Change will come (1:30:47): “Things do change, but they don’t change if you lose your energy.” –@BasseyE
About Our Guests
Bassey Etim is the editorial director for CNN’s NewsCo. He was previously the community editor at the New York Times.
Marjorie Anderson is the manager of digital communities at Project Management Institute and she also manages Community by Association, a resource for community builders in the association space.
Nina Collins is a writer, entrepreneur, and the founder of The Woolfer, an online platform for like-minded women over forty.
- Sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community
- Sponsor: Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community
- Twitter’s rules and policies
- Gordian knot
- A Complete Breakdown of the J.K. Rowling Transgender-Comments Controversy
- Thomas Chatterton Williams on Race, Identity, and “Cancel Culture”
- Supporting Hard Conversations
- Rachel Cargle’s the Great Unlearn
- Woolfer TV
- Community Thrive! Virtual Summit 2020
- Marjorie on Community Signal
- Toxic Waters by Charles Duhigg
- The Program Management Improvement Accountability Act (PMIAA)
- The WeSupport newsletter and Twitter
- Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children
- “You are what you tolerate.” –– Derek Powazek on Community Signal
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals, sponsored by Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community and Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and welcome to the show. On this episode, we’ll be having a wide-ranging conversation tied together by a common theme of creating online spaces that are safe for Black people. This includes community building and management strategy, 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 and more.
As Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms have swallowed up the time that we spend online, they have also come to typify the internet, but those of us who do this work know that there is this great wealth and diversity of online communities that exist from extremely tiny to very big, that are intersectional in nature and safe for Black voices, communities that are inclusive.
When I decided to have this conversation, I recruited a panel of experienced community pros, all of them, previous guests of the show who have done the work and we kicked ideas around. The topics that we discuss on this episode are a result of that collaboration. I also invited thoughts from others where anonymity was requested.
The good news is that most folks who listen to our show are probably already doing good work. We’ve already been building thoughtful spaces. Let’s talk about it and talk about how we can make it better.
Our panel includes Bassey Etim, editorial director at CNN NewsCo who previously spent a decade building out the community desk at the New York Times, Marjorie Anderson, manager of digital communities at Project Management Institute, who also manages Community by Association, a resource for community builders in the association space and Nina Collins, founder of The Woolfer, an online community for women over 40. Thank you to Bassey, Marjorie, and Nina for their contributions to this episode. Marjorie, especially deserves special recognition as she was really my coauthor in crafting the initial direction for this episode before it expanded to a panel.
I’d also like to thank our supporters on Patreon, through which we are empowered to create programs like this. If you’d like to join this group, which includes Carol Benovic-Bradley, Rachel Medanic, and Luke Zimmer, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle.
Bassey, welcome back.
[00:02:18] Bassey Etim: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:19] Patrick O’Keefe: My pleasure. Marjorie, welcome.
[00:02:21] Marjorie Anderson: Thanks for having me.
[00:02:23] Patrick O’Keefe: Nina, welcome back.
[00:02:24] Nina Collins: Hi, I’m glad to be here.
[00:02:26] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s so great to have you all. I talked a fair amount about the content of the show with Marjorie. I’m going to reference Marjorie a few times in our conversations to make sure she gets credit for some of the things that she suggested and some of the wordings she had. One of the first things that Marjorie told me when we were putting together this episode, “it goes deeper than just donating to causes that support Black lives. That helps, but what are we actively and collectively doing as a profession that says that this behavior will not be tolerated?” Let’s start there. Some might consider this to be maybe a little bit beginner for this show, but when you think about the foundational elements on the community management side that lead to a community where Black people can safely contribute, what comes to mind?
User guidelines I feel like sometimes community members tend to take them lightly. It’s more light and fluffy. It’s more, “Hey, don’t be a jerk in our forums versus listen, we really need to set the expectation of this is what will happen if you violate certain things.” Yes, I think the user guidelines help, but then also what’s the culture that you create within your community. What’s the tone that you set the minute that people sign up to come into your community and participate? ?hat does that look and feel like? If it’s not one where it feels like people can speak up and have their voices be heard, then it’s really hard for six months, a year down the line to try to course-correct, 20 years down the line to try to course-correct, and then start to cultivate that feeling of belonging. Even to the people that you invite into your community as early adopters, that they need to set the tone at the start and if you miss that opportunity, sometimes it’s really hard to course correct and get back I think.
[00:04:32] Patrick O’Keefe: Bassey, you worked in a really highly politically-charged environment at the times where you’re creating conversation around a lot of hot button issues and you have a wide audience and the paper of record in the country. What were some of the things or the considerations that you thought about as you tried to build a space that was inclusive?
[00:04:54] Bassey Etim: I think for me, you think about the New York Times community and how they keep it healthy for people from a wide range of backgrounds to participate. I think it’s simply like understanding that some people are coming to the community and they’re coming to the news with rage and aggression. This is a community where I can’t particularly control the membership. Then it really came back to me to say, “Okay, how can I do everything I can with our team to make it absolutely clear that this is not going to be a place where you’re going to get away with putting your rage out there into the world and onto other people?”
I think physical enforcement of the rules is really important, but then also it’s the white blood cells of the community itself. It’s like are people seeing the rules, the regulars, the few hundred people who go to every single post, have they seen the rules enforced enough to where they’re comfortable chiming in and being like, “Hey, you can’t do this. This is wrong before I even see it.” I think that’s just so critical.
Then I think the two words that come to mind for me are both modeling and representation. We’re also a website; we produce a lot of content. We’re constantly thinking about what images and whose work we’re putting out in the world, whose voices we’re supporting. I think the representation really tells people who were looking for, what people we would want in our community. Then to Bassey’s point, we have like 2,500 women who are in our community constantly, and they really know who we are. They’re setting the tone as much as I am, often.
[00:07:02] Patrick O’Keefe: What I hear here is that a lot of the things that are good community building practice that most people will tell you are good community building practice, even if maybe they don’t know how to implement it well will lead to the types of environments that we’re talking about. Things like guidelines and having good moderator processes and having good training and handbooks and just enforcing your guidelines. I want to step back for just a second to talk about training. Is there anything when it comes to training in organizations that people should be thinking about?
Marjorie, for some reason, I’m thinking about associations because it’s often a lot of orgs are short-staffed, it’s not just associations and nonprofits, but a lot of association community folks I talk to are very much in the mindset of part-time managing the community and part-time doing something else or there’s one person. There’s not many associations that I know of that have multiple people doing this full time. There are some I’m sure. On the training end, when you have just a limited set of eyes looking at this content, is there anything that you think would be particularly helpful?
[00:08:00] Marjorie Anderson: I think from a training perspective it comes down to really understanding that there are going to be different voices there that you need to pay attention to. It’s hard because, for me, we’ve got a team of people, I’ve got six people who’ve got eyes on the community at all times, understanding that that’s not the case for most communities. I think one of the big things for me, I came from a customer service background and that was a huge help in helping me understand what are people’s pain points? What are they really saying that they need when they’re acting out those types of things? I think that if you provide some sensitivity training or some maybe even customer experience training to folks who might be just keeping an eye over here and then also have their foot in something else to help them understand that these are people that you’re working with. This is not about the technology, because a lot of associations and some of the larger companies invest in community technology in order “meet the needs of the people who engage there”. They think that technology is going to take care of everything. We set some automation rules, and it will be great. People are going to love it and that’s not it at all. I think there needs to be an understanding of, “Hey, you are dealing with real people who have real feelings and real needs, this is how you need to engage with them.”
It’s not like someone who pays your membership dues every year, because they liked to get the events for free, or they like to get discounts on things. It’s a totally different mindset. I liken it to volunteer management. If you’ve never managed volunteers before, they always have a set of expectations that far exceed the expectations that you’ve set for their engagement.
I think that having some insight into how to engage people in settings such as that is critical, especially if you’ve never done it before. I think that if you lean on areas within your organization who do that already then I think that can be helpful. I just think that we missed the boat, especially when it’s just one person, either doing it all by themselves or part-time when we try to have them figure it out on their own, because they think the technology is going to do it for them. I think it’s important to stress that it’s not the technology. You really need to understand people to manage communities.
[00:10:22] Patrick O’Keefe: When I think about training, I think about bias because I think that’s one of the core issues that you try to get rid of when you train moderators and when you train community folks, and I have a limited experience with AI. I know Bassey has a bunch of experience with AI and machine learning.
A lot of companies, a lot of the big platforms have turned to AI and algorithms as a solution for moderation and what we’re finding is that the algorithms reinforce the biases of the people who wrote them, which are often people or someone who is not having the decision applied to them in the same way. I’m just curious about, I have set of simple tricks I’ve tried to kick out bias within volunteer moderator groups where there’s no resources and it’s a hobbyist community, but I think that the topic of bias and how you train around it is worth exploring.
[00:11:13] Bassey Etim: Yes, for sure. I think when it comes to machine learning, AI, in comment sections and in communities generally, is that it’s bad because it tempts you to see it as a way to save money. Maybe it is possible that downstream of it you can save money, but when you build it with a plan to save money, what you’re doing is before you really see it in action for a long period of time, you’re saying that the AI is going to make this decision point and that decision point and this other decision point.
