Fan Sites and Angry Community Members
David DeWald’s experience in community is diverse. He created a large, successful gaming fan site. Then, he leveraged that success to land a job in the industry, working at Acclaim Games and Bioware. In recent years, he has been building community for B2B companies, Thunderhead.com and Carbon Black. On this episode, we bridge these worlds, including:
- The pros and cons of Jive-x (and enterprise software in general)
- How to win over an angry or even “trollish” community member
- That time I was threatened with a rapper’s entourage
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Emoderation.
“I like to think of startups as little speedboats and Microsoft is a big battle ship, and if you need to make a left turn, it takes a long time to move a big ship left, whereas a speed boat will just turn. With a small one, if you go in and say, ‘I’m having this issue,’ they’re usually back within a couple of days and say, ‘it’s under control, we’ll take care of it.’ Whereas with Jive, they’ll say, ‘oh, this is a known issue. It’ll be in our next update, which is in two months.’ The turnaround is significantly different.” -@historian
“I never like when there seems to be a random cut out of features, just to have pricing levels [for community software]. Charge based on volume. Don’t charge based on my ability to name a moderator.” -@patrickokeefe
“Your biggest detractor is ultimately on your side. They just want things to be better and, if you can find out how to make it better or explain maybe why it can’t necessarily be as good as they’d hoped, then often times, you can defuse a situation. And if it’s done well, they can come around and become that champion.” -@historian
“There are folks who just want to watch the world burn, to borrow a phrase from Batman, and then there are people who are just very angry, or who wanted more and didn’t get it and so they’re disappointed, and they’re taking it out on you. Those are people you can turn around.” -@patrickokeefe
“Do we want it to be possible for a company to come back and say ‘you’re being a little unfair with us based on what we know about you, because you’ve put so much of your personal information online.’ Do we want to make that acceptable? Let’s kill them with kindness if we can. But, do we let that evolve so that it becomes a thing, where a company can say, ‘we appreciate your feedback, but you’re wrong based on the information that you’ve said before?’ It just seems outlandish to me.” -@historian
About David DeWald
With over 16 years of experience working with web-based communities, David DeWald brings his unique knowledge of online and offline social interactions to everything he does. David has spent time at IGN, Acclaim Games, BioWare and Thunderhead.com. Currently, he is a community manager at Carbon Black. His website is daviddewald.com.
- Sponsor Community Signal
- Epic Games’ Fan Art and Fan Site Policy
- Monetizing Online Forums, an ebook authored by Patrick
- An article about the Fine Bros controversy
- David’s website
- David on Twitter
00:04: Welcome to Community Signal. A podcast for online community professionals, sponsored by Emoderation, smart social, globally. Here’s your host Patrick O’Keefe.
00:20 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and welcome back for another edition of Community Signal. Before we get down to business with today’s guest, I wanted to mention that we are actively looking for sponsors for the show. Our listeners are a small, influential group of community professionals who guide and decide how money is spent on community efforts at the companies where they work. If this sounds like a group that you would like to reach, please visit communitysignal.com/sponsor for full details. We do sponsorships in a really tasteful way and, as such, spots are very limited. On today’s show, I’m speaking with David DeWald. With over 16 years of experience working with web-based communities, David brings his unique knowledge of online and offline social interactions to everything he does. David has spent time at IGN, Acclaim Games, BioWare and Thunderhead.com. Currently, he is a community manager at Carbon Black. His website is daviddewald.com. David, welcome to the program.
01:09 David DeWald: Hey, thanks for having me.
01:11 Patrick O’Keefe: In the mid ’90s, there was an artificial life simulation game called Creatures. In this game, you could raise alien creatures through a life cycle. You could then export these creatures to share them with others, but there wasn’t an easy way to do so. You decided to change that.
01:26 David DeWald: Yeah. It was my little first foray into communities and these little files could be exported. They weren’t very big, but, back then that’s relative to the internet and everything seemed small back then. And you could upload ’em to a nice, safe space and somebody else could download ’em, and import them into their game, and, with those little files, they carried a little bit of DNA of the creature that you owned. And so, your creature’s DNA could be introduced to somebody else’s creature’s DNA and it would affect all kinds of factors from how hungry they were, their likes and dislikes, and it was a very neat little system, a neat little game. So there was just no good way of exchanging those files. So, I decided to throw up a webpage. It was really basic on GeoCities, if anybody remembers that.
02:10 Patrick O’Keefe: I do.
