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SXSW 2015I just returned from South by Southwest, and I had such a great time. SXSW is a wonderful event. This was my seventh year attending and my sixth speaking. It’s always a pleasure.

The people behind the event do a great job. I must have interacted with 100 or more staff and volunteers during my week in Austin and the lead-up to it. They were all terrific. Fantastic attitudes. Everyone behind the scenes deserves a ton of credit. Thank you to everyone who made this year’s SXSW happen – and thank you for having me again.

During my time at the conference, I did a lot of things. I led a panel discussion. I attended a couple of sessions. I walked the trade show floor. I saw a few comedy shows. I went to some meetups and parties, as well as connecting with specific individuals. Much of it had to do with community work, and so I thought I’d post a recap of all of the community-related things I did at SXSW 2015.

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At KarateForums.com, my moderation team includes not one but two veteran law enforcement officers. They each have spent several years as moderators with me, but their day job didn’t become apparent to me until after I had already brought them on. I found the connection – between what they do within the community I manage and what they do as a profession – to be so interesting, that I asked if they’d be open to a conversation to talk about it. I was grateful when they agreed.

Alex Embry is a sergeant in the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, where he is also a member of the SWAT team. Brian Walker works as a patrol deputy in the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas. Together, they have approximately 19 years experience in law enforcement and have spent 15 years as moderators on KarateForums.com.

In part one of the conversation, we discussed their backgrounds, the similarities between the two roles, how to be seen by the community as more than just an enforcer and the proper use of discretion. In part two, we shift to the darker side of these responsibilities.

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Online Community Moderator Metrics

Posted by Patrick on March 9th, 2015 in Managing Staff

When it comes to managing a team of moderators at a high level, there is an inescapable human element to it. Moderators aren’t people you select and let loose without any guidance or support. Communication should be a constant.

I want to know what’s going on. If they handled a delicate situation well, I want to praise them. If a member is unhappy with a moderator, I want to take that burden off of them. If a mistake is made, I work to correct it.

Being truly in tune with your staff means that you are constantly talking. You can’t cheat that with data.

However, I was recently asked to think about moderator metrics. Specifically, metrics designed to get a picture of moderator activity and effectiveness for the purposes of identifying moderators who may have gone inactive. If I was building a dashboard for that reason, what would I want to see on it?

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Engaging News ProjectI was on a call yesterday with Bassey Etim of The New York Times and David Williams of CNN. We were preparing for our conversation down at SXSW, walking through various talking points.

At one point, they mentioned research conducted by Talia Stroud, an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Assistant Director of Research at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin. Specifically, the finding that changing the “like” button to read “respect” meant that it was clicked more.

In doing some reading of my own following the call, I found the Engaging News Project, which Ms. Stroud leads. The project is dedicated to providing “research-based techniques for engaging online audiences in commercially viable and democratically beneficial ways.” A lot of their efforts have been focused on mainstream media comment sections.

Though the organization’s ideas are presented through the lens of a newsroom, there is plenty of thought provoking insight for people who manage community in other areas. Have a look at the research section and subscribe to the project’s Twitter and Facebook pages for more constant updates – plenty of which are directly relevant to community work.


I have a wonderful staff over at KarateForums.com. My team is comprised of 9 people, including 5 moderators. Those 5 moderators have been with me for a combined 35 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days (these are real numbers and those 3s are purely coincidental). This group of 9 is the strongest team that I have ever had the fortune of working with. They are excellent people with strong character.

Of the 5 moderators, two work in law enforcement. Brian Walker, who has been on staff since July 31, 2006, is a patrol deputy in Kansas. Alex Embry joined our team on December 2, 2008. He is a sergeant in Illinois and a member of his department’s SWAT team. As long as they have been with me at KarateForums.com, they have been working in law enforcement even longer.

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I received an email the other day, from someone who asked for advice in dealing with inactive volunteer moderators on their community. I thought that might be a good topic to discuss here today.

Managing a team of volunteer moderators can be a wonderful, worthwhile and rewarding experience for everyone involved. I have managed volunteer moderators for many years, working with around 150-200 different individuals.

Where you can get in trouble is when communication breaks down. If you are responsible for managing volunteers, one of your primarily objectives is to ensure that never happens. You need to take ownership of communication and make sure everyone is always on the same page.

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SXSW Interactive 2015In a little over two weeks, I’ll hop on a plane bound for Austin, Texas, on my way to South by Southwest Interactive. Are you making the trip?

It’ll be my seventh year attending the conference – and I’m very happy to be speaking again this year. It’s a really fun, interesting and challenging event to speak at.

I’m leading “How CNN and The New York Times Moderate Comments.” Bassey Etim of The New York Times and David Williams from CNN will be joining me. Respectively, they lead comment moderation at those organizations. The basis for our talk is the interview I conducted with them and published here back in July.

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Jay Baer recently wrote about the importance of owning your “social community.” The idea of building community in spaces that you control is something I’ve always felt strongly about, and it’s good that someone like Jay is talking about it. That will help the message reach more big brands.

His article led to a discussion on Google+, where someone pointed to some examples provided by Jay – like The Home Depot Community – and questioned if they represented real “engagement.” They mentioned that there were discussions with a handful of replies and “no likes.” There were plenty of views of the discussions, but not a lot of replies. So where is the engagement, they wondered?

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Credit: peasap (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: peasap (CC BY 2.0)

I was watching TV recently when I saw a commercial from Nationwide. The commercial, embedded below, revolves around a handful of little kids who are on the receiving end of some unsatisfactory customer service.

There is a boy on the phone, and he’s told by an automated greeting that his call is important, but his wait time is 55 minutes. This is followed by a girl attempting to get the attention of a server at a restaurant – the server walks right by her. You get the idea.

In the final example, a girl is frustrated and looking at her damaged car. Then a Nationwide representative appears and tells her that they’ll take care of the problem. Instantly, she turns into an adult woman. In other words, Nationwide is treating her as an adult, not a child.

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Facebook: Send for $1Last week, someone posted a question on PhotoshopForums.com. They had purchased a Photoshop action, which is a file that tells Photoshop how to do something, allowing it to perform that action on multiple files repeatedly. They work for a government agency and had used this action on approximately 70 images for their employer.

Unfortunately, they recently had some computer issues and, due to that, the action was gone. The company who sold it to them was also gone and had stopped selling actions. The person joined the community to ask for help finding the action. If they couldn’t find it, they would have to redo those 70 images – probably in addition to a few new ones – and it would create a bunch of work.

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