When basically you’re taking all of like the bias of all of society, like the endemic racism in society and applying it strictly to your community in that whatever particular horrible way that that’s going to become real. If you come at it from the sense of, this is a tool for this moderator to be able to make the most important decisions first, then the less important decisions later, then it can work, but it’s just been so rare. I think a lot of it is just because a lot of the public hype, and maybe this is a press problem too, about AI, the hype just encourages managers to think of it as a way to extract earnings as opposed to a way to make a better community.
[00:12:41] Marjorie Anderson: I also think that it’s one of those things where people think it’s the ultimate problem solver. This will solve all your problems. We’ll tell you all the insights you need to know, and it will do all the things that you needed to do, without a person. And people are complex and you can’t use technology to help people feel heard in that way. I think that’s to your point Bassey, you have to use it smartly.
[00:13:03] Bassey Etim: Yes, maybe there’s a parallel here. In terms of training people –– you train AI, not to be biased simply by not using the AI in a way where it’s a debit bias will manifest. Then when you’re training a person not to be biased, what I used to do is just really challenge them, give them things that seem obvious prompts things to moderate. I personally had a little bit of fun. I would write my own racist comments. I’d write them in ways that just like, beyond the rules or just inside of the rules, and I really try to interrogate people Black, white, liberal, conservative and trying to think of, “Okay, you see how your biases are determining the way that you are reading this text.” It’s a feelings business. It has to be because the way people feel is the community. What you have to start to get to a place where your feelings are going to be really helpful. You have to first start from a place of textualism to a certain extent where it’s like, you’re not this person. What do these words literally say and then start from there.
[00:14:14] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s take a moment to talk about our great sponsor, Vanilla.
Vanilla provides a one-stop-shop solution that gives community leaders all the tools they need to create a thriving community. Engagement tools like ideation and gamification promote vibrant discussion and powerful moderation tools allow admins to stay on top of conversations and keep things on track. All of these features are available out of the box, and come with best-in-class technical and community support from Vanilla’s Success Team. Vanilla is trusted by King, Acer, Qualtrics, and many more leading brands. Visit vanillaforums.com.
When I think about the foundational community question, again, like I said, a lot of it’s beginner stuff, but one thing that stood out to me as I was thinking it through is just the idea of seeding and how we typically think of seeding a new community, because we talk about diversity on the company side and on the management side, and we talk about diversity in the membership. At some point, you have that conversation and you look at how diverse your membership group is, but I don’t necessarily see a lot of people talking about it on the very beginning of the community in the small group that you include in that first round of people you led into the community.
We tend to be in a maybe a different mental mode there. We’re looking for people who will contribute today and we’re like, who are the closest people we have to us? We’re not thinking about the viewpoints they represent or the lived experiences that they have. A lot of communities don’t have identity in the sense that we see as a core part of that community, but in the communities that do especially professional communities, where people are likely to identify as themselves and you can Google and find their picture, if they don’t upload it themselves. I think seeding is such a low-cost high reward opportunity to bake inclusivity into the community because that initial group is going to set the tone. If that initial group is representing a diverse perspective, whatever that means to you in this case, Black voices, and you have Black people that are actively part of that community at the start, you are therefore going to, I’m not going say you’ve got it in the bag, but you’re going to be far more likely to cultivate a community that is welcoming to those people.
[00:16:18] Nina Collins: It’s been super interesting for us right in this way, because when we left Facebook we had 32,000 women and we were going from a free group to a paid group. We were told, we’d be very lucky to get 10% of our members to pay if that, and we really didn’t know. On the day we hit go, are we going to get 10,000 people or we’re going to get a hundred and we didn’t know who they’d be.
Would they be all the Black members? Would they be the fun members? Would they be the members that were more difficult? We just had no idea what we were getting into. We did get around 10%, I guess now we’re a little over that. We have 5,000 paying members and then we started doing some analysis, some surveys to figure out who they were.
The group is a little bit richer and a little bit whiter than it was on Facebook. Right away, we realized, okay, we have to figure out to that question of seeding. Our core team is quite mixed. There are five of us and one’s Asian and two of us are Black, or [there’s] six of us, three of us are white, but we have been pretty intentional about trying to bring people in. In fact, our biggest challenge being a paid community is how to just get new subscribers and so before all this recent round of protests hit and we have very little money, we have one small investor, but we decided to spend some money on hiring a Black PR agent.
This is the way I always say it. If I’m not enjoying being in the community, it’s not going to work. We have to really figure out because I really am going to read the thread all the way through. I like the women who were in there, but I need more people where I just feel like it’s the right mix of people. We’ve actually hired and then COVID happens and then we were like, “Oh, can we afford this and should we go ahead?” We did go ahead. We’ve been very intentionally seeking out the kind of women we want in the community and building content around them, interviewing them and giving them free memberships, like went overboard on trying to seed it the way we want.
Bassey, I want to go back to something you said, because Marjorie kind of alluded this to us just moderating in public and having people see that things happen. Bad people come in, bad people make bad comments, bad people are dealt with. Our nature I think and I don’t know if this is my nature and probably the nature of all of you as well is, we don’t want to air people’s dirty laundry. We’re not in the business of making anyone look bad necessarily. We do occasionally when they really deserve it maybe, but we’re just taking care of inappropriate content. We have a lot of content to sift through, see bad, take care of bad, and move onto the next piece of content. Marjorie alluded to something pre-show and something that I think I see a lot too is, Twitter is for example, which I don’t know that I consider Twitter a community. I consider it a communication platform, but their guidelines are perfectly fine. They sound fine. They sound nice. These are good guidelines. This is a site I’d like to be on as per the guidelines, but saying the right thing and being well-meaning in wording isn’t the same as actually getting things done. Sounding nice isn’t what makes community guidelines effective. I think we have that responsibility to enforce the guidelines, but expanding on that a little more. What are some examples of moderating in public or examples of ways that we reaffirm the fact that these guidelines are not just words on a page, but that they actually have meaning?
[00:19:23] Bassey Etim: Thanks. I actually do have some sympathy, not for all these players, but for a Twitter of the world, for example, where it’s at the scale of what they’re dealing with and the way the company was funded, they are really in a Gordian knot of how do we do this? I wouldn’t want to be the person figuring that out because I think the fundamental problem was probably the conception of the website [chuckles] but it’s already going. What do you do now?
I do think there’s a lot more they could do though. This funding right into what you asked about moderating by example. Sometimes we want to do these things in public, especially it’s great when there’s a bad post from a person who’s usually pretty good. Maybe the person was just angry at the time, or maybe they made an honest mistake and going too far with something to get in there and say, “Hey, I took this down for X, Y, and Z reasons.”
To have them argue with a little bit, other people argue with it a little bit, it meant to like, honestly, openly engage with those people. Allowing them if you have points that aren’t refuted, but saying that well, this is just the way I physically have to do it. That’s one core way to do it. I just think if I were Twitter, I might try to do something where number one, you all don’t have community managers and that’s like, it’s going to be hard to add them now because they just get laughed out of the place.
What if they were to add community managers from the beginning and people were going into threads and just being like, “Hey, this might cause a problem down the line to these people because X, Y, and Z. We’re worried about people who follow you brigading this person’s posts.” They’re going to get hundreds of them. Maybe there’s something you could say about it or something that if they were out there, even if sometimes people are just in response screw you, whatever.
I had a really smart person, I believe he’s a DJ. He said, and this was about two years ago. He said to me, “I think earnesty is the new wave. That’s the new wave.” Like irony and all that stuff. Sarcasm is dying and being really earnest is the way to be cool. That’s really stuck with me because I think that earnesty applied over time, it just wins people over. It’s hard to combat it with sarcasm, irony, anger, all of those things.
[00:21:47] Nina Collins: That’s funny. That’s an interesting point because in my community now that it’s smaller and paid, people are much more earnest. On Facebook, we were constantly moderating people. I really did believe that we should do it by example. We very rarely wrote to people privately. We usually did it in the thread and we would say, that’s not cool or we would give people a warning. Then we would say, we’re removing you now.
Then, because we really wanted to show people what’s not acceptable. I’m finding now on The Woolfer community, we have people who behave; people are in bad moods, people are feeling sensitive sometimes, but generally, they are much more earnest and I’ve kind of attributed it to the fact that they’re paying for it, that people value things they pay for so they take better care of the space, but I appreciate your point. When we think about that, is earnesty the new something? I don’t know.
[00:22:33] Patrick O’Keefe: I wonder, if you don’t want to go full-on public have at it, [chuckles] as you both alluded to, I wonder if there are examples of when you remove a post and you remove a series of posts, there’s nothing stopping us from digesting those and either partially rewinding them or at least not saying who made them, and then having sort of a digest from time to time, just to remind people every so often say, “Hey, these are the types of pieces of content that we’ve removed in the last quarter or whatever it is just so this is the type of community we want to cultivate here. This isn’t allowed, and it speaks to who we attract as an audience.” That’s it. Provide some examples with some anonymous elements of them.
