How Online Communities Can Disappear if Section 230 Gets Repealed

How would the internet change if Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is repealed? For U.S.-based online communities and the professionals that work for them, not for the better. In fact David Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that some websites and communities would disappear altogether. They simply wouldn’t be able to exist with the risk that republishing content could bring.

If you want to talk to your colleagues, your community, or your elected officials about how Section 230 protects everyone who uses and works on the internet, consider this episode your primer. Patrick and David also discuss misconceptions about Section 230 and why it’s important for all community professionals to pay attention to attempts to repeal this law.

Here’s what’s covered:

  • The basics of Section 230, including who it protects and how
  • How FOSTA intended to regulate sex trafficking and ultimately regulated so much more
  • What elected officials are saying and hearing about Section 230
Continue reading “How Online Communities Can Disappear if Section 230 Gets Repealed”

Join for the Code, Stay for the Community

When did you first realize that community management was an actual job? Many of the guests on Community Signal, including Patrick and this week’s guest, Shreyas Narayanan Kutty, got their start in community management by volunteering for causes or topics that they were passionate about. After building communities as a volunteer for the Mozilla Foundation, Shreyas found himself surrounded by community professionals and realized that he wanted to take his work full-time.

Shreyas now manages the developer relations community for CoinList, and with seven years of experience managing communities, he has observed a lot of positive change in how the community profession is perceived in India.

Patrick and Shreyas discuss:

  • How they each came to the realization that community management can be a viable job
  • Opportunities for growth and specialization in the community management profession
  • The practices and guidelines that lay the foundation for successful developer communities
Continue reading “Join for the Code, Stay for the Community”

Building and Nurturing Atlassian’s Community Leaders Program

headshotWhen Trello was acquired by Atlassian, Erica Moss went from being a team of one to a community manager with a supportive and specialized team. With this came the challenge of supporting Atlassian’s Community Leaders program, a group of Atlassian experts that share their knowledge with others. Tasked with taking the community from a Q&A forum to something more, Erica focused on what she thought would keep community members coming back and the “warm fuzzies” that would help community leaders define their tone and new members feel welcome.

And while Erica has grown the Community Leaders program from 60 to 128 members, it’s not quantity that she’s optimizing for. Because Community Leaders are representatives of Atlassian’s products and brand, she’s focused on finding leaders that can speak with accuracy about the suite of products and with a thoughtful tone.

In this episode of Community Signal, Erica talks about what makes the Community Leaders program successful and a value-add for its members. She and Patrick also discuss:

  • The different roles on Atlassian’s community team and why specialization is so important
  • Foursquare’s 10-year anniversary and why Erica is proud to be a superuser
  • The “invisible work” involved in community management and how Erica’s team brings transparency to their work
Continue reading “Building and Nurturing Atlassian’s Community Leaders Program”

How Front Porch Forum is Empowering the Citizens of Vermont

For all of of the convenience and value that tech companies and platforms provide, we’re also starting to see just how much they take away. In this episode, Michael Wood-Lewis, the co-founder of Front Porch Forum, shares how big tech facilitates connections between people, but at both a monetary and social cost.

In this episode, Michael and Patrick discuss how tech platforms optimize for engagement, back and forth between their users. But Front Porch Forum optimizes for actual conversations, not just online, but in person around civic engagement, and for things like borrowing a ladder or finding a plumber. If we take these conversations back, what happens to big tech?

Michael also shares:

  • The importance of authenticity on Front Porch Forum
  • What happened when local politicians realized the power of engaging with constituents through Front Porch Forum
  • How Front Porch Forum creates the feeling of a neighborhood block party online
Continue reading “How Front Porch Forum is Empowering the Citizens of Vermont”

The Sunset of Google Plus Communities and the Sunrise of a National Geographic Society Community

If you’re working on launching a new community initiative, there are so many case studies, tools, and knowledgeable community professionals to help you along your journey. But what if you’re tasked with sunsetting a community?

In this conversation, Patrick and Luke Zimmer, manager of the educator community for the National Geographic Society, discuss both instances. Luke has been tasked with managing the community for educators interested in geography education and after evaluating the limited capabilities of Google Plus, decided to go with a platform that offered more in the way of customization and data ownership. And, plot twist: Not long after making this decision, Google announced that it would be sunsetting its Google Plus consumer product, including the Google Plus Communities product.

Launching a new community or sunsetting an existing one are both complex undertakings. As Luke puts it, our online communities are microcosms of the culture around us. What happens when that culture and those connections are wiped away?

Patrick and Luke also discuss:

  • A full rundown of the Google Plus Communities sunset
  • Why having an anthropology background is helpful for working in community
  • How the National Geographic Society is structuring its new online community and plans to measure success
Continue reading “The Sunset of Google Plus Communities and the Sunrise of a National Geographic Society Community”

Machine Learning by Communities, for Communities

When was the last time you thought about that blank text field where members of your community can leave comments? That text field and blinking cursor are the closest we have to pauses between human interaction on the internet. In this episode, Perspective’s product manager, Cj Adams, encourages us to think about how we might innovate that text field and blinking cursor in hopes of having more inclusive, difficult, and natural conversations.