02:10 David DeWald: And, as people would email them to me and I would upload them, put some information in there, update a webpage, and then people could download ’em as they saw fit. So, it was pretty cool. And that was my first real foray into building a community around something online.
02:25 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s funny, when you told me about this before the show, you were able to mention your GeoCities URL, and I actually remember mine, too, or at least the main one I did, which was “Patrick’s Miami Dolphins Website,” [chuckle] Or maybe, more accurately, I think I called it “Patrick’s New Miami Dolphins Website,” ‘Cause the first one was on Angelfire, and it was one page. And then on GeoCities it was geocities.com/Colosseum/Arena/8884 and I think, on my death bed, right before I go, that’ll flash right before I’m gone.
02:55 David DeWald: Yeah, it’s funny how those kinds of things stick with you, right? I remember that I kinda got bored with running the community after a while, and I transferred it over to this girl that was interested in kind of maintaining it, and she turned it into a Robin Shou fan site. He was the guy that was at the Mortal Combat movie.
03:13 Patrick O’Keefe: Okay.
03:14 David DeWald: And if you go in the way back machine, it doesn’t actually go far enough back to see the website that I had, but her Robin Shou fan site shows up, so…
03:25 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s funny. And I wanted to talk about fan sites and unofficial resources. It’s not something we’ve talked about yet on Community Signal. You spent a substantial portion of your career in that space. I’ve built several fan sites and unofficial resources, really good, well-managed fan sites that respected the people and companies behind, what we were a fan of. At the same time, I’ve had some of those same people mistreat me, or the community, or just not really understand how to interact with a fan site. And I think that many of us who have managed noteworthy fan sites, have stories like that.
03:57 David DeWald: I agree. For me, it was a situation where I was working with a gaming company and it was very early on in the internet, before fan sites were really a big thing, and they did have some gaming news sites. And so, it was hard when I would ask for stuff from the company to get new information, maybe before anybody else, because I was just a little fish in a very big, well maybe not so big, pond, but I was a little fish in a pond when there were bigger fish. So, for me, pulling teeth, that was it. I might ask 10 times, and of those 10 times, maybe one time they would send me something that was interesting. And it may be a picture, and maybe not a very clear picture that wasn’t explained.
04:39 David DeWald: And you would have to build kind of a story around this to make it seem like it was bigger than it was, because, really, they just said, “All I can give you is this.” And they wouldn’t tell you what it was. They might give you the name of the creature they’re showing you, but you wouldn’t get any details. And, of course, in order to keep people coming back to the site, week after week, month after month, when you haven’t had any new content from the developer in that timeframe, you get real creative in what you start doing to get people to return so you’d get a teaser, get that image and then you would say, “Hey, we got new information coming out next week.”
05:15 David DeWald: And you’d give like a little corner of that picture, so that they’d know something new was coming. And you would just make it drag out and try and get those people to return back in. I was fortunate that I was never truly abused or they weren’t ever really, truly negative to me, but it was just a struggle for new information and new content, because there were other sites that had a bigger presence, and no more people were going there, so… I eventually got real lucky and one of those bigger sites said, “We like what you’re doing with your small, tiny little site over there in the middle of nowhere in the internet. Why don’t you come over to our house?”‘ And they put me in their umbrella, so to speak.
05:51 David DeWald: And that was GameSpy, and they had Planet RPG which, the game was an RPG that I was working with, and they would do hosted community, so under Planet RPG, there was kind of a subdirectory that was Planet Dungeon Siege or Dungeon Siege was what it was at the time, and I was able to put my site there and have it hosted where they would pay for the bandwidth and stuff like that. Which wasn’t cheap early on in the internet days and it kind of eased the burden and gave me the cache of being part of this bigger site so that news would flow a little more freely.
06:22 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
06:23 David DeWald: But it was still tough ’cause they don’t wanna give too much of the story away or too much information so that you buy the game. That’s mostly what I dealt with was just a glut of nothingness. Months, sometimes weeks and weeks of no information.
06:38 Patrick O’Keefe: So let me tell you, that’s nothing. That is absolutely nothing. I can identify with that. So for example, I’m a big fan of Sean Combs, known as Diddy, and I ran a comprehensive fan news source dedicated to his company, Bad Boy Entertainment. And I can definitely relate to being ignored because we were… And not so much because we were a small fish, but just because I don’t know if they were terribly efficient at interacting with the media, period. News and information about the company, even basic stuff like who is a current artist and who is not never seemed to flow very freely.