[00:23:11] Marjorie Anderson: Yes. I think that makes perfect sense. I also think that when delivering those types of messages, you have to let your community know that the reason that we don’t accept this type of behavior, this type of content is because, this is your space. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable in the space that you come to, that you trust us to provide you every day. Continuing to allow that type of stuff erodes at the trust that you try to build within communities and the minute that someone feels like that they’re not safe enough to post or have conversations there they’re gone.
They may not even tell you that they’re leaving. They might not have been said that there was a problem they might just leave. You don’t know the effect that those types of interactions are having on people. Yes, since you violated our user guidelines, but we care enough about you to make sure that we create a space that’s safe for you to be able to interact.
[00:24:30] Bassey Etim: Yes, I think that’s a great point, Marjorie. Maybe the community world can learn a little bit from GitHub or something like that, where it’s like, can we just have like a log somewhere of the actions taken and then can we use that to create content that is for the greater good of the community?
[00:24:51] Patrick O’Keefe: You mentioned something interesting, Marjorie, around people leaving in silence, because that’s what I do. I don’t use the block feature on Twitter, I use mute. I don’t want people to know that I blocked them. I’m not giving anyone satisfaction. I just want to mute them. It makes me think about something that has come up recently and just something that I’ve been kicking around which is, it really ties in a bias to is this idea that you’d make a thing and you share that thing.
J.K. Rowling I think is an example recently, her talk about trans people and so she has made these tweets and you can find all these people who agree with her. You can find no limit of people who are like, those are great statements, brave statements, you said these great things, okay, whatever. When you’re doing these things, when you’re making a choice as she is on her platform, or you’re making a moderation choice, and you have people who are like, yes, great decision, even though it wasn’t.
There’s this quotient or something, some algorithm I need to work through, but it’s what I’m calling racism adjacency. If you are advocating for something, or you’re doing something and even though you might feel it’s coming from a good place, and you might feel well-meaning, how would adjacent is it placing you to racists? Who are the people that are agreeing with you? Who are the people that are like, that’s a great idea, that’s a great decision?
Who are the people you’re seeing more of in the community? If you’re doing things that are putting you next to people who would otherwise not be who you want to attract or who otherwise disgust you or their advocacy is just bananas as far as your original core values, which isn’t the issue with J.K. Rowling apparently sadly, but for us, it will be, it’s worth stepping back and saying like, how adjacent am I to this person? I’m thinking about a lot of things I share in that light.
[00:26:35] Marjorie Anderson: There’s a saying that goes, and I’m probably butchering it, that goes something like, you’re only as good as the company that you keep. I think those are definitely things that we have to think about and not only from a personal standpoint but then what does that represent for your community? If that’s the type of behavior that continues on in your community, then is that where people are going to want to engage? I think that’s something that has to be top of mind.
[00:26:59] Nina Collins: Yes, I would say in our community, this comes up in a couple of different ways. It’s not specifically about racism, but it’s this idea of for a long time, I was a big believer and I wanted our community to not be political. I felt like there were other groups for that. I felt like we were really addressing women’s issues and women’s health issues and emotional issues about all women, even if you support Trump.
I would basically say to people, if you’re a Trump supporter, you can still be in our community as long as you don’t talk about him. If you come in our community and start spouting off against abortion, you’re going to end up having to leave because people will be so angry. We really wanted all women. I started to feel differently about that.
Basically, we’ve become much more political in the last year and much more vocal about racism and things like that. For a long time, I really tried to not do that. Then I ultimately felt like it was irresponsible. I feel like I run this community and I have certain beliefs and I’m plowing in. The other place that comes up as the anti-vaxxers, for example.
We really tried for a while to tolerate some anti-vaccination talk. Then I was finally like, I can’t do this. I just can’t. I will just say to people again, you can have those views, but you need to stop talking about them at this point here. It’s tricky because you don’t want to be a fascist. I do want to tolerate all views, but then it intersects with a sense of responsibility I feel and being true.
[00:28:28] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m a fascist for anti-vaxxers on my community. Don’t worry about it.
[00:28:23] Bassey Etim: Those are great points. It’s interesting because the community I spent the most time running, of course, what was on the topic was anything that was discussed in the article in question? You can get out a lot of terrible things you could weed them out just by widening your net and saying, okay, maybe a slightly wider variety of things is off-topic here than other topics. We are in a place where, look, if you suspect someone is posting racist comments, look, they don’t violate the letter of the rules, but you can smell the racism on the comment wasn’t in a position where we could actually get rid of that.
Then on health threads, similar things like if an article is about maybe not just about vaccines, but if it has a couple of paragraphs that mention anti-vaxxers well, then anti-vaccine is suddenly on topic. I can’t take it off the topic it is explicitly mentioned. What do you do then? I landed on this thing where I still honestly think about the morality of it, I think about a lot, but where I landed was that you can make a racist argument within the rules, but because of the rules, you can’t attack people personally. You can’t attack classes of people either. What that did, I hope, was give people a chance to have arguments with racists that wouldn’t conclude with just like insults against a race, like you need to make your intellectual case for racism in a way that doesn’t directly insult the people here and people would try to do that if you became good at trying to do that.
What you saw was that absence the power of like the raw hatred you could give to people absent that, they wind up getting like basically blown away and like rage quitting, because it’s like, can’t win this argument if you can’t just call someone the N-word at the end. Now, you have to deal with it intellectually. Was that the right thing, the right way to handle it, I don’t know. I think it was just considering journalism principles and considering what we were trying to do in the community. It was just the best thing I could come up with.
[00:30:32] Patrick O’Keefe: A lot of abuse and racism obviously happens in a way we don’t see, it’s not in public, it’s in the DMs. It’s in the private messages or the direct messages and people might be afraid to report it because they’re afraid of retribution or they don’t know that they should or they don’t think it’s an appropriate thing to report or it’s private. It’s like reporting a text message essentially or they just leave as Marjorie said a while ago, I could just leave and don’t come back and we don’t know about it because again, it was private and we had no way of knowing. Just managing communities, I think we’ve all received abuse of some kind. For me as a white person, I can’t recall any of it being and at my race, I did get a dirty Irish fuck bag once and I’m talking about the nationality of my name, but nothing racist. Nothing directed at my skin color. It’s a different experience for me. I thought about how to phrase this question. I was going to say, all of you have received racist abuse via direct message or private message before and just assume you had. I was like, let me just say, let me just assume a little bit better for the world and say, have any of you receive racist abuse via direct message or private message.
[00:31:38] Nina Collins: I had not.
[00:31:39] Patrick O’Keefe: Okay, good for you. Bassey, I think you’ve probably.
[00:31:42] Bassey Etim: Yes, I have, but far more often it was racist abuse directed at me like in a public forum.
[00:31:49] Patrick O’Keefe: Okay, Marjorie.
[00:31:50] Marjorie Anderson: I have not.
[00:31:52] Patrick O’Keefe: Wow. Okay. I’m actually very happy to hear that. That’s only one at a three. I think the internet is a terrible place, really.
[00:31:59] Nina Collins: I’ve certainly had lots of people be angry at me, but they’re not hurling racial invective, no.
[00:32:03] Patrick O’Keefe: I think where I want to go with this is, should we normalize the idea that private messages should be reportable and reviewable? Private messages that exist on our site, DMs, that’s content we host, when you go to our domain, you see it or use our app you see it. Should we normalize the idea that those are reportable and reviewable and that we should encourage people to report or if not, should we encourage that and if so, how?
[00:32:31] Bassey Etim: Yes. Well, it’s interesting because there’s this implied privacy setting there. I’m actually in my current work at CNN NewsCo, I’m dealing with exactly this policy issue where it’s like, how do you deal with exactly this issue? I find myself trending toward thinking, if you want to send your DMs send to us, like, is there a way you can send them to us? Otherwise, we don’t have access to them. I tend to think that puts intellectual labor, obviously, on the person being attacked, but at least I haven’t been creative enough to figure out a solution that can both sell for the enforcement need there and to respect like the implied privacy of DMs.
[00:33:14] Patrick O’Keefe: Nina, does your app have private messages?
[00:33:16] Nina Collins: We do. We have private messages and we can’t see them. I don’t think we should be able to see them, but there’s probably some backend way we could if we really wanted it. That’s a big question, but no, I think that they should be private. I agree if people want to report something, they can and should and should send it to me but I think they should be private.
[00:33:34] Patrick O’Keefe: I see agreement there. Marjorie.
[00:33:37] Marjorie Anderson: Our community we can if you are marked an unsafe user. What that means is if you’ve previously misbehaved on the community, we can mark you on safe and we can monitor your activity. What we don’t do is monitor activity for people who are not. We’re not looking at people’s messages who are just going about their day and taking part in the community.
We then have to figure out how do we protect the person who reported it because it’s likely not someone spamming the entire community saying, hey, this, that and the other, it’s probably targeted at one or two people and if we address it with that person, they know who reported it. Then how do we protect the person who reported that and ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to prevent that harassment or that activity from happening again. I think that there are some things that need to be put in place in order to protect the person who reports the abuse, but I absolutely believe that we have a responsibility to protect our community members and we should empower them to report those types of incidents when they occur.
