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Fifty Shades of GreyOn Monday, Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James participated in a Twitter chat, hosted by @TwitterBooks, using the hashtag #AskELJames.

“It went horribly, horribly wrong,” writes BuzzFeed. USA TODAY says it was “catastrophic.” The Yahoo! News headline reads: “Twitter users eviscerate … James in Q&A.” That’s only the tip of the iceberg for media coverage. There is even a local news story about a Twitter user who received a lot of retweets.

What does this say about how we measure the success of a Twitter chat? And who should hold one? Should a celebrity or major brand ever create or endorse a hashtag? After all, hashtags can be used by anyone. Even if you host a Twitter chat without a hashtag, people can just use Twitter search and/or create a hashtag of their own, which others may adopt. Less likely, but possible. Then what?

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European Court of Human Rights Credit: James Russell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: James Russell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Delfi, a leading Estonian news organization, could be held liable for comments posted on its website by readers.

That, in itself, is a scary prospect for community professionals. But the judgment is even worse when you consider that Delfi’s comments weren’t a total free-for-all. They may not have had the greatest moderation strategy in the world – far from it – but they did have comment guidelines, a report comment function and a notice-and-takedown system in place. The day the aggrieved party reported the comments to them, they removed them.

However, the party wanted more than removal of the comments: they wanted financial compensation. When Delfi balked, a lawsuit was filed and, 9 years later, we arrive at this judgment. The Court not only placed the liability on Delfi, but was critical of the simple existence of anonymous comments and provided confusing guidance on how Delfi could have avoided liability; outside of not having comments at all.

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Credit: eyeliam (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: eyeliam (CC BY 2.0)

In the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Charleston, long-standing criticism of the Confederate flag has reached a high-point. This is largely due to the fact that the flag flies above the capitol building in South Carolina, the state where these 9 people were murdered, due to the color of their skin.

In response, many current and former government officials have said that it’s time for the flag to come down, out of respect for the victims. In other states, there are similar efforts underway to remove the flag from government buildings, state-issued license plates and more.

A bevy of retailers have pledged not to sell products featuring the Confederate flag, including Walmart, Amazon and eBay. For those of us who deal with community-generated content, it is worth noting that both Etsy and CafePress are among those banning the flag.

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The CMX Guide to Community PlatformsCMX has released The CMX Guide to Community Platforms, a free ebook that premiered at their most recent conference, but is now available for you to download by subscribing to their email list. It was authored by the CMX team: Carrie Melissa Jones, Yrja Oftedahl Lothe and David Spinks.

I contributed to the guide, sending over some long form thoughts on community platforms when they put a call out to the CMX community. I’m glad they were able to make use of them.

The 110-page long PDF provides general insights about choosing a platform and what to avoid. A wide array of currently-relevant platforms are profiled, broken up into several categories. These include forums, enterprise software, community feedback and support platforms, group platforms, content management systems, community relationship management, internal community and community that exists on outside platforms.

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A lot of people complain about negative reviews, but don’t take the time to actively refer happy customers to review sites. It’s not really that hard. It just takes an active effort. You can always encourage people to post reviews on certain outlets through signage or your receipts. But I’d go beyond that.

When someone tells you that they’ve had a wonderful experience with your business or product, that is an opportunity to invite them to post a review on a particular service (whatever service is most important at that moment). This only comes after you have listened to them, answered any questions and sincerely thanked them. However, it can manifest itself in different ways.

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I’ve never really liked temporary bans. When I ban someone, it means something. It’s not easy to be banned. My philosophy is that, as long as someone appears to be trying to follow our guidelines, we shouldn’t ban them.

That’s why I don’t like infraction systems and have never used them. Though I understand they are an invention of scale, if at all possible, access to a community shouldn’t be decided by an accumulation of points.

When it comes to being banned or not, it’s the member that really makes the choice. We just push a button.

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AMAs Aren’t Just for reddit

Posted by Patrick on June 11th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

reddit is widely known for their AMAs. Short for Ask Me Anything, these are reddit posts that invite questions from the community. These questions (or as many of them as possible) are then answered by the poster. Many of the AMAs that receive a lot of attention are hosted by celebrities, but plenty aren’t. To be a good subject, you really just have to be someone who people want to know more about.

A few recent examples: a retired bank robber, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a longtime NASA engineer, scientist Bill Nye and comedian Jim Gaffigan.

All of these link to the main /r/IAmA subreddit, one of the most popular sections of reddit. However, AMAs also occur in niche sections. In fact, for many who want to host an AMA, the best bet for success is to find a subreddit that speaks more directly to what they have to share.

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Have you ever launched an online community independently, with no budget? Without someone else’s money? Without a team supporting you? Without the resources of a larger organization? If you’ve never done it, and you really want to grow as a professional, give it a try. If you run community for a big brand, start an unrelated community on the side, in your free time.

I’m not talking about a Twitter following or a blog or something like that. I’m talking about a hosted online community where all contributions are equal and people engage with one another. A place where you are responsible for everything. Something goes wrong? You have to fix it.

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Earlier this week, LEGO released LEGO Worlds, “a fully open-world, creativity-driven game.” It’s the digital LEGO set and is widely-described as the company’s answer to Minecraft.

However, this isn’t LEGO’s first foray into open-world gaming. Previously, they offered LEGO Universe, an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) that was officially released to the public in October of 2010. The service was shuttered in January of 2012 due to a lack of a “satisfactory revenue model.”

Megan Fox, a former senior programmer on the LEGO Universe team who now heads Glass Bottom Games, shared an interesting story on Twitter, describing one of the big challenges they faced, in creating a kid-friendly MMO: penises.

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When your online community is focused on a particular topic – as most online communities tend to be – the emphasis tends to be on expanding as it relates to the subject matter of your community.

If you’re a toy community, and you see a lot of discussion around a particular toy or type of toys, you’ll launch a new section for those toys. If you’re a web development community, and you see a lot of questions about a particular programming language, you’ll introduce a new section for that language. And so on. That makes sense.

What can be lost in the shuffle, however, is the off-topic section. If you look for the off-topic section on most communities, that’s all you’ll find. One section, dedicated to everything that isn’t about the chosen topic. Sure, they might have an introductions section, an area for announcements and maybe one or two other forums, but for the most part, everything “else” is happening in that one section.

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