Leveling Up Your Community Team With Specialized Roles

As community leaders, we’re responsible for people. The people in our communities and the people that serve them. In this episode, Chris Catania, head of community at Esri, shares how he approaches planning for growth and specialization for his community organization, for his people, and for his own role.

Chris is currently hiring for three roles, a community operations manager, a community manager for engagement and content, and a community manager for ArcGIS Ideas. Chris shares the responsibilities and scope for each of these roles, in addition to the challenges and advantages of hiring right now. In addition to the effects of the “great resignation,” as specialization and scope of responsibility within the community industry grows, so does the need to be clear in our job listings, success metrics, and paths to growth.

Chris and Patrick also discuss:

  • The role specializations and career paths that Chris is charting for his team and himself
  • Hiring for specializations within community
  • Communicating your team’s value to other execs (and around the dinner table)
Continue reading “Leveling Up Your Community Team With Specialized Roles”

Misuse of Community is Endemic in Web3

By now, even if you’re not super well-versed in the terminology of Web3, you’ve probably encountered some of the conversation around its relationship with community.

Like with any innovation or change in technology, there can and should be conversations about how Web3 will empower communities. However, we should also ask questions and think about how such change will impact communities, whether they embrace Web3 or not. For example, as Patrick and our guest, staff writer with The New Republic, Jacob Silverman discuss, NFTs may be empowering some artists, but for the DeviantArt community, it’s another way that they’re seeing their art exploited. And even for NFTs that are becoming ubiquitous, like Bored Apes Yacht Club, how much of the conversation or credit is given back to the artists?

This conversation will give you a great primer on Web3 terminology, but perhaps more importantly, it will equip you with questions and examples to understand the true role of community in the current iteration of Web3.

Jacob and Patrick also discuss:

  • The basics of Web3, including cryptocurrency, NFTs, and DAOs
  • Reasons why Web3 may not be as egalitarian as it seems
  • Why celebrity cryptocurrency clubs of today may not have the same permanence as online fan clubs that already exist
Continue reading “Misuse of Community is Endemic in Web3”

Online Community Building Lessons From Collaborative Board Games

When was the last time that you trusted your community with the responsibility of collaboration? In this episode of Community Signal, Matt Leacock shares lessons he’s learned while designing popular collaborative board games like Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy, and Forbidden Island.

Matt also discusses how he leans on the board game community for his own games. In the pre-launch stages, he has rallied supporters to pre-order his games and prove demand. In the development stages, he’s openly shared rules documents, inviting feedback from fans. After a game launches, he also discusses the role that players have when it comes to helping one another as questions and loopholes arise.

Having a shared goal –– winning the game –– is perhaps what motivates players to come together at all stages of the game’s development. Knowing that your community members also have a shared purpose or goal, are there ways that you could trust them with collaboration opportunities that could lead to positive outcomes for everyone? That’s winning! 

Matt and Patrick also discuss:

  • Competition within collaborative games
  • Establishing norms within games and communities
  • The importance of establishing straightforward nomenclature
Continue reading “Online Community Building Lessons From Collaborative Board Games”

The Elder Scrolls Online Community and the Power of Guilds

What metrics and indicators of success are you, your colleagues, and community excited about for 2022? Whether you’re hoping to better demonstrate the impact of the community on your business’ bottom line, foster safer experiences for your members across the communities they are part of, or want to focus on establishing better boundaries for you and your team, this conversation with Jessica Folsom, lead community manager at ZeniMax Online Studios, may provide some inspiration.

Even without perfect end-to-end campaign attribution, Jessica discusses the impact of being a participant in the Elder Scrolls Online community and how certain attributes may lead to different outcomes for community members and for the overall community. For example, Elder Scrolls Online players may participate in official forums, they may be content creators, they may stream the game, or participate in player-run communities on Discord or Reddit. Jessica and her team have learned that the players that can find their connection to the community retain better and drive investment in the game, too.

With such an expansive group of players, Jessica also has to be prepared to help community members deal with toxic behaviors outside of immediate Elder Scrolls Online spaces. While it can often feel like we can’t do much in these circumstances, Jessica explains how she listens, offers guidance on how to block and report the behavior on these parallel platforms, and in some cases, contact local authorities. Do you have a plan for helping your community members handle toxicity on other platforms? 

Jessica and Patrick also discuss:

  • How Jessica’s team sets success metrics
  • Helping community managers prevent burnout
  • Why community members are not your friends
Continue reading “The Elder Scrolls Online Community and the Power of Guilds”

Bettering Health Outcomes Through Peer Support at Mayo Clinic

Do you have a 60-second pitch for your community? In this episode of Community Signal, Colleen Young, community director for Mayo Clinic, raises the challenge of being able to deliver a concise and impactful pitch to other leaders at the nonprofit. “I’m just imagining finding myself in the elevator with this leader by happenstance and being able to finally say something just in two floors that we have. It’s really hard to be able to know what is going to motivate them to be excited about the community. I’m really struggling with that,” explains Young. Many, if not all of us, have been in a situation like this, whether we were helping to onboard a new leader or in an impromptu meeting. 

This conversation is a bit longer than 60 seconds, but in it, Colleen delivers a very compelling case for Mayo Clinic Connect. The community’s moderation practices and active participation makes it less of a haven for misinformation. And when misinformation does appear, expert testimonials and active participants within the community help inform and correct. The community also comes together to help people understand their options for care and to manage their symptoms. “Peer support can better health outcomes,” says Young. The community also has a direct impact on Mayo Clinic’s livelihood – as it can be a direct driver of appointment bookings and visits.

So, the next time you’re thinking about how to pitch your community to another colleague, think about the value that it brings to your members and how that value leads to positive outcomes for the business. And as Patrick says, don’t be afraid to ask for more time to advocate for the community and your work!