[00:35:28] Patrick O’Keefe: I think that emotional labor piece, that Bassey reference, I think that’s really the random factor. Like you said, Marjorie, well, it’s not the same as the report because that already exists with post reports and comment reports. When you remove something, how many times have we heard Paul reported that on me, dignity? It’s like it doesn’t matter. You violated the guidelines. There was a report, not a report who knows, who cares, it doesn’t matter.
In this case, obviously, it’s only usually two people seeing that mess as the sender and the recipient. If you see it therefore as reported by one of them, yes, that’s the part we can’t really control for except to be proactive in tools. There might be other ways, but like mute and block. When you report a message, do you also want to mute this person that doesn’t control abuse outside of your site, which can happen.
Then there’s the easier side, I think, which is the technical tool side. A lot of apps don’t have a report function for their private messages where you can just click a button and say, send this to a member or staff. I literally just reported a private message on an old website yesterday because it was a spam message and I don’t feel any fear of retribution. It’s no big deal.
I didn’t think two seconds about it, but there was a little report button on the private message that sent it to staff. That’s the easy part is adding a report button and communicating even to people and saying, “Hey, you can report these private messages if it’s abusive.” I guess the hard part is really as is the case, whenever someone turns someone in for something one way or another is protecting the accuser or we’re protecting the person who reported it.
In an online community context, we’re limited in what we can do. I appreciate, it’s a tone of responsibility here.
One more point on that is that, I’ve been applying my guidelines, private messages for like 20 years. I had it in my guidelines, had it in my policies. People can report it. I can look and I’ve had a lot of pushback on that over the years. There’s not a ton of pushback here. There’s good pushback, but I want to ascribe it up to the fact that the internet failed that maybe fail isn’t the right word, but it’s nastier than it was hoped to be 20 years ago. Now, people are slowly gone actually people are really jerks and private and we can’t let people be nasty. That’s, I guess, disappointing in one way.
[00:37:30] Bassey Etim: Yes. I think Mark Zuckerberg is maybe the best example of what you’re talking about. There is always this Libertarian utopian edge to his promises and the promise of the internet where once we free ourselves, once we free ourselves of all of our clothing, once we put everything we are out there and everybody else is naked, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, well we’re all naked. Whatever.’ It turns out that some people, even when they’re naked, they’re going to be extremely judgmental about it.
I don’t think this was necessarily something that was unknowable from the perspective of a lot of the folks who built platforms that undergird the internet today. The thing I’ve learned from it, especially one of my big motivations, like now working more in the tech field on tech projects is really seeing like, okay, I think people like me who like don’t read about engineering and science stuff, but who do like read a lot about commodities and human behavior. People like me need to be involved in the early stages of building things like this.
[00:38:40] Patrick O’Keefe: I want to pause here to welcome a brand new sponsor to the show, Localist.
Localist is an event marketing platform that aggregates, automates, and analyzes all of your virtual, in-person, and hybrid events so you can grow and engage your community. Their platform allows you to centralize your event calendar, automate email and social media promotion, and measure and analyze the ROI of your events. Localist integrates with your existing tools and you can even predict future event success using their Event Reach and Event Score features. Find out more at localist.com/communitysignal and take your event strategy virtual with Localist.
I want to talk about identity specifically pseudonymity. The idea that you have a username, that’s your identity. No one really knows what you look like or where you’re from or this is another area where our perception is skewed by the big platforms because so many people participate under their real name and picture on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, obviously on LinkedIn, but on these bigger platforms, it’s most of the people I follow have a real name attached to them.
There’s only a few accounts these days that are like truly fully anonymous, but in most online communities, that’s not necessarily the norm or even encouraged. Now, you pick a username and then the rest is you self identifying. If you want to post a picture of yourself, you probably can. If you want to share your name and where you live, you probably can, but by default, all people know is your username and I’ve given recognition to many members over the years for my communities who are being recognized by my words or through a community award or through a volunteer moderator spot, without having any idea what they look like. I don’t know their race, gender, physical ability, age.
I might know where they live or where they’re from. They’re judged somewhat strictly on their contributions to the community. I’ve experienced this as a contributor myself and as a community builder where I started when I was a teenager and I never really hit it, but I also didn’t advertise it. People who would never have taken me seriously if they encountered me on the street did so online because of what I had created or added. I guess to say that a different way is, I’m talking about creating a space for identity in spaces where identity is truly optional or even uncommon. Usually, we post on forums without knowing what someone looks like. What do you think that means within this conversation?
[00:40:52] Nina Collins: Well, I think if we’re talking about race, it makes it impossible. I mean, we want people to be able to be who they are. We want them to be able to share their racial identity. In our community, we really encourage people, even if you want to use a fake name, we encourage everyone to have any real-ish names. Anne Smith, Kendra, whatever, just some name. We like people to have a picture so that everyone feels like they’re talking to an actual person. We really discourage the fake numbers or whatever, because we are really a sisterhood. The idea is about connection and friendship and sharing information and trust. I think particularly with race or disability and we’re only women, we’re women over forty. It’s very important to us. You cannot be a man in our community. I guess the answer from my perspective is that it’s super important that we all know who we are. If you’re talking about race, I mean, how can you really talk about race if you don’t know who everyone is?
[00:41:48] Patrick O’Keefe: I feel like Nina and Marjorie, your communities are going to have a lot of identity where you know what people look like, where I think Bassey, you’ve probably dealt with more pseudonymity. I don’t know, with subscribers only at the Times, but I don’t know if that actually meant that it would be out like who people were and what they look like.
[00:42:04] Bassey Etim: The regulars would let it be known. If you came day after day, you’d know the basic bios of everybody because folks, especially if you’re a regular, you’re kind of harping out the same talking points over and over. In the more insular communities I’ve been a part of, I guess it’s a little hard for me to imagine, let’s say a message board style community where everybody doesn’t eventually, because eventually somebody’s going to slip and like post a picture of their dimple or something or have themselves holding something. It’s just a matter of time. The dimple was a personal slip. Gave myself away there. [chuckles]
[00:42:45] Patrick O’Keefe: Marjorie, do you have something?
[00:42:47] Marjorie Anderson: No. I was just going to say because we’re a professional community and the engagement really hinges upon people’s ability to provide content and to contribute, we need to know who those people are. The culture of the community that we have is that you have to identify yourself because it’s not only tied to the contribution to the community itself, it’s also tied to how you interact the association. We have to know who you are in order for you to be able to contribute and to interact within the online community.
I think for professional associations and for communities, like Nina’s, there’s an element to an expectation of being transparent about who you are in terms of your real name and what your face looks like. I mean, we even have it built into our user guidelines that you can’t use a logo or anything like that for your profile picture. We have to be able to see who you are because we don’t want to make, we want to make sure there’s no spammers. We want to make sure that people aren’t there to just sell to the community because that’s not what they’re there for. We’ve got some controls in place that really set the tone and the culture of this is what is expected of you if you want to be here. If you don’t want to be here, that’s fine. Find another community to participate in. If you want to participate here, this is how we expect you to show up. It’s a little bit different in that respect.
It’s funny because community members will report accounts that aren’t following those rules. They’ll be like, “Hey, Acme Company doesn’t have a, this isn’t a real profile.” They’re very self-moderating in that respect, which is nice. Again, I think it just goes back to that culture of your community and how people show up.
[00:44:19] Nina Collins: That’s interesting. We don’t do it quite as strictly as you, because we do want to allow for women sometimes it’ll happen. Like a woman will come into the community and maybe her child’s kindergarten teacher is also in the community. She may have a reason she wants some privacy. We do allow people again to choose a fake name if they want to. You don’t have to have a photograph, but members will complain if they suspect someone’s profile. If it’s all in numbers, if there’s something really off looking about it. We do in our terms of service, as I said before, we reserved the right that if we feel like someone is not complying with the rules, for example, if we think there’s a man in the community, we will sniff in and remove that person. That, luckily, has not happened so far. It’s interesting to hear how you do it.
[00:44:59] Bassey Etim: I was just thinking that the best communities tend to be the ones that you all folks talk about, where you have a common purpose and it’s a little bit more closed off. I think when you’re dealing with these like open community spaces, it’s interesting because when you hit a certain level of openness where it’s like having a photo on everything you do of your own can really become like a vector of attack and make people more vicious.
It’s surprising maybe a decade ago, I think the common thought was always like, well, real names like that will make people more civil, but it’s not the real names that make people more civil. It’s the shared sense of purpose, the shared sense of community. When you’re in a position where not everybody shares that same purpose in an online gathering place, people actually tend to be– overall, the interactions are a little bit more polite when people can be pseudonymous, which I think is just like really interesting.
I think also speaks to the fact that maybe being pseudonymous maybe you didn’t see those three or four really bad troll conversations where somebody made fun of that picture. If that never happens then maybe you would never go down the path and treating her enemy the same way. That thing is modeled and spreads. That’s just an interesting topic as well.
[00:46:18] Patrick O’Keefe: There’s a lot of communities out there. There’s a lot of people, a lot of ages, a lot of kids, teenagers, vulnerable people, people who are targeted for any number of reasons, race, and others. There is comfort to be found in spaces where they can contribute without feeling like they have to identify in a particular way within that community.
