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”

How Telehealth Provides More Efficient Healthcare for Patients and Providers – and the Role Online Communities Can Play

How did the pandemic impact your relationships with your healthcare providers? Did telehealth enable you to continue seeing or connecting with your providers to receive the care that you needed?

In this episode of Community Signal, Denzil Coleman, a telehealth coordinator, developing and maintaining digital health interventions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center for Telehealth, discusses how the adoption of telehealth interactions and practices during the pandemic may lead to continued and more long-term improvements and efficiencies in our healthcare system.

Denzil explains that telehealth is “anything where healthcare is being impacted by a patient and an actor that are not in the same location. That includes a video, that includes transmissions of information, asynchronous messaging, [and] remote patient monitoring.” Telehealth can create efficiencies for both patients and providers –– giving patients flexibility to see their providers without the burden of travel and with the option to invite more caregivers into these interactions.

Whereas in the past, patients may have received pamphlets with details about in-person support groups or other care options, today there are online communities and support groups and insurance companies themselves even offer telehealth options. With these options come more opportunities for patients to be more engaged in the care that they receive and for providers to thoughtfully care for patients.

Denzil and Patrick also discuss how:

  • COVID, the shifting landscape of the healthcare profession, and the fact that folks are living longer, healthier lives all impacts the healthcare system
  • The flexibility of telehealth allows a patient’s support system to become more involved in their care
  • Creating efficiencies in the healthcare system should not equate to patients receiving less care
  • Value-based care could resemble a community-like investment in overall care
Continue reading “How Telehealth Provides More Efficient Healthcare for Patients and Providers – and the Role Online Communities Can Play”

While Making a Mixtape, Asher Roth Built an Online Community

Photo: Drew Dennis

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

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

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

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

Asher and Patrick also discuss:

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

Here’s How Anti-Vaxxers Are Spreading Misinformation Despite Your Best Moderation Efforts

What moderation tactics have you used or seen as a mechanism to curtail the spread of misinformation in communities and on social media platforms? Word detection, link blocking, and digital stickers promoting legitimate information sources may immediately come to mind.

But what would happen if you ran your moderation tools against URLs shared in link-in-bio services used in your community? Or what if you learned that folks on your platform were using specific codewords to circumvent word detection? Or posting screenshots of misinformation rather than using plain-text? People are getting creative with how they share all types of information online, misinformation included. Are our moderation strategies keeping up?

In this discussion, Patrick chats with Joseph Schafer, an undergraduate student of Computer Science and Ethics at the University of Washington and Rachel Moran, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. They discuss their research and how anti-vaccine advocates are circumventing content moderation efforts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and large social networks. Some of their findings might surprise you! For example, specific folk theories have emerged that define how some believe social platforms and algorithms work to moderate their content and conversations. And whether these theories are true or not, the strategies forming around them do seem to help people keep questionable content up long enough for researchers to come across it.

So, where do we start? How can we detect misinformation if people are using codewords like pizza or Moana to get around our tools and teams? There may not be precise solutions here just yet, but Rachel and Joseph both offer ideas to help us down the right path, which starts with deciding that the engagement that brews around misinformation is not safe for the long-term health of your community.

Among our topics:

  • Why Linktree needs community guidelines and how link-in-bio sites have become a vector for misinformation
  • The folk theories that are informing how we perceive and operate around social media algorithms
  • Adapting your moderation strategies to better find misinformation
Continue reading “Here’s How Anti-Vaxxers Are Spreading Misinformation Despite Your Best Moderation Efforts”

Fostering Resiliency for Community, Moderation, Trust, and Safety Pros

When was the last time you mandated that your community, moderation, trust, and safety colleagues schedule time for out of queue activities? When was the last time you led by example and took a break or participated in other wellness activities before you felt burnout? What was the last tool your product team built to help foster resiliency for your moderators?

While we can’t mitigate all burnout, in this episode, Patrick and our guest, Adelin Cai, discuss how employee resiliency programs and policies can help you create an all-around safer environment for your colleagues and teams. Tools like well-defined queues and changing the presentation of harmful content are also potential product solutions that can foster resiliency from a workflow perspective.

With experience in policy, trust, and safety leadership for Pinterest, Twitter, and Google, Adelin also shares her approach for thinking about the metrics that matter. Spoiler: Metrics that revolve around quantity, like number of cases closed, or even quality, like CSAT, may not always equate to success or reflect the health of your community. Adelin also discusses working collaboratively with product and engineering teams to ensure that there’s transparency about what is being built and launched and what community behaviors or metrics should be monitored to indicate performance and to influence the further direction of the product.

Among our other topics:

  • The baseline for an employee resilience program
  • What an ideal work relationship with product and engineering looks like
  • How to reallocate resources and budget to prioritize essential moderation, trust, and safety work
Continue reading “Fostering Resiliency for Community, Moderation, Trust, and Safety Pros”

What Makes an Online Community a Home?

May 21st, 2021 marked 20 years since the launch of KarateForums.com. In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick speaks with five forum members that have been on KarateForums.com for nearly 65 years, collectively. Together, they discuss what keeps them coming back to the community as members, moderators, and martial artists. 

While each member brings different experiences and background to the community, Bob, Brian, Danielle, Devin, and Noah all cite the quality of the interactions that they’ve had in the community and how it has brought out their skills as community members, teachers, and students of the martial arts. Those interactions helped these folks launch their own martial arts schools, grow as martial artists, and pay it forward to hundreds of thousands of other folks seeking out knowledge.

Whether you’re listening to this episode with 20 years of community management experience or you’re working on approaching that milestone, a few things emerge as truths from this episode –– that it’s not the size of a community that matters, but the level of care that you find there. That community members can go from the verge of being banned to becoming model community members, if given the chance. That communities thrive when they help their members achieve their goals and pay it forward to others. Whether this is your first year as a community manager or your twentieth, we hope that you find these lessons and stories helpful. And here’s to another 20 years of KarateForums.com! 

They also discuss:

  • The benefits of your members joining other communities
  • How KarateForums.com helped each guest find confidence, friends, and more
  • Why Devin describes KarateForums.com as charitable
Continue reading “What Makes an Online Community a Home?”