07:08 Patrick O’Keefe: And I had solid relationships with many people in and around the company. Diddy’s Twitter account has probably shared something I’ve written 10 or more times, but then I have plenty of negative stories too and I’ll tell you a couple of them. More basic stuff, one artist manager called me a liar in public on Twitter for sharing a record release date that the label had sent me. Another manager wanted me to lie to fans and tell them that the vocals on a song had never been released before, even though I knew they had been.
07:35 Patrick O’Keefe: And the fact that I mentioned that bothered them, but the craziest one has to be the time that I told one manager that his artist’s website was copying and pasting articles from other sites. In other words, they were committing copyright infringement. And I told him this because I wanted the artist’s website to remain online and not be taken down, like I told him via email privately. And I even had to file a DMCA notice with the host when they didn’t do anything about it. And in response, the manager suggested that members of the rapper’s entourage would be at my next speaking engagement.
08:09 David DeWald: Oh, that’s… I can’t even. I just have no clue what I would do in that situation. That’s amazing.
08:17 Patrick O’Keefe: And the craziest part was that the artist was touring and he was going to be in the same city as me at the same time as I was at that conference.
08:24 David DeWald: Oh man! So it really could’ve happened.
08:27 Patrick O’Keefe: It was plausible, and I told the manager that if the members of the rapper’s entourage made it to the conference, they should introduce themselves.
08:34 David DeWald: Yeah, and that’s probably the best response was to totally diffuse it, but I wonder, certainly early on in the internet, especially with the music industry, gaming kind of got it a little early. They understood communities and how they could work, but I can understand how the music industry would… And we’ve seen time and time again, is slow to adapt to the internet. They would not know how to handle it. The plus side is I think you dodge the marketing arm because I think the marketing arm, as you said, would be more pushy.
08:59 David DeWald: Like, “We want this, don’t say that,” And talking directly to managers and stuff like that, you’re more apt to get better information. It’s terrible that they tried pushing you around a little bit, but I think that you were probably more true and a more honest fan than they are. So if the lyrics were previously used and you knew it and you said it and you showed it, then them trying to whitewash it and say that it never happened here, that’s just not how it is.
09:26 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and I think when you work with the manager and those types of people that are closer to the artist and I think the downside is that they’re more likely to get their feelings hurt, and yeah. I don’t know, I think people wanna control the message and manipulate it, but all of this stuff can sour you as a fan. I think sometimes people expect that a fan site means all positive or someone who should automatically fall in line with whatever they want, but that’s not respecting your fans. I think it’s kind of like abusing your fans.
09:53 David DeWald: Yeah, I think that now, I think people understand that you can’t always control the message that you put out there even when you think you’ve controlled it well. They’ll put something out there on the internet, they think it’s perfectly fine. Speaking of fine, the Fine Brothers recently… That’s a good example. They thought they were doing a great thing, but it was presented in a way that maybe wasn’t as good as it could’ve been and it completely backfired on them. They thought they were doing the right thing, they thought they were helping people take advantage of their knowledge and stuff, but the way they presented it and some of the things they’ve done in the past just made it very difficult for people to embrace the messages as they thought it should be embraced.
10:32 David DeWald: And it really turned back on them. And so, you can’t always control the message even if you think you can, and with a fan site, we’re gonna take it the way that we think it should be and we’re usually more open. We’re trying to present all of the information that we can in whatever way. If we say we think this, then somebody else comes along from the community; our community that we’ve built and says, “Well, you know, you might be right, but what if we looked at it this way?” We’re definitely more open to listening to that idea, whereas a manager or the company that you’re building this fan site for a product, they’re more likely to say, “This is the message that we want and we’re gonna stick to this message, and we’d really love it if you stuck to this message.” And in your case, they said, “We’re gonna send thugs out if you don’t stick to this message.”
11:21 Patrick O’Keefe: I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know ’cause no one ever showed up and another area where there has always been a disconnect, I think, is the need for fan sites to generate revenue. As you know, running a fan site can be a full time job and yet, some people just don’t seem to understand this. One example I could draw from in gaming is Epic Games. They have this ridiculous, unenforceable fan site policy on their website where they purport to govern how fan sites may exist. Among their requirements is that, if you use the names of their products, you can only do so in a way that “Enhances,” their reputation. They also said that you can have no monetary objective, and if you do, they can “Terminate and revoke your permission to create fan sites.” And I’m thinking, “Who wrote this thing?”. It’s obviously an attorney somewhere, but even a passable attorney… It seems like a weird statement. The whole document is poison and, worse yet, it’s not even consistent with the law.