[00:46:39] Bassey Etim: One recent example maybe is on Twitter just last week, a writer, Thomas Chatterton Williams, a trans person posted a comment criticizing his argument, just in fairly benign for the internet parliamentary terms, frankly criticizing his argument. He writes a reply that simply says, “You look interesting.”
[00:46:58] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, I saw that.
[00:47:00] Bassey Etim: Then you see the interview later where he’s just talking around in circles about, “Oh, well, I wouldn’t judge.” He just talked himself into a spiral of nothingness to get out of the question in his New Yorker interview. That really brought it home to me where it’s just like, there’s certain people who their arguments and their level of competence in themselves and their arguments is so weak that they just try to score. They get flustered and try to score quick points against people. It’s like, if your community is centered around arguing, you want to center around the argument itself. Then when your community is focused on bringing people together, that’s when you want to focus on the people maybe that’s the distinction.
[00:47:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Got to love thinkers that don’t think. He strikes me as the type of person who was one of those “debate me” folks like debate me discuss, but when he has the chance, it goes to “you look interesting.” What I would say to people who manage communities like that on what you can take away from this conversation is not that you need to change or make people identify or do anything different in your selection process. I don’t think anyway, feel free to disagree with me, please. You don’t need to change like how you identify a moderator if you already have a system that works, but that you can learn things.
If you’re listening to this podcast, I assume you’re a thoughtful person who cares about these issues. You want your policies to reflect that. You can take, we’re talking about here, but also look at what other people are doing as far as codes of conduct and enforcement and moderation. When they set out to create spaces that are inclusive to whatever group, but for the context of our conversation, Black people, and just apply those standards to your community. There’s a lot that you can learn because I don’t know that it even really matters. If your goal is to be more inclusive, then it doesn’t matter that your members identify or not. What matters is that you create the system through which they’ll feel comfortable participating no matter who they are and maybe one day even feel comfortable to identify, but that’s up to them.
Marjorie, you wrote a blog post about supporting hard conversations and in it, you’ve touched on something that I had been thinking about when you said, “As a community manager, you have a responsibility to facilitate these hard conversations if your community needs it. It isn’t easy and there’s the balance between holding space for community members to talk and continuing to move the goals and purpose of the community forward. It certainly doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it’s tricky to navigate.” I haven’t allowed generally political, religious, or world event type discussions in my communities for 20 years. That’s not uncommon for online communities because one generally understood thing among community professionals about those types of discussions and, Bassey, I know you couldn’t avoid this at the Times, is that if you allow them, your community can become consumed by them. They can dominate the time of your members and most critically, your limited resource of moderators and staff. For example, the moderators of a community about the martial arts as I’ve managed for a long time could spend 90% of their time moderating the one political or off-topic forum. Then what happens in there spills over to your other forums too and there are plenty of places to have those conversations. They don’t have to exist in your forum.
I don’t think Black Lives Matter is a political statement. Some of the changes that need to happen are political, whether that’s changing laws or budgets or voting people out of office, those are conversations that touch on politics, and gosh, before Trump, I generally thought of my mission as connecting people around their common interests and once they became friends in that way, they would take their relationship off the community, exchange more personal information, such as political and religious leanings. Then they can find out how much they need to hate each other, but they didn’t need to do that on my community. This is a unique time and since 2016, my social channels are just a disaster of politics. It is a unique time and depending on your community, you may find that tough conversations need to be facilitated in this moment. Here’s the question for all that talk, how can we approach that with sensitivity and respect while still keeping the focus on the purpose of the community? Marjorie, since I quoted you, what do you think?
[00:50:55] Marjorie Anderson: I think the first thing that community managers need to do is acknowledge that while you’re managing a community, there are likely people in your community that are hurting because of what is happening and maybe they don’t have anywhere else to go to have a conversation. Maybe they just are interviewing and they felt some bias in their interview process and it’s frustrating because they can’t find a job, or whatever that is. You have to acknowledge the fact that there might be people in your community that are hurting.
That said, open up the conversation gently. It doesn’t have to be, “What do you think of Black Lives Matter?” It can be, “This is an unprecedented time that we’re in. I want to know how you’re feeling,” and let them talk. It doesn’t have to be a thread that lives on forever, but give them the space to say, “I’ve had six job interviews and I’m highly qualified and no one will hire me and this is why I think no one’s hiring me.” Allow them the space to have that conversation because that might be the only time that they can get it out and maybe get another perspective or connect with someone within the community that can then take that conversation offline and speak deeply with them about it, but I think that if you don’t allow them that space, they’re people, right? You know that there are people who are likely hurting and you ignore that. How much does that make them feel like this is the community for them?
You might not get a whole lot of activity in that thread. It may just be two people who are like, “This is my experience,” or they might reach out to you in a DM and say, ‘I’m so glad that you posted this. Can we hop on a call? I really need to talk to someone,” but showing your community that, “Hey, if you need to talk, we’re here for you,” I think is incredibly important especially at a time like this, it can’t be all business as usual. You have to let them know that they’re cared for and that you care about what’s happening to them and that you want to help in some way, shape, or form, even if that’s just to be a listening ear.
I think that’s incredibly important. I think if community managers still attend to it in that way, it’s a missed opportunity. I think we’ve got a responsibility because we are community managers. Our charge is to bring people together and help them feel like they’ve got a place to belong. That’s a missed opportunity if we don’t take it.
[00:53:13] Nina Collins: I completely agree with everything you said. In our community, what we did is we have subgroups or forums. We already had a Women of Color subgroup, but we actually have added an unlearning racism subgroup and we’ve added an unlearning racism class. We’ve been doing Rachel Cargle’s class every day at noon on Zoom. We did it for 30 days and now we’re doing it every Monday.
We decided to really offer it as a space for anyone in the community that wanted it. The unlearning racism class has been mostly white women, although not all, it’s been around 30 women, a couple of Asian, some mixed, we’ve had Black women coming and going, but what we’ve tried to do is just to last space. In the Women of Color forum, it’s actually called WOC and Allies. We almost thought about dropping the allies and then we didn’t. It’s WOC and Allies, but what we found in the last couple of months is that it has become a space where some of our Black members will post more specifically to talk about what’s going on from their perspective.
The unlearning racism forum has been a space where all women, we talk about all sorts of things, privilege, and implicit bias, and healthcare and all sorts of things. What has been interesting is there’s been a little bit of a dynamic of the white women wanting the Black women to explain a little bit and I’ve had to moderate there and explain why yes, it’s great when we have more voices to the questions, but you can’t expect Black women or anyone who doesn’t want to, to do that work for you, but that’s gone pretty well. We’ve had a few uncomfortable moments, typical racism moments where a white woman referred to a Black woman as articulate, for example, or when it’s become clear for some of our white members how few Black people they actually know in real life. There’s been a huge education opportunity in this moment. I think a lot of running a community does go back to modeling. What I’ve been trying to really stress is that this moment is a real moment for humility and for people to show up vulnerable and honest and careful about boundaries, but to be able to really talk about this stuff is vitally important. We’ve tried to make the space for them to do that. I agree with Marjorie. You have to try and address the needs of your community, and obviously, even though I’ve always avoided talking about a lot of politics, it just feels like we can’t anymore. We all need to be talking about these things. COVID has become political. Everything is political.
[00:55:39] Bassey Etim: I totally agree with all that and I think in terms of forum rules and having posts on this subject, it’s like, at the end of the day, we live in a society. You have to be comfortable being subjective and saying, “This is something that affects literally everything including whatever we’re talking about. So we’re going to talk about that subject.” I think it’s also important in those cases to be, if it’s a sports forum or if it’s a golf forum, we don’t have to be like, “What’s the golf angle?”
Obviously, I think all of us over the last bunch of months, all year probably, have seen quite a few if you’ve gone there, some cringe headlines on ESPN.com or something like that where it’s like, “Oh, boy, you’re really digging for the sports angle here. All right.” I think having those conversations for the sake of having those conversations and then trusting that good dialogue where you are is going to filter into dialogues that are more on topic. That’s an important thing. I also think that especially, you’re out there running a community where maybe there’s not so many minorities in it, or whatever it may be, or you never talk about these issues, it’s really important as a community manager to reward the bravery of people with minority views and that goes across the board I think.
Especially here, I think the best way to do that can really be just about encouraging conversation, responding in the way that you feel like is the ideal way that that person wanted, and encouraging conversations about the specific subtopics that their initial post was interested in. I just think it’s so important to reward that kind of bravery, so people don’t feel like they just burned themselves out of their favorite community just because they were feeling emotional about a topic that maybe isn’t directly related.
[00:57:33] Nina Collins: I agree with that.
[00:57:36] Patrick O’Keefe: I was talking to someone who works with a community that I used to be responsible for, and it’s a private community, the organization behind it — how do I put this? Not my favorite. [chuckles] I had issues with them around different things, different content in the community, and not just racist content, but sexist content and other sorts of inappropriate comments and jokes and boys’ club-style nonsense. I’ve been out of that community for a while, but I talked to someone who is still in there and they were talking about how not only did the organization not make a statement of any kind, which for that community, knowing it as I do, I would have urged them to make a statement of some kind after George Floyd’s murder.
