Posted in Safety/Privacy, z personal

Sticks & Stones & Words can break you

I live at a crossroads.

On one side, there is the life I have built for myself.  I fought to be educated, even though I came from little means and was told people like me (poor, woman, etc)  don’t go far. I built a career in a new field and found offshoots and tiny niche corners that suited my skills.  I pushed myself to think outside of the box and question everything – status quo, paradigms, my bosses 😉  And it worked out pretty well, if I don’t say so myself.

On the other side of the crossroads is where I came from – my family, both born to and chosen.  They do not choose to question everything, as everything seems fine to them.  Sure it could be better, but that sounds difficult, so they just deal. Or maybe their situation is fine but hurting someone else – sucks to be them then.  Conflict makes them uncomfortable, yet they always seem to find themselves in it somehow, wringing their hands and praying for something or someone to make it different for them.

My identity was formed by (and opposed to) the latter.  Even though I do not lead a similarly flavored life as my families, I love them dearly and use them often for perspective.

So since I was always so different, I got made fun of a lot.  Like from everyone, always.  I am pretty sure I am on the autism spectrum, albeit in the higher functioning area. And I think that spectrum afforded me some protection from the social anxiety that was being forced on me all the time.  Whether that was the reason that one of my career offshoots was community management, I do not know.  For whatever reason, though, I am drawn to social interactions, especially more heated ones, and I try to work to help those in the tension see perspective, reality, and hopefully, compromise.

Remember “Sticks & Stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you”?

They don’t say that anymore, because they know it’s not true.  Most people ARE hurt by words.  And it’s not because they are snowflakes or sheltered by their religion or community.  It’s because mean words hurt feelings.  And feelings matter, as all my licensed clinical social workers friends implore my robot brain to believe.

Last night I posted a picture of me and my old black pug on my Facebook wall to commemorate the 10 years I have had him. One of my family members innocently made a joke appropriating a social justice movement.  In the life I’ve built, I have acquire so many amazing friends and acquaintances, many of whom have progressive ideologies.  As such, the remark offended and garnered a response.  Ever the community manager, I jumped in to explain to the family member that I understood the innocence of the post, but that innocence doesn’t remove the sting of the insult to many.  He apologized for the slight, but instead of removing the comment, decided to leave it me to remove it.

Then I went sleep.  I hadn’t slept well in a while, so I slept in late.  And I woke up to scores of messages on every messaging channel I’m on.

Apparently an old friend of mine from high school commended my tact at handling the situation by hurling a couple detailed insults at my family member.  Then my family member, clearly offended by the insults, threw more pointed ones back at my old friend.  Then a another friend jumped in.  Then another family member piped in, with threats of being more racist and offensive than anyone, as a ploy to stop the flame war (I’ll never understand this tactic).  That was coupled with multiple pleas from yet another family member, begging me to delete it all.

But the thing is – EVERYONE could have deleted their comments.  Noone’s hands were tied behind their backs.  Even if you literally couldn’t control your fingers from typing the initial offensive remarks, and you can’t bring yourself to apologize for your offense, you can ALWAYS delete your own content and take that small level of accountability for your actions.  But they all put it on me to manage. So to borrow an idiom, I’ll bare that cross. I deleted the entire subthread.

We have always lived in volatile emotional times.  Many disenfranchised groups are now getting their concerns amplified louder than ever before, so it just feels to many like the cacophony is louder.  But they were always there.  It’s not new.  What’s new is some groups are now hearing it and upset that they have to hear it.

Change takes so much time.  And not being an idealist or optimist, I think it’s a maddening amount of time.  But I surround myself with idealists and optimists who assure me that the greater good is worth fighting for, even if you never see the resolution.  But you know what happens along the way – fighting, arguments, insults, vile humanity.

The only thing you can do it take it in stride.  You are not going to make the bigots in your family stop being bigoted, but ignoring them is not going to make you feel better either.  Speak up, remind people of theirs and your humanity.  Be calm, but tenacious.