12:23 David DeWald: Right, it isn’t. That’s completely unenforceable because First Amendment rights, for the most part, we can put what we want out there without reprisal.
12:32 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, if they’re not using the trademark in the domain name, if they’re not selling logos on t-shirts, if… There’s a way to go about it where it’s fair use to provide commentary on a game. So if they’re not providing some sort of pirated links to download the game, if they’re not passing themselves off as you, if they’re not using your characters in their logo, chances are, they’re gonna be okay and thus… So there’s no license to permit someone to create a fan site where they can talk about your game. It just doesn’t work that way.
13:00 David DeWald: Right, it completely doesn’t. Worse case scenario is that they would cut you off, and you couldn’t get new information, you couldn’t get products, you couldn’t get anything. And then you would just piggyback off everybody else. You would see something new on a different site and you would do your take on it, without the materials.
13:17 Patrick O’Keefe: And there are tons of fan sites and fan communities that don’t have any particular access to anything and are thriving, wonderful communities.
13:24 David DeWald: Exactly, and the monetary part of it… Early on, it wasn’t cheap, the internet wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t cheap to connect, it wasn’t cheap to buy a domain, and it wasn’t cheap to host a site. Nowadays, you can connect to the internet for free all over the place. You can get a domain for $15 or less, depending, and you can setup hosting for, maybe, $5-$10 a month. So, if anybody really and truly wants a website or to create a website, it’s easier now than it ever has been. I mean, my hosting company, I can click a few buttons and it’ll spit out a WordPress site.
13:58 David DeWald: I don’t have to do anything, except maybe find a theme, download it, upload it, and WordPress has gotten to the point now where I don’t even have to download it and upload it anymore. I just find the theme and push a button to install it. Still, it costs money, and trying to monetize that and get something so it pays for itself, is huge. Bandwidth still costs money, right? If you go over a certain amount, then your host is gonna say, “Alright, so maybe you need to bump up your level here so that we can handle all this hosting”. And if you’ve got a lot of content, you may want to get it on a CD and that’s not free.
14:29 Patrick O’Keefe: It all adds up. Just talking about the tech aspects of it, discounts the personal aspects of it. I mean, like I mentioned, becoming a full-time job. Some of these fan sites are very, very large, and it is a 40 hour a week gig, right? In some cases, it’s become a team of people, and a registered company or an LLC, because it is such a big operation, and gets so much traffic, and takes so much time to run it. And I think that, on the whole, you have to see that as a good thing. If you have fan communities that are so large that they have to have some money to survive, obviously something good is happening. Like if you’re not making any money, something’s probably wrong with you.
15:06 David DeWald: Right. Yeah. And I think that there are companies out there that I know of that their sole purpose in life is to suck up fan sites.
15:15 Patrick O’Keefe: Right, because these are amateurs in a lot of cases, who don’t know how to generate this revenue, so it’s really kind of, not taking advantage, but you see someone who has this traffic, and they don’t know what to do with it, and they might be closing their site, and these companies step up.
15:26 David DeWald: If only somebody put out a free book to help people monetize their sites.
15:51 Patrick O’Keefe: Thank you for mentioning that. I did write a free book monetizingonlineforums.com, but even that, the ideas behind it, it does take time. And some strategy and some talent behind it, so… It’s true with the online communities, too, where a lot of the companies kinda swallow up these forums, that were started by enthusiasts, or people who really loved the topic, and they became these huge, millions and millions of post communities that have this value. And it gets to a certain point where they either want to move on with their life, like this isn’t what they want to do as work, or they are just breaking even, or they’re losing money, or they can’t find a way, so they sell out to one of these networks of forums. I think more highly of some than of others. So, they take those communities and manage them, from the founders. I guess it’s not unlike any other organization, or business, or startup, if you want to look at it that way, where the founder gets bought out, and someone else comes in, and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.
16:26 David DeWald: Yeah, I agree that it definitely is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I’ve seen communities implode at those changeovers. I’ve seen communities just completely reject the new owners and go start their own new communities somewhere else. I’m not gonna point to companies, or fingers, or even forums, specifically, but it definitely, that changeover process, if it is not handled just right, there’s a revolt. The community says, “Alright, we’re just not going to do this”, and typically, the two things that really get people if someone’s looking to do this is the new company usually comes in and monetizes the crap out of the forum, and it suddenly becomes banner ads everywhere, and then there’s a bad changeover in the management team.