I’m not surprised, but what happened is a member of the community made a post and said, “Hey, why hasn’t anyone said anything about this, or why aren’t we talking about this?” The type of people who run this community are the type of people who say nothing and close it and just leave it there with no reply but don’t delete it because it’s almost like the half measure is worse than — just delete it. Either delete it or respond to it, but don’t half-measure it. I think that’s probably the worst thing you could do, but in their mind, it’s like, “Well, we don’t want to offend the member by deleting it. Also, we don’t want to offend the people in our community who probably are substantially racist or at least have issues. We don’t want to offend those people either, so let’s leave it up, and let’s just alienate everybody.” People talk. It’s not just the community, but the people who I left who were still working there, it’s just yet another dagger. It’s just yet another backstabbing moment where the company fails to take responsibility because they are afraid of offending people.
Inside of a bubble, that might seem like a good decision to you, but man, it plays so poorly overall in the spaces that you don’t have access to or with the people that you don’t talk to. When you look and you see people leave you to go to another job, there’s churn in your jobs, or people are quitting the community still and you don’t know why, it’s going to be the reason, and it’s just devastating to see that silence as much as anything else, to all of your points.
That leads us into this job we have of community management. It’s already super stressful. Systemic racism has existed forever, so that’s nothing new, but we have all this other stuff. You mentioned COVID. COVID was going on and then George Floyd was murdered and then we have, I don’t even know how I want to phrase it, just more focus on equality and anti-racism and social justice issues. There’s already a ton of stress in your lives with all this already there and this is just adding additional layers of stress. What is your self-care been like during this time? Nina, I’ll ask you to go first.
[01:00:23] Nina Collins: Well, let’s see I’m quarantined with like four 20-year-olds in a small house and my boyfriend comes and goes. My self-care always is the same when I’m really feeling overwhelmed. I go to my bed. I guess, also, truthfully COVID has actually ended up making our community work a little bit more interesting, which has been a little unexpected. We have a social platform and we create content and I don’t know why it never occurred to me before COVID. I did Zoom meetings, but we didn’t do Zoom meetups, but because of COVID, we started doing a ton of Zoom meetups. We do two different forms. We do like what we call Woolfer TV, where I’ll interview someone interesting live on Facebook Live and YouTube, and then it just goes to our site. We also do these conversations. We’re having the unlearning racism conversation and we’re having a French conversation series and we’re having more book clubs. We’re having a Monday night after this call, I’m doing a Monday night sex conversation and we’re getting guest speakers to come on tonight. We’re talking about polyamory. My work has actually gotten busier and more interesting.
The self-care, there’s the stress of uncertainty that we all have and like, where is the world’s going? It’s also tricky right now because we’re a brand new platform. We launched in November. We’re really trying to get subscribers. It’s a really difficult moment to try and ask anyone to pay for anything. So, that’s tricky or to get advertisers is tricky. Yes, stress is high. Although I keep saying, I’m so lucky, I’m in a safe house and there’s so much worse going on in the world. Everyone’s healthy, knock on wood, right now. I actually find weirdly, I don’t know if you guys are having this, I find Sundays and Mondays the hardest days of the week now. I think it’s hard to get going in the week. There’s just that feeling sometimes of like, “What the hell are we all doing?” When I’m super stressed out, I go to bed and then I get up. [laughs] I work from bed.
[01:02:12] Patrick O’Keefe: Bassey, you actually had COVID, and it hit you pretty hard, right?
[01:02:15] Bassey Etim: That is right. I was laid up for a while, had a person sitting on my chest for a while after that, but I’m okay now. I’m very privileged despite having been sick for months, I feel very privileged because number one, my company had just been bought by Warner Media, so I was able to have the understanding that, okay, I’m going to be employed there for a minimum of X amount of time, be able to get a new apartment so that my partner and I aren’t on top of each other constantly in a three-room house downtown thing, which is nice, our apartment downtown, which is nice.
I feel incredibly lucky and privileged. I’ve just been trying to donate to as many places for folks who didn’t have like the work luck of me as possible, but in terms of self-care, turning to your actual question.
[01:03:10] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s part of it.
[01:03:10] Bassey Etim: I would say, I think last weekend, what I did all weekend is a great example of it, which is simply like I remembered an old video game that I liked to play in 2001. It’s impossible to get it to work on new computers. Nobody on the internet seems to have figured out how to do it. I basically just spent the entire weekend just like desperately trying hours and hours on end, trying to get this old video game to work, figured out a bunch of weird things, figured it out, finally got it working, and it’s just a baseball game from 2003, that’s a complete time-waster. You just sit around, you manage your fake rosters, your AAA, and your AA. You swing the bat a few times. Just playing really boring, repetitive video games. Early in quarantine, I was playing NASCAR and IVA, literally just driving around in circles for hours and hours on end just to relax myself. That’s what I’ve been doing.
[01:04:07] Patrick O’Keefe: What’s the baseball game?
[01:04:08] Bassey Etim: High Heat Baseball 2003. If anybody wants to get it working on PC, I’m literally the only person on there.
[01:04:20] Patrick O’Keefe: I used to play Baseball Mogul. I don’t know if you’re of that era, too. Baseball Mogul, I’ve played that out. It’s funny you mentioned that because I’ve been playing more video games. Dead by Daylight is a game I play on PS4. Playing more games with my brothers because we’re across the country and I’m missing birthdays and we’re coming up, we’re on probably the longest period of time that we’ve ever not seen each other. If this goes, which is going to go 6, 9, 12 months, I’d never gone 6 months without seeing my brothers and my parents. I lived next to them for almost my whole life. Even coming out here, I made a point to fly back. Just getting that into my life. As I said, I built– I don’t know if I said this, I built a bookcase. I’m proud of that. You mentioned baseball, you know what I’ve gotten into again that I used to do as a kid is baseball cards. I sit here at my desk. It’s a mess in here, but there are stacks and stacks of baseball cards and I’m just focused on the 1980s, ’70s, ’80s, ’60s cards and finding good deals, and it’s totally a thrill of the hunt things, almost like when you are trying to get a program to work, or software on a computer. It’s like trying different parts like, “Okay, I found this great card in this stack of other cards and it’s worth something.” I guess the same reason I’ve always liked yard sales but can’t really do that now, so yeah, that’s me. Marjorie?
[01:05:29] Marjorie Anderson: For me, I think the major thing that I’m doing for self-care is once I’m done for my day job, I turn off my computer and I turn off my work phone. I used to keep my work phone on until about seven just to keep an eye on email, but I’ve started to set the expectation that once I disconnect, unless it’s on fire, unless your hair is literally in flames, do not call me. I will respond to you the next day and then what seems counterintuitive is that I’ve started taking on projects with people in my network that seem fun and exciting.
I like to do stuff that I’ve never tried before or to work on community because it’s just work that I absolutely love. I’ve been taking on some community-related projects on the side as well as planning a virtual event for my community and a few other things that keep the joy in my heart. Those things really just spark a lot of joy for me and when I just really have some downtime, I just try to read.
Those are just some things that really just help me stay centered because when the stuff really started coming to our head, it really put me in a place where I felt really, really a sense of deep grief. I needed to figure out how to get out of that and just starting to network with people who I care about, who care about me, and then reading and those types of things really helped to pull me out of that, that’s really become my cornerstone and my rock.
[01:06:55] Patrick O’Keefe: I want to talk about talent development and recruiting because I think it’s definitely part of the answer in this conversation. I talk a lot to community pros, and the reality is a lot of them fall into it. They started a community or they joined a company and then there was a job opening internally and they applied for it, I think that was the case with you, Marjorie when we talked and I had you on the show. Just a larger question and this is purposely vague, how can we bring more people into this work?
[01:07:24] Bassey Etim: The most interesting thing I can say about this time is part of my job at the Times was to try to get reporters and columnists to get into regular interactions with the community that views that topic all the time and talks about it online. In that case, where I had the most success was really by getting more people involved in the work was by linking it to their work.
Charles Duhigg, he won the Pulitzer-prize for his Toxic Water series. Before he won the Pulitzer obviously, we worked together where every single part of the series we would spend hours afterwards figuring out how to respond to reader comments, helping to edit them, getting them in, having back and forths, using that stuff as grist for future stories in the Toxic Water series.
Same thing for columnists in terms of- from that perspective, it’s –– all right, you are contracting this argument and you see this “crazy” people going nuts in your comments. Maybe you want to know a little bit about how whether or not if you were to engage with them whether they are actually crazy or whether there is some kind of misunderstanding. I always tried to come back to like how can I connect this to the main thing I’m passionate about and then seeing that there is a community component to my work because it does affect communities. I need to use the internet as a tool in that way to engage with those communities.
[01:08:52] Patrick O’Keefe: Is this a career that somehow gets in front of kids? Part of my question is this a career that people see themselves getting into and possibly as part of the larger STEM conversation? I don’t know, I never heard of community professionals as being a part of STEM. It’s definitely like a role that involves technology and a lot of people go into developer advocacy or DevRel, and that’s certainly relevant to STEM, but just cultivating a more diverse professional pool of talent, I even don’t know what the answer is.