Cj also explains how Perspective can help. Its API has a variety of ways that can be implemented, all with the goal of perceiving the impact a comment might have on a conversation. But Cj also explains that machine learning is is not flawless, and he reminds us that the humans responsible for training it are what encourages its actual biases. So, just like with any other tool that you consider for your community, think about how you can implement it with your community in mind and not as the be all, end all solution for creating better conversations.

Cj also shares:

  • How Perspective creates a conversation around moderation
  • Why Perspective is a tool for communities small and large
  • What machine learning does when it’s “really stupid”
Continue reading “Machine Learning by Communities, for Communities”

Why Southwest Airlines Has an Online Forum

When you’re booking your next flight and wondering about your in-terminal dining options or which seat will give you the best takeoff and landing views, check to see if you’re preferred airline has a community that can help out with those questions. Southwest Airlines does, and it might be the only online community hosted by a major airline. 

Airlines are always managing customer-facing and public relations issues so how exactly does one make the case for building a community? In this episode, Lindsey Duncan, who oversees the moderation and management of the Southwest Airlines Community, explains the unique relationships and conversations that it has fostered. The community thrives when it comes to topics that involve a unique point of view that can’t always be provided by a Southwest staff member. For example, help traveling with children and getting tips as a first-time air traveler. These conversations also help Southwest Airlines create memorable brand moments and long-lasting customers.

Lindsay also shares:

  • The ROI of a community-driven knowledge base
  • Using community to connect customers and create memorable brand moments
  • How two Southwest Community Champions connected and went on a trip to Disney together
Continue reading “Why Southwest Airlines Has an Online Forum”

The Role of Credibility in Community Management

With a global network of content moderators, it seems that Facebook might be the largest employer of community professionals in the world. But even with these resources, their content moderation practices continue to make headlines. Outsourcing this work barely seems to help Facebook keep up with the volume of content that needs to be reviewed, not to mention the toll that this takes on the often undervalued and underpaid people that are responsible for it. To this Ben Whitelaw, the engagement lead for the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, asks when Facebook is going to start taking bigger risks to solve this problem?

While Facebook’s moderation practices have lots of room for improvement, Ben also shares how the platform proved to be an asset when Times readers needed a space for discourse around Brexit. For newsrooms organizing communities today, Ben shares that Facebook’s ease of use makes it easy to spin up new groups and show proof of concept, but that this isn’t a full solution for long-term reader engagement. Patrick and Ben also discuss:

  • How Brexit played out in comments section at The Times and led to internal advocacy for readers
  • Scaling the work of moderation and the importance of consistency and credibility in community management
  • Whether or not big platforms like Facebook should be allowed to self-moderate
Continue reading “The Role of Credibility in Community Management”

The Dark Side of Algorithms

Major social media platforms are using algorithms in spite of the best interests of their users, says Bruce Ableson on this episode of Community Signal. They are focused on serving you an ad at the right moment, or putting something controversial in front of you, “gaming the experience against the users to make money.”

Throughout the conversation, it becomes clear that this is emblematic of their approach in general, not just to curation and algorithms, but to moderation and management. These platforms are what they are not because of what they did last week or last month, but what they did 5 or 10 years ago. Plus:

  • The biggest threat to well-managed online communities
  • Cynical, or realistic, reasons why major platforms are the way they are
  • Why Bruce believes subscriptions could be the future of online communities.
Continue reading “The Dark Side of Algorithms”

How Data and Teenagers Power the Future of Online Community

In 2018, a common thread across Community Signal conversations was knowing how to clearly communicate the success of community across an organization. It’s fitting that for our first show of 2019, we’re joined by Tammy Armstrong, someone who is passionate about using data to solve problems.

Tammy and Patrick met on and from her years as a community member and moderator, she learned a valuable lesson (care of Oprah): “When we know better, we do better.” This lesson carries throughout the entire episode. When we mature and become more empathetic, we become better community members. When we know more about our community goals and shortcomings, we can use the data at our disposal to do better. When we’re using the internet ourselves, we should be cognizant of the trade offs that we’re making with our data and whether or not it’s worth it.

Tammy also shares several tips and tools [22:30] for those that are just starting to unravel the data behind their online communities, but her greatest (and cheapest?) bit of advice involves understanding the goals and vision for your community. From there, data is just another tool to help you reach your desired outcome [40:36].

Tammy and Patrick also discuss:

  • The positive impact of teenagers within online communities
  • Best practices for data visualization
  • How to start unpacking the wealth of data behind online communities
Continue reading “How Data and Teenagers Power the Future of Online Community”