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When I talked about how I don’t tell people to “grow a thick skin” and “ignore the trolls,” Regina Buenaobra left a great comment.

“You can’t effectively manage a community or ask your members to report problem users if you also tell them to ignore trolls,” she wrote. “Sure, advise members not to antagonize problem users themselves, but they definitely should not ignore troll comments – they need to be brought to the community manager’s attention. It takes collective effort to ensure a safe and friendly community environment, and ignoring trolls is not a great way to cultivate that environment.”

This is a fantastic point. “Ignore the trolls” is kind of like saying that trolls must have a place on your community. They are inevitable, they will have their space, so please just stay away from them. But that’s not how it has to be. It reminds me of a general policy that we have on the communities that I manage. I refer to it as “report, don’t respond.”

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Credit: THORCC BY 2.0

In “Closing Comments Alters Your Purpose,” I discussed how the existence of comments on your website informs the purpose of your website. This was inspired by Evan Hamilton, who was in turn commenting on an article by Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post.

While Petri’s article was interesting and raises some good points, I really feel like Petri’s representation both ignores community as a profession and undervalues the relationship that a writer can have with the people who consume their work. That doesn’t mean I think comments should be everywhere or that everyone needs them. I don’t.

But the article begins with this aggressive condemnation of comments as a whole (emphasis mine):

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If you work in the online community space, I encourage you to learn about the history of online communities. Not only is it interesting; it’s beneficial to the work we do today. A little knowledge can go a long way. If you aren’t sure where to begin, the video embedded below is a great, approachable start.

The video is a conversation between Howard Rheingold, a well known online community pioneer, and his daughter, Mamie Rheingold, a project manager at Google whose work also involves community. Titled “Past, Present, and Future of Virtual Communities,” it was recorded during the Google Developer Groups Global Summit in June and released last week. I found it care of Bill Johnston.

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Closing Comments Alters Your Purpose

Posted by Patrick on August 21st, 2014 in Thinking

Credit: mjmontyCC BY 2.0

Evan Hamilton wrote the other day about a Washington Post article by Alexandra Petri, where Petri suggests that the idea of a good comment section is too hard, therefore not worth the effort. Petri’s article is interesting and makes some good points, but that’s not really what I want to discuss.

In his post, Evan made two points that he felt the Post missed. First, pointing to io9, that comments can be a reason that you return to a site. That comment sections can be so interesting and engaging that they are a primary reason that many people choose to visit a site. They enjoy the passion, the knowledge and the conversation that happens in the comments.

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Amazon.comWhen viewing products on Amazon.com, you may notice a section on the product page labeled “Customer Questions & Answers.” For example, on the page for the Flash Point board game, which I purchased last week. In this section, you are encouraged to “ask the owners” (of the product) a question.

The labeling is misleading because they don’t actually limit the ability to answer to owners only. You don’t have to have purchased the product on Amazon to be able to answer the question. I guess you could say it is based on the honor system. But that’s beside the point.

I was reminded of this feature recently when I received an email from Amazon. They knew that I had purchased a particular product (since I bought it from them), so they wanted to know if I was willing to answer a specific question that was asked about that product. The question was included in the email as well as a link to answer. I found it compelling, so I clicked and found that others had already answered the question adequately. I assume that when the email was sent, there were no answers.

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Please Vote for Our SXSW Interactive 2015 ProposalAbout a month ago, I published an interview with Bassey Etim of The New York Times and David Williams of CNN. They lead comment moderation at their respective companies. I really enjoyed our conversation and couldn’t help but feel that it would make a wonderful fireside chat-style talk in-person at an event.

Between the 3 of us, we have more than 30 years of moderation experience. Bassey and David deal with a volume of comments that few can fathom. Not just that, but they work in an environment that is highly charged, in a space where people expect to say what is on their mind.

It was fascinating to hear about the moderation philosophy differences at play between CNN and The New York Times. Though each has taken a different path, they have both been successful. I’d love to explore those differences in-person, while drawing from my own deep experience, and have an advanced, high-level conversation about comment moderation.

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Whenever someone talks about the abuse they are dealing with online, inevitably there are people who tell them to grow a thick skin and/or ignore the trolls. I don’t doubt that most of these people have good intentions at heart, but this advice just isn’t useful.

It’s not useful because we already know it. Chances are, when you say this to someone, they have heard it before. Thanks to the internet, I believe that we have thicker skins than ever before. If you know someone who is opening up about the sort of abuse they receive, chances are they already have a thicker skin than you do. You are just hearing about what they are choosing to share with you, not the entirety of what they have received. They don’t need to hear “grow a thick skin.” They already have one.

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The Quantified Value of Great Customer Experience

Posted by Patrick on August 7th, 2014 in Research

Customer Experience Score ChartWhen you have a choice of where you do business, you tend to go with the company that you have had a better experience with. Many would refer to that as common sense. Any decent company tries to provide the best customer experience that they can. But when deciding what level of resources you can invest in customer experience, there is a question of how much it is actually worth to the company. What is the value of improving customer experience? That’s what Peter Kriss of Medallia and Vision Prize sought to quantify.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Kriss explains how they did it. They analyzed customer data at two different billion-plus dollar companies. One was a transaction-based business. The other was a relationship-based subscription business. Controlling for an assortment of factors that could skew the data, they took customer feedback and paired it with future spending by those same customers.

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I’ve been a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk for a long time. Well before he released his first book, 101 Wines. I’ve also been managing online communities for a much long time. I always enjoy when Gary touches on our profession because he’s smart and, no matter what, him talking about it is good for us.

At the end of July, Gary talked about community management in a big way when he released a slide deck titled “Go Big on Community Management!” On LinkedIn, he wrote a blog post titled “Why Community Management Works.” On his personal site, he went even further: “If You Don’t Invest in Community Management, You’re Done For. Here’s Why.”

In the slides, Gary makes a point of saying that he has the data that supports the value of community management. “This time I have all the stats,” he writes. “Or at least the stats that mean something to all my corporate pals out there.”

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It’s natural to want to make decisions quickly, and most decisions happen just like that. There is this pressure online to act fast and respond quickly. Otherwise, you are asleep at the wheel, or you don’t care. Sometimes you just have to put those pressures aside, take a step back, and speak to those who are directly affected by the decision you will make.

At KarateForums.com, we have an articles section where members submit long form pieces that are then proof read and published. They receive a bit more polish than the average post. Due to that, they are placed in their own section and, on average, receive more attention than they might as a random thread.

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