[01:09:20] Bassey Etim: In terms of the kids, whether or not they can eventually turn this into being professional, there is someone who did turn community building into being a professional, that’s Lil Nas X. If you are really active in the meme community and you are out there redistributing people’s memes, helping to plan meme wars and all as it were, like collecting all the funniest stuff, if you can become a hub where people are interested in creating memetic art, come together, then I think people have seen that example and you see that with all those meme networks. It’s something that kids are doing with content creation. In terms of as a career, us here may just have to watch and see how generation alpha takes it to the next level.
[01:10:06] Nina Collins: Yes, I agree. We have no idea what’s going to happen with the growth of communities, like what’s going to happen to Facebook, and are there going to be a lot more of these smaller communities everywhere? In which case, sure, it will become an actual job. I feel like right now, I guess you, Patrick, see it as really a career. You spend all your time talking to people who do this and you’ve done it for so long. I completely fell into it as you talked about. I created something that I wanted just for me, and then it just grew and grew and I went with it. My guess is yes, it will probably become more of a thing. Communities do seem to be here to stay and they’re going to keep evolving and the big question for me, what’s going to happen to Facebook? Are people are going to start to rebel more and more against Facebook, or is it here forever? I don’t know.
[01:10:53] Marjorie Anderson: I also think that there’s an element, for lack of a better word, legitimizing the profession because it’s not like last year community became big. Community has been around for a long time. I think that there’s got to be an element to validating the skills that community managers have and bringing people together, building relationships and getting them engaged and getting them connected to each other, the information that they need, in some cases, the organizations that are building these communities. I think there needs to be something there, but I think from a recruitment standpoint, listen, LinkedIn’s a big place. The world is a big place that people have access to other people in ways that are bigger than we’ve ever dreamed. It’s as simple as typing in a hashtag. As a community manager, you can find all of this information, all the people connected to it. I think there’s probably someone who maybe not knowingly, but they may be connected to someone who’s in the community management profession, reach out to that person and say, “Hey, I’ve got this position open. Do you have any referrals?” Ask for referrals, put it out there get people’s eyes on it.
I think that it doesn’t have to be as hard as it feels but then I also think that there’s a piece of it that then we have to, as a profession, figure out how do we validate the skill that it takes so that people start to take community management seriously as a profession. It is not the technology. It is the skill that it takes to build a community and keep it going that is incredibly valuable. I think that we, as a profession, need to figure out how do we do that. How do we do that? Do we create a credential? Do we provide a certification? Is there some other way? I even see it in the profession that I work in, the profession that my community serves is project managers. We are on a quest to inject project management into schools. We were an integral part of the PMIAA legislation that really made project management an integral piece of the federal government and how they manage projects, and we’re trying to filter that out throughout the United States in different states. I think we have to think that big in order for people to really see the value in it for people to then think that is something that I want to do because it’s valuable. It’s something that absolutely needs to be done, but people don’t really know. When you think community management, they’re like, “Oh, you mean like Facebook or Twitter?” No, that’s not what I mean, it’s something completely different. I think that as a profession, we need to really figure out how do we then, for lack of a better word, legitimize community management as a profession and not just a thing that you do on the side or an afterthought.
[01:13:40] Bassey Etim: That’s such a great point, Marjorie. Thinking about like the way that platforms are constructed, there needs to be a new generation of them that does like take the learnings of the community management industry into account. I like to think that I’m working on one now, but so much of this is going to be about if Facebook had been designed more responsibly to spread, if Twitter had been designed more responsibly, I think we might be there already and maybe the place we’re going to is just to get there anyway, but I think the undercurrent of your question, Patrick, which is like, what can we do now? Boy, it’s a troubling one, like in this environment, particularly, but I’m super optimistic about it simply because I just think the world is changing as a result of this and the way that we connect with people. You see all these workplaces go remote, you see all these communications –– there’s so many things that point toward the need for good community management.
[01:14:41] Patrick O’Keefe: I think, Marjorie, that was just an outstanding practical point. I think the reality for community is that I don’t think that the resources we have in this space care about that as much as maybe they would like you to think or us to think or maybe they would talk about, I think it’s mostly focused on a gold rush or a land rush of how many things they can claim right now. It sounds like PMI has actually taken steps to what I’ll just describe as getting on the list of possible careers when a guidance counselor, whoever, a career counselor in high school says, “This is a thing,” or whatever it is to get on the list of jobs.
Even if you go out there and you search compensation studies that are outside the community industry, you go to whatever LinkedIn offers to say how much you should make and you search community manager, it’s not even a recognized thing and it’s merged with people who manage apartment buildings. It’s not on the list, [chuckles] so just something said for people who really care about the profession. I think Bassey’s point about the memetic arts which is a terminal thing I’ve heard, as just a breeding ground for talent, is really good and just probably where a lot of great future community professionals are now getting their footing. That’s a fun way to think about it.
I would say beyond that, representation matters. I think the more people who talk about this work and say that they do this work and the more that people see that people who look like them, identify like them, are like them, do this work, then it’s like everything else, you see yourself in it, so that’s powerful stuff.
A practical question, you hinted at this right away, Marjorie, where I was going, which is, if you’re hiring right now, finding a broader talent pool, like a broader candidate pool, you’re getting applications, you’re not liking what you’re seeing. You want to get more people in the space. Maybe you’re looking to grow a more diverse team, LinkedIn, obviously a great tool. Are there any others, any other recommendations from the group? If not, I have one.
I would just say an easy thing because I was just talking to a group of white men about this the other day. The easy trick that I would mention is contact the WeSupportNYC newsletter, @wesupportnyc on Twitter. Next to Marjorie’s site, it’s the only other community resource that I regularly pay attention to and there probably is a couple of others, so don’t get offended by that, because they have a really good tuned-in diverse audience and they’ll put your job in their newsletter for free and it goes out, I think it’s every week, and it’s just a great way to easily attract a broader talent pool and they do a great job. Carol Benovic-Bradley, who is my editorial lead on the show here, Alex Dao, who has been on the show before, and Steve Niebauer do a great job curating that newsletter, so I just recommend that as a resource to anyone who’s hiring and again, free.
[01:17:15] Nina Collins: Great. Thank you.
[01:17:15] Patrick O’Keefe: I don’t think you can argue with that. I think we’ve hinted at the taint of Facebook and how Facebook has impacted all facets of the work that we do.
Community software, technology, diversity in the communities, hiring people, how people view the work, how people view the profession, what they think we do, how they view other spaces, how they view other communities, our communities, when they go into them based upon their experience on Facebook, and really, as I was thinking about this, remembered back to 2017 when ProPublica published some of Facebook’s moderation training manuals. As part of that, there was this quiz and the quiz asked people trained to be a moderator or content reviewer, they said, “Which one of these three subsets of people is protected from hate speech?” There’s three subsets. One was female drivers. Two was Black children. Three was white men. The correct answer to the quiz was white men. Only white men of those subsets was a subset protected from hate speech. It’s both a stupid question and a stupid answer.
I think it’s definitely stupid all the way around to exist in the quiz, but one larger point that brings me back to when we think about the taint of Facebook is just how it can adjust the perception of the web as a whole and how people see our communities when they come in, and people may think that all spaces are the same, even when we know that each community is unique and operates differently, it may lead to people being on the defensive or even behaving in a certain way when they come to our community, just because of how a major social media platform treated a particular issue. In other words, they might be jaded by one poorly run platform or in this case, a few big ones. When it comes to our community, how do we tackle education? How do we turn that around? How do we change the perception of how social interaction looks on the web? At least in our small corner of it.
[01:18:59] Nina Collins: For me, I would say it’s slow. It’s been interesting to leave Facebook. We left in November and now it’s almost August. Communities are very interesting, as we all know, they’re very organic at best and they evolve, so it’s never the same. The community today is not what it was three months ago. It’s completely different from when I started it almost five years ago on Facebook, particularly mine because it’s so personal. It’s about women in their emotional, physical lives.
When I started it, I was 46 and now I’m almost 51, so my interests have changed, the example being wanting to talk more about racism or politics or just my physical, the stage I am in terms of menopause. We’re constantly evolving and I would say, in our example, I’m finding our community is much more intentional, much less, as we talked about, less ironic, less sarcastic and there are upsides and downsides to that. It’s not as addictive as Facebook and that’s bad for business. You want your business to be addictive. It’s also much more intellectually interesting. There’s more serious, interesting stuff that goes on. I guess I’m saying you have to be comfortable with the idea of change and something that’s ever-evolving and I always just try and tell people, it’s clear, we have a lot of the features now that Facebook has after six months of working really hard at it and basically copying them, there were features that people were just too addicted to we couldn’t really let go of, but it’s a completely different tone. Honestly, I feel like I’ve gotten my life back. That addictive thing has been mostly just good to not feel like you’re a slave to the Facebook algorithm, but it takes adjustment. It takes time.