Colleen and Patrick also discuss:

  • Why Mayo Clinic Connect measures appointments as a metric
  • Has medical misinformation actually gotten worse over the last 15 years?
  • Developing your 60-second community pitch
Continue reading “Bettering Health Outcomes Through Peer Support at Mayo Clinic”

Embodying Work-Life Balance as a Community Professional and Manager

Are you able to step away from your community for days at a time? When you return, are your team and the community still running smoothly? If you answered yes to these questions, then congratulations! Whether it’s documentation, systems, or setting proper expectations with your boss and colleagues, those boundaries and structure are crucial, not just for yourself, but for the people around you and the community itself. 

Our guest, Allison Able, senior manager of community at Sisense, explains that creating and upholding these boundaries is a constant work in progress. “There’s great power in … being able to step away and have things go okay. That speaks well for you if that’s the community you build, that it doesn’t need you to exist,” explains Patrick.

Having a supportive team goes a long way in setting work-life boundaries, so fittingly, Allison explains what her approach will be to building the community team at Sisense and why their community is currently in beta.

Allison and Patrick also discuss:

  • Adding the community content manager role to the community team
  • How to embody healthy boundaries for you and your team
  • The right order of community programs for Sisense
  • Community Signal’s sixth anniversary –– thank you listeners, supporters, and guests!
Continue reading “Embodying Work-Life Balance as a Community Professional and Manager”

Are You Gardening, or Are You Managing Waste?

Earlier this month, blogging pioneer Jason Kottke tweeted that “social media would be a better place to connect with people if the folks building and using these services had spent formative time on and taken inspiration from Flickr and MetaFilter instead of 4chan and Reddit. Gardening vs. waste management.”

That tweet spoke to Patrick who retweeted it, and that retweet elicited a reply from Lydia Fiedler, community manager for Splitcoaststampers, leading to this episode of the podcast.

What do your community members want out of their community? Are you tending a garden that is actively growing toward those goals? Or are you tolerating noise and managing waste that gets in the way? Having a clear sense of what brings the community together helps Lydia Fiedler keep conversations on track, set expectations for community members, and come up with inspiring challenges.

If you’re planning programming for the coming year or just in a creative rut with your own work, this conversation with Patrick and Lydia offers some great inspiration that can help you create great experiences that will bring your members together and enable them reach their own goals. 

Lydia and Patrick also discuss:

  • Operating in the “gray areas” of community management
  • Features that people clamor for on social media platforms that hosted online communities offer routinely
  • How challenges align with the Splitcoaststampers community’s goal of becoming better artists and crafters
Continue reading “Are You Gardening, or Are You Managing Waste?”

Cohort-Based Online Communities: Exploitation or Real Connection?

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

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

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

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

Building a Database of CSAM for AOL, One Image at a Time

If you work in content moderation or with a team that specializes in content moderation, then you know that the fight against child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is a challenging one. The New York Times reported that in 2018, technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of child sexual abuse. Ralph Spencer, our guest for this episode, has been working to make online spaces safer and combatting CSAM for more than 20 years, including as a technical investigator at AOL.

Ralph describes how when he first started at AOL, in the mid-’90s, the work of finding and reviewing CSAM was largely manual. His team depended on community reports and all of the content was manually reviewed. Eventually, this manual review led to the creation of AOL’s Image Detection Filtering Process (IDFP), which reduced the need to manually review the actual content of CSAM. Working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), law enforcement, and a coalition of other companies, Ralph shares how he saw his own team’s work evolve, what he considered his own metrics of success when it comes to this work, and the challenges that he sees for today’s platforms.

The tools, vocabulary, and affordances for professionals working to make the internet safer have all improved greatly, but in this episode, Patrick and Ralph discuss the areas that need continued improvement. They discuss Section 230 and what considerations should be made if it were to be amended. Ralph explains that when he worked at AOL, the service surpassed six million users. As of last year, Facebook had 2.8 billion monthly active users. With a user base that large and a monopoly on how many people communicate, what will the future hold for how children, workers, and others that use them are kept safe on such platforms?

Ralph and Patrick also discuss:

  • Ralph’s history fighting CSAM at AOL, both manually and with detection tools
  • Apple’s announcement to scan iCloud photos for NCMEC database matches
  • How Ralph and other professionals dealing with CSAM protect their own health and well-being
  • Why Facebook is calling for new or revised internet laws to govern its own platform
Continue reading “Building a Database of CSAM for AOL, One Image at a Time”

Shifting Revel, a Community for Women Over 40, from In-Person to Online Overnight

As community practitioners, we often serve communities that we don’t necessarily belong to. But how would you approach designing a community platform, events, and policies for a demographic that you don’t belong to? Alexa Wahr, the COO of Revel, a community for women over 40, says that she and her co-founder build by putting their community first. “We absolutely listen to our members. We don’t try to pretend like we know what exactly our members are going through or what it’s like to be a woman in their life. That doesn’t mean that we can’t help to build the community and build the tools that help them connect.”

In this episode of Community Signal, Alexa shares how the policies that govern the platform, Revel’s approach to safety during the pandemic, and Revel’s acquisition of The Woolfer, are all grounded in putting their members’ needs, safety, and experiences first.

Alexa also discusses how Revel, an in-person events-based community, shifted entirely to virtual events in light of the pandemic. Through this model, Revel members have continued to have meaningful interactions, build friendships, and support one another through COVID-19.

Alexa and Patrick also discuss:

  • How Revel is encouraging their event hosts to stay safe now that in-person events have resumed
  • Revel’s plans to introduce paid events into their community
  • The differences between the Revel and Woolfer communities and how they’re balancing the needs for both
Continue reading “Shifting Revel, a Community for Women Over 40, from In-Person to Online Overnight”