But more than anything.  Don’t say or type insults.  There is NOTHING good that comes from them.  If you accidentally do, take accountability and apologize and/or remove the offense as soon as you can.  Delegating that to others is an act of cowardice.  Wiping your hands clean of the situation without owning your role or by pointing out that THEY did something bad too, isn’t a mature way of dealing with a situation.  Sticking your head in the sand and pretending it’s not happening is not a mature choice either.

Own your words. Because they can hurt.  If you chucked a rock out of your yard while doing yard work and it hit someone in the face, you would feel bad and apologize and do whatever you could to help, even if you didn’t mean to hit them (I am not even dealing with you people who wouldn’t).  Treat errant words the same.  The hospital bills are lower and all you have to spend is a bit of your pride.

(And to further the analogy, if the person you accidentally hit in the face then threw another rock back at you and hit you, you are still at fault for the initial rock – these are elementary school rules you learn and should be teaching your kids.  Try to follow them yourselves)

Posted in online community, z personal

I won’t quit you, Social Media

I challenge those of you getting frustrated with Facebook and other social media political discussions to think of these conversations differently. Politics are important, even if you don’t care for them. Try this exercise:

Think of how people politely listen to re-countings of your day or coo over pics of your kids. Niceties are the foundation of our culture. Try to treat political discussions the same way you would want people to treat your discussions on things they don’t really want to talk about.

If you truly don’t want to engage, be polite about it. Don’t announce your frustration and storm away (think how you would feel if your kids’ recital video was treated the same way).

If you DO engage, don’t do so to just prove a point. These are people with valid positions, that are born from their experience. Respect that, even (or especially) when they aren’t respecting your position. #WhenTheyGoLowWeGoHigh

And it used to go without saying, but apparently now it needs to be said – BE NICE. All of you. We are still neighbors, family, friends. If you would scold your child for talking that way to someone about any other subject, don’t talk that way yourself.

Get it together, America. We can be righteous, woke and activated – I damn well intend to be. But we can do it with a hell of a lot more respect.

Posted in z friends, z personal

More recipes – SOUP PARTY edition

I love soup parties. They are in keeping with the preppers trend of making meals beforehand for quick weekday lunches and dinners.  But they make an event of it.  Noone ever eats all the soup,  so you are always left with tons of leftover (This also may be due to the fact that I make army proportions, though).  Plus, you get to hang out with your friends who bring beer, wine, bread and desserts (of which there are ALSO leftovers).  Everyone wins.

As requested, here are my recipes for my most recent soup party.



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VEGGIE LENTIL

olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups carrots, coins
1 cup celery, sliced
2 large cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup spinach/kale, chopped
64 oz broth/stock
2 cups of lentils
at least 1 tbsp of cumin
2 thyme sprigs
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp celery salt
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp herbes de provence
2 bay leaves
Put everything in a pot and low boil until the lentils are soft.

The more you stir it, the more the lentils break up.  If you like a broth soup, don’t stir too much.  If you like a thicker/heartier soup, stir a bunch 🙂


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CARROT BUTTERNUT GINGER

olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup ginger, minced
4 cups of carrots, coins
32-64 oz of broth/stock (the less you use the more thick the soup)
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
1 cup OJ
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper
– Saute onions & ginger in olive oil until onion are translucent
– Add in carrot until carrot start to soften slightly
– Transfer mixture to a pot, add stock & raw butternut squash
– Low boil until carrots/squash are completely soft
– Use hand mixer to puree until smooth

– Add in OJ & cinnamon, s&p to taste


Beef_Barley_Stew.jpg

BEEF BARLEY

2-4 lbs of beef chuck roast,
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups carrots, coins
1 cup celery, sliced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
64 oz broth/stock
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp of worcestershire sauce
1 cup wine
1 cup barley
– sear full roast in hot pan with olive oil on each side until golden brown, remove to a plate
– add onion, carrots, celery, garlic to pan and saute briefly, transfer to a container for later
– cut beef into 1 inch cubes, with as much of the fat removed as possible
– add beef, broth, thyme, bay, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, fish & worcestershire sauces to pot and low boil for 2 hours
– add back in veggies, barley and wine and low boil for at least an hour, until barley opens up
– add more salt & pepper to taste.