17:08 David DeWald: Like, the old owner doesn’t do a good transition to the new person running the community. And there’s not trust there, with the new person, and so the community is like very wary, and very, “I don’t know if this is gonna work.” And that’s the two biggest flaws I see with those big companies buying out these successful little, we’ll call ’em “Mom and Pop,” forum communities.
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18:06 Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s switch off the fan sites. At Carbon Black, you don’t use applied forms fan sites, generally use. [chuckle]
18:13 David DeWald: No.
18:13 Patrick O’Keefe: You use Jive-x. What do you think about it?
18:17 David DeWald: I think that there’s a lot of good things about it. It is a very good platform for customer communications. I mean, Jive-x, there’s two Jives, right. There’s a Jive-n, which stands for the internal and Jive-x, which is for external. The external customer facing, and they have good tools for doing that. I think that there’s definitely room for improvement, and they are working towards it, but they’re not working very quickly towards it.
18:41 Patrick O’Keefe: Why do you think they are slow to update it from your perspective? Do you think that it’s hard to leave Jive once you’re in it?
18:46 David DeWald: Yeah, I think any platform is hard to leave once you’re in it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little simple vBulletin. You know if you wanna move to something else, it’s hard to move.
18:55 Patrick O’Keefe: There are a lot of converters that exist, obviously.
18:56 David DeWald: Yeah.
18:57 Patrick O’Keefe: You can get to a lot of places from there.
18:59 David DeWald: That’s true, but I think Jive uses a very proprietary system and while the data is somewhat accessible through their API, you can’t do a giant slurp and pull out all data at once. You have to do it in chunks. So, I think that, if I was pulling discussions out of a thing and there’s more content types than just a discussion, there’s documents and videos and all that stuff, but just discussions, I think the most that you can pull down at a time is about 200 by the API, so you would have to do that over and over again, and in a large community, that would just take forever.
19:30 David DeWald: So, moving away from it, I think where they’re slow to uptake is that a lot of customer communities are also support communities, and most companies don’t use a foreign platform to handle their support cases. They have usually different systems, so finding a way to leverage those support systems inside of Jive would be better. A good example is Salesforce. My company uses Salesforce for their ticketing system, and while there is a Salesforce connector, it’s not perfect and it has issues, and they’re working on that connector and we’re actually working with Jive and the developer of that so that it can be better for us, but it’s not a fast process. It’s not a perfect process.
20:14 Patrick O’Keefe: Now, you have seen community from all sorts of angles, enterprise, just starting a community yourself. So, you’re familiar with what it’s like to use open source software, what’s it like to use something like vBulletin or Xenforo, and what it’s like to use JiveX. [chuckle] So, I think when you compare and contrast those experiences of using enterprise platform, what are some of the big differences, positive or negative. I guess one would have to be support. I mean that’s kind of the big reason people go enterprise is support for the application. Is there anything else that comes to mind?
20:42 David DeWald: Support is a very good one. If you have an issue with a free software or even a low-end paid software, then the support isn’t as great with Jive. They’re usually pretty good about, “I have this issue, what’s the problem?” And they’ll either come back and say, “Oh, that’s definitely an issue,” Or “That’s definitely something that we need to look into,” But on the flip side, because it’s a big company, it’s slow to turn. I’d like to think of startups as little speedboats and Microsoft is a big battle ship, and if you need to make a left turn, it takes a long time to move a big ship left, whereas a speed boat will just turn.
21:21 David DeWald: So, with a small one, if you go in and say, “I’m having this issue,” They’re usually back within a couple of days and say, “Oh, totally got it, it’s under control, we’ll take care of it,” Whereas with Jive, they’ll say, “Oh, this is a known issue. It’ll be in our next update, which is in two months.” The turnaround is significantly different. With the other one, Jive-n, the code, we can’t access it very easily, but with a free software, I can go in and edit it. If I see a problem with the code, I can fix it or if I want to make a change, there’s usually a way for me to modify it. Every platform including Jive supports some form of plugin or add-on feature that will allow you to control it.
22:03 David DeWald: It just seems like with smaller platforms, you have greater access whereas on the larger platforms, you can do some of that. They don’t wanna to give you too much control because you could negatively impact the way that other things work, and it’s usually more complex under the hood. It’s a balance. I mean, for me, I love little free form type things. When I set one up for me or for my friends or for somebody, then I always choose a free one because I feel like I have greater flexibility because if I need to, I can get down into the code which is usually PHP or something like that and say, “Okay, here’s where the problem lies. Here’s where we need to update it.”