[01:20:44] Marjorie Anderson: I think there was a quote that has stuck with me and I think you said it, Patrick, is that the difference between social media platforms and communities is that social media platforms are all about me. Communities are about we. I think that if we really start to dig our heels in and start getting people to think in those terms, like when you join a community, it’s about the collective. It’s not just about you, and I think we’re starting to see that. People are more interested in helping than they are serving themselves. I think if we keep that in mind in how we really think about how we bring people together and the purpose for them coming together, that can really change the way they interact in social spaces holistically. For me, leaning into that community being about ‘we’ and how we interact socially is going to be an integral part in how we change the way people interact with one another in all social spaces.
[01:21:46] Patrick O’Keefe: Bassey, one thing I’ll throw out too is you mentioned earlier how you’re working on an app. Nina mentioned how in development there are features Facebook had that were just too addicting. They added those features. They felt that pressure to add those features. Let’s see, how would I phrase this? Is Facebook hanging over you like a cloud? Are these big social apps hanging over the ideas that you’re having in this dark way where it’s like, “Well, people are used to this, and we want to cultivate this, but therefore, what’s the middle ground, or how should we backwards compatible our app to people’s mental-” how they’re trained right now by Facebook?”
[01:22:21] Bassey Etim: First of all, how could we not? Second of all, a lot of the super talented people on our team came from Facebook-owned properties and previous jobs.
[01:22:33] Patrick O’Keefe: Boy, I really put you in a tough spot there. I’m sorry about that. [laughs]
[01:22:37] Bassey Etim: I think it’s really important to, number one, acknowledge Facebook’s success and other platforms understand why those things happen. Then it’s also important to not get deflated about it and to perceive it as like a second-mover advantage where it’s like major social properties right now if you’re building something new, whether it’s big or small, you’re going to be pivoting off of that. That’s how everything works from science to literature to music. Some big structure is created and then that big structure is built on and through building it, it is subverted. The domination of the major platforms isn’t infinite. It’s going to end one day. It’s our responsibility to think about what are we going to build in its place.
[01:23:27] Patrick O’Keefe: Nina said the word modeling a few times.
[01:23:30] Nina Collins: I’m taking those words to heart. That was super helpful. Thank you.
[01:23:54] Patrick O’Keefe: I think it’s interesting because people on Facebook in my general experience behave okay, often bad, but it’s more often bad than I see in individual smaller communities I’m a part of, and I think that’s a mass problem, not necessarily just a Facebook problem, but again it’s a modeling problem. Derek Powazek and Heather Champ, two veteran community builders, who I have had on the show, really smart people, they have this sentence that always I always come back to, and it’s, “You are what you tolerate.“
That’s pretty much it. Facebook is what it is because it tolerated something. Bassey, you mentioned this earlier with Twitter. It’s foundational. You can’t go back. There weren’t community people there at the start. We’re just where we are at right now because of what we did before. I think the greatest community building hack you can have is to start it right and then work for 10 years, and boom, you’ve done it.
I put a call out to a few folks asking for input into this program and one person shared the following asking to remain anonymous, “As a Black woman in a managerial role, I’ve noticed that myself and other BIPOC,” and that’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color if you’re not familiar, “often end up doing the emotional labor of explaining or speaking up for ‘diversity and inclusion,'” they put quotes around that, diversity and inclusion, “internally at the organizations we belong to. This takes many forms, e.g. marketing asking for help with finding the right words to express solidarity, managing difficult conversations about social unrest and protests internally, reminding the company that diversity and inclusion can’t just be a one-time marketing or social media campaign. I could go on. These conversations are obviously valuable, but they’re emotionally taxing, and in my opinion, signify a lack of commitment for many companies in hiring trained DEI professionals.”
I suspect, and I believe, Nina, you talked about this with your community, the emotional labor of explaining, of Black women explaining to white women why XYZ, I suspect some or all of you, probably all of you can relate to this, essentially being the Black person in the room and having heads turn your way for answers on these issues when you’re really just there to do your job, like everyone else. Thoughts on that person’s predicament and what you suggest they do or just commiseration, if you will, I guess.
[01:25:40] Marjorie Anderson: I think it’s tricky because on one point, I think you feel a sense of responsibility to speak up because there might be people who don’t feel empowered to say something. I think we can use our influence to absolutely affect change. The other side of that coin is that I’m not the spokesperson for Black people within the organization. If you want to know if something resonates or if you want to know if something makes sense, talk to other folks, I am not the delegate for the Black population within the organization. It’s a catch-22. If you’ve got a voice, then you can speak up. I think that there’s a sense of responsibility there. Also, use that voice to say, “I’m not the only one you need to be talking to, go talk to other people as well,” and make them do the legwork. I think it’s okay to say, “I’m glad you asked me, but you need to be asking other people, too.”
[01:26:36] Nina Collins: Yes, I agree. I think it’s a very individual thing. I have felt pretty comfortable taking the lead on this. I’m working with a white admin on this unlearning racism thing we’re doing. I feel like if we don’t start talking more about this stuff, we’re never really going to get anywhere. The line I keep repeating is, someone who runs a community for women over 40, where we talk a lot about sex and health and relationships, I’m known in my little teeny world for talking about anything. I’ll talk about my vagina. I’ll talk about- but I realized like I was not talking about race with these women. Here I am, a Black woman running a community of lots of white women, and I was never talking about race.
I’ve decided that’s over. I’m going to be having these conversations and I’m okay with it. It actually came up today in our session. This is a funny question. This white woman, we were talking about what’s the term for digital blackface. This white woman was like, “Is it bad if I use a Black emoji?” I was like, on the one hand, people are saying it’s performative. It’s not good. On the other hand, is it better for her to not just use white thumbs up all day long? Should she use beige thumbs up or Black thumbs up?
To Marjorie’s point, I said, “To me, it’s fine if you use Black emojis and you can tell people your Black friend Nina said it’s fine. It’s not fine to some other Black people. I can’t speak for all Black people. It’s a complicated question apparently, but I can have my own opinion about it and I can share it with you and I’m perfectly happy to.” I also saw in our unlearning racism class how incredibly helpful it was when Black women showed up, it really was helpful, particularly on this issue of like, are white women the most dangerous women, people in America, or the issues between white women and Black women in the workplace?
These things need to be talked about and Black women talk about it amongst themselves. A lot of white women are really very clueless about these issues and they’re not going to be helped unless they’re talked to with someone about it.
[01:28:35] Bassey Etim: I agree with that. I won’t reiterate the previous points, but as Black folks in America, if we’re in positions in organizations where we have voices that are going to be listened to, a big part of the legacy is that we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, and we’re Called and I mean that “called” with a capital C, where we’re Called to try to make this a more fair and just world. Maybe that’s the justice in all this, but I think we can’t shy away from our responsibilities, but we also need to be clear that, like Marjorie said, we’re not the only people we need to be talking to.
We need to be agitating for getting professionals who can work on these things. We need to be agitating for change. I think it’s a generational responsibility that falls on us that if some folks –- obviously, not everybody is in a position as privileged as me where it’s like mental health-wise I’m doing pretty good, money-wise I’m doing pretty good, but folks who do have the emotional energy to be able to deal with this, I definitely encourage you if you’re worried about doing it one way or another to make your voice heard.
[01:29:48] Nina Collins: I agree, you know when your boundaries when you can’t. You know when you’re too tired when you have to go to bed or read a book, or when you’ve had enough, then you have to pull back.
[01:29:59] Patrick O’Keefe: What I hear is the answer is if someone asks you the question, they look your way, the answer is, hire people to focus on this. In my optimistic way, I don’t have problems with depression, thankfully I’m privileged in that way, but there have been days, I was like, “Jesus, what’s going on in this country. I’m going to go play video games for five minutes. Give me a second.”
I want to believe that right now might be, in general with a lot of companies, the best moment to make that argument, that, “Duh, look left, look right, watch the news. This is coming. It’s going to hit you in the face. Are you going to be ready for it or not? How are you going to get ready for it? Well, it’s not by asking me to do three jobs. It’s by hiring someone who can focus on this.” That’s what I’m hearing from all three of you.
[01:30:42] Bassey Etim: Exactly. The key is it’s not hopeless. Change does happen and it’s with fits and starts, but things do change, but they don’t change if you lose your energy.
[01:30:54] Patrick O’Keefe: I am really grateful for this conversation. I appreciate all of you being so candid and thoughtful and open with us here today and just making time for us to have this conversation. Thank you. Thank you, Bassey. Thank you, Marjorie. Thank you, Nina.
[01:31:06] Nina Collins: Thank you for having us.
[01:31:07] Bassey Etim: My pleasure, Patrick. Thank you.
[01:31:07] Marjorie Anderson: Thanks, Patrick.
[01:31:10] Nina Collins: Thank you to all of you, you guys are really smart and interesting. I appreciate it.
[01:31:13] Bassey Etim: Thank you. Right back at you.
[01:31:16] Marjorie Anderson: [chuckles] Exactly.
[01:31:17] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Bassey Etim, editorial director at CNN NewsCo. Follow him on Twitter @basseye, that’s B-A-S-S-E-Y-E. Marjorie Anderson, manager of digital communities at the Project Management Institute. She also co-runs Community by Association, a resource for association community managers at communitybyassociation.com, and Nina Collins, founder of The Woolfer, at thewoolfer.com.
For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. Thanks for listening.
If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.