Amazon.comWhen viewing products on, 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, 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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Long-running online communities have a challenge when it comes to highlighting newer members. Old members – many of which may not even be active any longer – tend to be the members with the most total posts, most reputation or some other accumulated number.

One of the reasons people participate in communities is for recognition, and one of the ways that happens is through these metrics. If the path to recognition seems impossible, that makes some people less likely to participate.

Community software (or, perhaps, add-ons for our chosen software) can help us here, by displaying metrics that are more timely, in addition to the overall ones.

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Amazon PrimeIf you are launching paid (or premium) memberships on your community – or if you have them already – I’d encourage you to take a good, hard look at how Amazon has treated Amazon Prime. Especially when it comes to pricing and how they add new features to the program.

As a point of disclosure, I am both a Prime member and an Amazon shareholder.

The History of Amazon Prime in the U.S.

On February 2, 2005, Amazon Prime launched. It was priced at $79 a year, and the benefits were completely tied to shipping. Free two-day shipping on items sold directly by Amazon, as well as discounted one-day shipping, for up to 4 members of your household. Give or take, the shipping benefits have pretty much stayed the same over the years. But not much else has.

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Last week, I published an interview with Bassey Etim and David Williams. Respectively, they lead the teams that moderate comments for The New York Times (NYT) and CNN. They said a lot of great things, and I really enjoyed reading it.

I didn’t want to dilute their words by making it a 2-parter, but the resulting article was so long (more than 4,000 words), that I decided to hold off on sharing my favorite takeaways. Here they are.

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CNN and The New York TimesNews organizations and online comments. If you think about that combination, what comes to mind?

There was a time when many regarded the comment sections on mainstream media sites as an example of some of the worst discourse on the web. But it is slowly getting better. Among the community management professionals leading the charge, at the highest levels of the media, are Bassey Etim and David Williams.

Respectively, they work as community managers at The New York Times and CNN. Both have been in the field since 2008, both lead the teams responsible for the moderation of comments posted on their news organization’s website.

I’ve known David for a few years now and just recently connected with Bassey. They are tremendously smart community managers and experts in moderation. If you work in this profession, you should know their names. They deal with moderation at a volume that few can fathom, in an environment that is highly charged, in a space where many people expect to be able to say their piece, no matter what that is, without restriction.

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