22:41 David DeWald: Most of these free softwares, if you package that up and say, “This is what I found and this is how I fixed it,” They’re likely to incorporate it into their code, and you become a hero. I know that, with phpBB, I personally used a really great site for that and I didn’t know the owner of it at the time and I didn’t know the person that owned it until much later, but there was a lot of good code there that I could use and put into my community and if I wanted to make my own, I could upload it there and with the larger companies, that’s just not as possible. You can do some add-ons and stuff like that, but usually they are very specific to what you’re doing with your company and they may not have any use for somebody else. That’s pretty much it.
23:28 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s definitely more about community process with open source because that’s what open source is or should be community, but even with a lower cost application like a vBulletin or Xenforo, there is a strong community of people making customizations. And I guess you were referring to phpBBHacks.com.
23:43 David DeWald: Yeah.
23:44 Patrick O’Keefe: Like you mentioned, phpBB. Well, thank you for that. Yeah, I did… For anyone who doesn’t know, I did use to run that community which was the largest unofficial resource for the phpBB forum software.
23:54 David DeWald: I’m not meaning to plug all your stuff today, it’s just that in that particular case, it was very applicable. Like I personally can remember going to phpBBHacks and downloading stuff and using it not only in personal stuff, but when I was with our Acclaim Games, all of our boards were on phpBB and we had 14 different forums and there were times when the phpBB hacks would be right what we needed and there would be the right thing to do what we needed to do at the time. And so, thank you for having that resource. I didn’t know you at the time or anything like that. So, that’s a genuine compliment that it worked really well for me at the time.
24:36 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s great to hear. Thank you. Yeah, it’s funny how, I don’t know, some of those connections can come around because I started the site because I wanted it, because there wasn’t a directory of phpBB customizations and met a lot of really cool people along the way. So, I appreciate you saying that. When I looked at Jive-x, it was funny ’cause I went to their breakdown and they’ve got their features and whatnot, and they have a forums… It’s called “All the basics,” Is what they call the forums section and they have essentials and essentials plus, but in forums, they took out direct messages, I guess, and you have to use the essentials level to send private messages.
25:07 Patrick O’Keefe: And, I was thinking to myself, “Private messages have been a part of forums for 20 years. Why rip it out now?” I never like when there seems to be just a random cut out of features to have pricing levels. I don’t believe it makes any sense to charge per admin account. For example, if you’re at the low level, you just get one moderator account or one admin. I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense. Charge based on volume, or something, or traffic, or number of posts, or something. Don’t charge based on my ability to name a moderator.” That doesn’t make any sense to me. I really don’t like when companies adopt that sort of pricing structure. Make it more for big features, or volume, or usage.
25:46 David DeWald: Right, the private messaging is part of that making a site sticky, because sometimes there’s just conversations that need to happen that don’t need to be public. And you’re right, It’s such a basic feature that they should have just included it, and I don’t know why. And I think the feature that drives me crazy is the Status Updates. I can put a little sentence in and everybody can see it, but nobody uses it and everybody seems to include it. I’m sure there’s some communities that use it a lot, but I go to Twitter for that kind of thing.
26:14 Patrick O’Keefe: Right, that’s just that danger of giving people too much to do, too much to look at in an online community where you might have Forum Posts and you might have a Calendar and then Status Updates, and then you might have profile comments. vBulletin tried to make that happen years ago and then there’s private groups people can join and post in there and not in the forums. Most communities are just happy to have people in one section posting. Let’s not ruin it by making them go somewhere else.
26:39 David DeWald: Yeah and Jive handles groups differently. So, they have two kind of containers for conversations or content. They have what’s called a Space and they have what’s called a Group, and they refer to both of these things as places. So, you have places which are Spaces or Groups and under the hood, there is really no difference between a Space and a Group with one major exception is that the Spaces conform to a hierarchical structure so that you can have a Space within a space, and that structure is governed by permissions that you can set.
27:17 David DeWald: Whereas, a Group, is just this entity floating out in the ether, and a Group is not related to any other group or any other thing and it uses it’s kind of own persistent administration and permission levels. You have four. So, they can be open where everybody can see everything and interact. It can be a membership group where you have to join. You can see everything, but you have to join to interact with it. Then there’s private which means that you can find it, but you can’t see anything in there and you can’t do anything until you join and then there’s secret which means that if you’re not a member, then you don’t know it exists.
