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Rotten TomatoesBack in October, movie ticket seller Fandango was caught manipulating the star ratings on their website in a dishonest, misleading way. Users rate movies on the service, through a 5 star scale, and an average rating is then displayed to illustrate the sentiment of the average moviegoer. The average rating is always rounded to a half-star.

FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey crunched the numbers and found that, when this rounding occurred, Fandango was always rounding up. A movie rated 4.6 or 4.7 would become a 5, not a 4.5. In 38 cases (out of 437 movies), a rating was actually bumped a full half star or more. In other words, a 4.5 becoming a 5.

Suffice to say, this story gained a lot of traction and it has certainly impacted how people view Fandango and even online movie ratings in general. Fandango blamed technical glitches, and it appears that they have fixed the problem.

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is one of the most important laws for U.S.-based community professionals. It provides safe harbor from liability for copyright infringement committed by our communities by users.

Copyright consultant Jonathan Bailey contacted me the other day to highlight a very important point about qualifying for this safe harbor. It’s not enough to adopt a system where you proactively address copyright infringing material on your site. It’s not enough to make it easy to contact you through your website and to quickly respond to notices.

You must register your DMCA agent with the Copyright Office by submitting this form, and make sure that the designation stays updated. But no, you can’t just register the name of your company. You must also register the name of the community and any alternative names.

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It’s not every day when Fox News has a discussion about online community guidelines. But that is essentially what happened on Saturday, during their morning talk show, Fox & Friends. Hosts Anna Kooiman, Clayton Morris and Tucker Carlson, joined by Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf, talked about the updated abuse policies that Twitter announced on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, they did not see fit to have a guest who had experience writing and enforcing these types of policies. While all members of the panel can speak with conviction on the realities of using Twitter as a public figure, none have meaningful experience managing social platforms and dealing with these challenges and the resulting fallout.

I thought it would be fun to use this segment as a means of talking about these issues. Let’s pretend they invited me on as a guest for this discussion. Here’s what I would have said.

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It’s amazing how often I come across people and organizations, big and small, who do not put in a modest effort at going the extra mile. In a sea of mediocre to decent businesses, it isn’t that hard to stand out. It’s about details, pride in your work and follow through.

A few months ago, my parents moved into a new home, which they built for them. It’s a major milestone in their life, one they have worked many years for. This is true for the vast majority of people who build a home. It’s a special thing.

A Gift for My Parents

When the process began, my brothers and I kicked a plan into action. A couple of times a month, my brother would visit the construction site and take some pictures. Over the next 9 months, he visited the house at least 17 times, careful to do so on days where the crew was absent and my parents were not at the house. With the addition of two more shoots after the house was done, he amassed 236 photos.

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Not Sure If TrollingMy approach to “trolling” on my communities is very simple. I don’t care. I don’t bother myself with trying to identify people as trolls – and I don’t encourage or allow my members to do it in public, either.

My belief is that good guidelines filter out the vast majority of harmful or annoying trolls. People aren’t kicked off of my communities for “trolling.” They’re banned for repeated violations of our community guidelines, such as inflammatory comments, profanity, general religious discussions, and so on.

I say this as someone who has managed communities that were targeted by groups with a plan to “troll” the community. These things happen. They come in waves. It’s a process. Identify harmful content, remove any trace of it, ban the offenders (sometimes more creatively) and don’t allow people to give them attention.

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As professionals, we are diverse. None of us has all the answers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We have areas we are known for (fair or not). We have skills that people don’t know we have. We are always improving and growing.

There is one semi-persistent blind spot I encounter as I talk with community professionals. It’s not the ability to look at numbers and use them to make a decision. It’s not ROI. It’s not growing activity. It’s not scaling a community.

It’s the law. Specifically, the law as it relates to our profession. Even if you have a legal department to run things through – which many don’t – an understanding of the law empowers you to confidently take action and manage your community.

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FandangoIf you are going to have online ratings and reviews on your website, community or app, they need to have integrity. Or they are garbage. It’s that simple.

Walt Hickey at FiveThirtyEight published an interesting, in-depth piece about how Fandango, the overwhelming leader in online movie ticket sales, is manipulating user reviews to cast movies in a more favorable light.

Usually, when a reputable online review site rounds the average rating to display a star-based rating, they will round to the nearest half star. For example, when my book received a 3 star review earlier this year on Amazon, it dropped my review average to 4.7. This meant that the book was listed as 4.5 stars, because they rounded down, to the nearest half star. Later, after I received a couple of 5 star reviews, my average went up to 4.8, and the book was 5 stars.

This is the behavior that we generally expect, as consumers. It’s not what Fandango is doing.

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Marcus LemonisI’m a big fan of Marcus Lemonis, who helps struggling small businesses on CNBC’s The Profit. I even tweeted recently that I’d love to work for him. I really identify with how he goes about his business, and it reminds of my Dad and the lessons he’s taught me.

One of his mantras is that successful businesses need the three P’s: people, process and product. This is a great, simple way of expressing how to build an enduring company. It’s just as applicable to building a successful online community.

People

Community professionals are not a dime a dozen. There are great ones, bad ones and plenty in between. Some are just starting out, others have been in the field for more than 20 years. Your budget often dictates who you can hire and how long you can keep them.

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Last week, The New York Times published an article about the “bruising workplace” at Amazon. I didn’t think much of it because it seemed to only show part of the picture. It’s not hard to find a collection of people with alleged horror stories about a big company. You can find a bunch of people I’ve banned from my communities or kicked off of my staff that will regale you with tales of what a terrible human being I am.

I would be open to applying for a job at Amazon. I eyed this one, but I am not a “game industry veteran,” despite my passion for gaming. I’m a big Amazon fan, as I’ve made abundantly clear. I’m a long-term shareholder. Disclosures aside, I have been critical of them before. But for those reasons, I enjoyed reading the rebuttal written by Nick Ciubotariu, an Amazon employee. I even shared it on my social media profiles.

However, there is at least one thing he got wrong, in my opinion, and it is this quote, which was included as an update to his post:

“I tried to post it in the comments section of the New York Times article. I’m sad, but not surprised, to say it was moderated out.” (The emphasis was Ciubotariu’s, not mine).

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Credit: slgckgc (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: slgckgc (CC BY 2.0)

On Saturday, I went with my brothers to the “Weird Al” Yankovic concert in Newport News, Virginia. I’m a big fan of Weird Al, and it was our second time seeing him. He puts on a great show, and we had a lot of fun.

If you’ve never been to a Weird Al show, it’s a little different from your average music concert. During the performance, the physical energy of the crowd more closely resembles what you might see for a big name standup comic, rather than what you’d expect from the fans of a popular rap, rock or pop artist.

In general, when I go to a concert, I’m not among those moving the most. I stand, I clap, I bop along to the music. I don’t tend to put my arms up, scream, etc. I’ll sing along if the artist wants it or I feel just right. But I am not among the most animated in attendance.

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