27:52 David DeWald: With that, it makes these situations where people will come to you and say, “I really wanna do something, but I don’t want a lot of people in there. Does it need to be a Space or a Group?” And then you have to have this long discussion explaining how Spaces work, and how Groups and it’s difficult for people to grasp. And you’ll find that later on when you’re talking to them they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I was having trouble with my Space,” But they really meant Group. Or they’ll say it was a Group and it was really a Space. Then trying to get everybody to say everything is really a place, is just nuts.
28:24 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, even listening to you explain it is like…
28:26 David DeWald: Yeah, I’m sure there’s people that just fell asleep.
28:29 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, it’s like, “Okay, that sounds great, David.” So, Carbon Black is a security company and it’s very B2B, high level, big company, professional audience. How do you leverage that sort of expertise in a way that adds value for Carbon Black and its employees?
28:48 David DeWald: I’ve got a good example of that. One of our products almost works like an anti-virus sort of, in that it’s aware of what’s happening on your machine so that if an executable happens, it runs through a little bit of heuristics, decides whether that’s safe or not safe and if it is safe, it will let it run and customers can kind of configure what they consider safe or not. So, if it’s a Microsoft product, then okay, they can run a Microsoft product. That’s fine. I can set that so that it never checks if it’s Microsoft and part of what they can do is they can build a watch list for different products.
29:22 David DeWald: So, if one company uses a particular piece of software, they can say, “Here’s a watch list that looks for this particular product and if it’s this then we’ll allow it and that’s exportable and importable by somebody else. So, we have this community of people that generate watch lists and they can share them with other people and we use that, and we take the best of those watch lists, the ones that get downloaded the most and the ones that get used the most and we roll it into our product, so that it becomes an automatic option when they install the software that now I can choose this watch list or that watch list instead of having to go to the community, find it, download it, and add it up. So, in that way, our community is generating new content or new technology that can be used inside our product, on the fly, when they’re ready for it.
30:09 David DeWald: And they’re continually improving it. And of course, we have the standard if you have an idea, submit it, it goes through out process and it can lead to improvements kind of thing and we’re doing well with that. But the Watch List is kind of the new big thing that we’ve got going on and the community has been very excited about it, and generating a lot of Watch List for us.
30:25 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s cool. I have to believe that the Watch List is an important thing, a guarded thing, because you don’t wanna have a false positives but there’s a certain barrier to play. In this community, the type of people that are posting in it and the expertise that they have and their use cases are at a level where they are so trusted that you can pull that sort of sensitive information in and adopt it into the product.
30:48 David DeWald: Yeah, exactly. And of course, we vet it to… We don’t just automatically add it. We test it and makes sure it works as subscribed and if it does, then it gets added to the product. So that someone says I need a Watch List for in tracking Internet Explorer, and they can just click a button and it adds that to the list of things that are watched.
31:08 Patrick O’Keefe: Before the show we were talking about trolling and you told me this, “While I do think there is no place for outright harassment and bullying, I do think that there is some room for trollish behavior to be rehabilitated.” How do we do that?
31:22 David DeWald: Yeah, like I said, bullying and that kind of thing, there’s just no place for it. We need to do what we can to stop that. But if you have someone who comes into the community and says in colorful language that your product suck and you suck and your company sucks, really and truly I think that that’s probably not the case. They’re just really dissatisfied with whatever issue they’re having problem with, and it’s not getting either resolved in either a timely fashion or in a way that they feel is acceptable.
31:50 David DeWald: And that kind of trollish behavior where it’s more heavy negativity as Spock would say, “Colorful adjectives.” You can go in and say, “Alright. I’m here, I’m listening, what’s the issue.” And sometimes, it is a functional thing. I’ve been in a community where people have said, “I hate the way that you moderate, and I hate the way that you guys govern things and you’re doing things wrong.” And if you sometimes stop and explain to them, this is why we do those things, and the reasons behind it, they’ll come around.
32:20 David DeWald: And in some cases, I’ve taken the bold move of saying, “If you don’t like the way we moderate, become a moderator. Step into our shoes, walk a few steps, and you decide are we don’t thing right or are we doing things wrong.” And in the few cases where I’ve done that, they’ve come around 110%. The biggest hater turned into the biggest champion and they’ve become my best moderators, they’ve become my biggest positive influence in the community. They just didn’t understand everything that was going on or/and ultimately they were unhappy.
32:53 David DeWald: I often say that your biggest detractor is ultimately on your side. They just want things to be better and if you can find out how to make it better or explain maybe why it can’t necessarily be as good as they’ve hoped, then often times, you can defuse a situation. And if it’s done well, they can come around and become that champion that says, “You know what? I had a problem, I was really negative about it, I wasn’t very nice about it, they treated kindly and nicely, they didn’t disrespect me, they listened to what I had to say and while maybe they didn’t fix my problem I totally am behind them because of the way that they handled the situation.” I think that’s a positive for everyone.
33:35 Patrick O’Keefe: I think an important component of this is to really be able to separate trolling and hating if you will, because we go that a lot in the music industry. With the music industry side that I ran where I’d write something critical and people would say, “You’re hating.” And actual legitimate criticisms or things that can be turned around. Because some of the quote you gave I understand you’re giving basic radio podcasts friendly quotes. Some people would say that’s just harsh criticism. That’s not really trolling, that’s not really hating, that’s just someone who’s difficult and you have to deal with them.
34:06 Patrick O’Keefe: And I think that it’s important to recognize sort of the differences between that for when you respond to people. Because there are folks who just want to watch the world burn or a phrase from Batman, and then there are people who are just very angry, or who wanted more and didn’t get it and so they’re disappointed and they’re taking it out on you or not acting in the best way. And those are people you can turn around and people who… Probably most companies should try to turn around. The way I like to think about it is that when you respond to someone you don’t just respond to them, you respond to everyone who will ever read that message.
34:34 Patrick O’Keefe: There are reviews of my book online, for example, that I’ve been very, very fortunate, so I really can’t complain, I have a lot of great reviews that I’m very appreciative of. But there’s a few out there that are very negative and a couple in particular where most likely the person’s just having a laugh at my expense, or doesn’t really care all that much or maybe doesn’t like me or something. And in those cases, I always do respond for the most part but I never say like, “This is an awful review. What’s your problem?” I just say, “I’m sorry it didn’t meet your expectations. What can I do to make this right? Thank you for taking the time to review the book.”
35:09 Patrick O’Keefe: And those sorts of responses, killing everyone with kindness tend to work better than meeting their hostility with more hostility. Once in a while we see a story about some restaurant owner who went off on a Yelp reviewer. And people laugh about that and they say, “Oh, well, good.” Somebody will say, “Good for that guy, those people online, they’re too entitled” whatever. But I think, in general, that sort of response just makes people trust you a little less, because you always wonder what happens if that person turns on me.
35:40 David DeWald: Yeah. Oddly enough, I think it’s becoming more and more acceptable over time for the companies to respond, not necessarily negatively to the bad review, but in general to, just have a response that maybe isn’t conciliatory. I can think of something recent where this woman reviewed what was essentially a loud party bar and the company came back in the review and said, “Look, we reviewed the places that he liked based on the reviews that you’ve done. This is not a place that you would typically go to based on your reviews, and not a place that you would expect to have a good time. So when you came in and didn’t like it, maybe the expectation that needed to be managed was your own.” And for the most part, the customers and the other people that were reading this were saying, “Yeah, he’s got a good point.” You don’t normally come to a party bar. You usually like to go to cocktail bars, where it’s a little quiet, little more subdued.
36:36 David DeWald: So to say that you went into a place that was a little too loud and a little too raucous, when you kinda knew that that was what you were walking into, is kinda unfair. Do we want that to become acceptable though? That’s the question. Do we want it to be possible for a company to come back and say “You’re being a little unfair with us based on what we know about you, because you’ve put so much of your personal information online.” Do we want to make that acceptable? And that’s the bigger question. Personally, I’m with you, let’s kill ’em with kindness if we can. But, do we let that evolve so that it becomes a thing, where a company can say, “We appreciate your feedback, but you’re wrong based on the information that you’ve said before?” It just seems outlandish to me.
37:20 Patrick O’Keefe: David, thank you for being a guest on the show.
37:22 David DeWald: Oh, thank you for having me.
37:23 Patrick O’Keefe: Where can people find you online?
37:25 David DeWald: daviddewald.com, @historian on Twitter.
37:28 David DeWald: This has been Community Signal. Visit our website at communitysignal.com for subscription options and more. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and I’m Patrick O’Keefe. We’ll see you next time.
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