– Soup is better after sitting for a while


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GREEN CHILE CHEDDAR CORN MUFFINS

2 boxes jif cornbread mix (vegetarian or reg)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 can creamed corn
1 small can green chiles
1 cup sharp cheddar
– Mix all ingredients and spoon into tiny muffin tins (lined or greased) or into a shallow pan(s)
– Bake at 400 for 10 min or until golden brown (takes a bit longer for pans instead of muffins)
– Cool on baking rack
– Muffins freeze AWESOME in a ziplock
Posted in z personal

My Family’s Ice Cream Kolackies Recipe

This time of year, I make my family’s Ice Cream Kolackies.  They are the opposite of fancy and they definitely aren’t pretty the way I make them, but they are quintessential comfort food and they mean holidays to me.  They are a pain to make unless you have a big mixer, so I get TONS of requests when I make them from my family who don’t want to make the cement-like dough.  Hope you enjoy!

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I America-Test-Kitchen’d this a while ago,  so trust me on this recipe:

ICE CREAM KOLACKIES

1 lb/4 stick of salted butter
4 cups of flour
1 pint of the cheapest vanilla ice cream you can get. [This is usually only purchasable in half gallons,  so use half of that container.  Good ice cream doesn’t make it turn out as well. I’ve tried.]
Jam of your choosing [Apricot is traditional, as is using Solo brand cans of poppyseed or prune filling.  You do you.]
Cream cheese
Sugar
Vanilla

1. Blend the cold butter in the kitchen aid mixer with the tulip shaped mixer piece to break it up.  Do not melt or room-temperature it.
2. Mix in frozen ice cream.  This will be like cement now. [Now, imagine what it was like learning this with Grandma when you had to make it by hand.  With my Grandma’s ‘sweet’ demeanor 😉 #memories ]
3. Mix in the flour one cup at a time. I usually switch to the dough hook at this point.  Don’t mix too much though, as you don’t want the dough to get gummy. End result should be tacky to the touch with visible tiny globs of butter.
4. Mix cream cheese,  sugar and vanilla to taste in a separate bowl.  Usually the whole brick of cream cheese, a teaspoon of vanilla and a few tablespoons of sugar.
5. Spoon sloppy cookie sized pieces onto a parchment lined tray.
6. Thumbprint each and fill with jam or cheese filling. Jam may run onto parchment during cooking,  jelly definitely will, so spoon accordingly.
7. Cook at 350 for about 10 min, or until the bottom of cookies are just browning. The cookies will seem not cooked all the way when you take them out. Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.
8. Cool and reline each tray with parchment before using for the next batch.
9. Use wax paper or parchment if you wrap with cellophane or stack the cookies so the jam doesn’t stick.

Posted in online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds, web business

My Interview on the Community Signal Podcast

This past month, I had the honor of being interviewed by Patrick O’Keefe, for his community management focused podcast, Community Matters.  You can download it on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app, or stream it here:
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On the podcast, we talk about many things, but our focus was on the treatment of those staff on the front lines of community – the moderators and engagement staff that actually interact with customers.  I feel very strongly that while some of the burden of choosing and keeping a potentially toxic job is on the employee, an equal, and in some cases larger, portion of that responsibility is on the employers and brands hiring those individuals.
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Often times, they are highly marginalized team members – many are contractors with little or no interaction with the larger team or the client/brand team.  They are usually paid very low wages, even state-side, being told that they should be “happy” with their work-from-home status.
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And that’s just when the content they are handling isn’t toxic.  On most moderation teams, they have to screen out all the “bad” content, so that the audience doesn’t see it.  But the moderators still see it and are usually not given the support required to handle emotionally volatile content.  Even in communities for children, moderators can come across triggering content and some teams do not prepare their staff for that possibility.  “Becoming numb to it” is an awful skill to have to develop on the job.
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I also worry about the increasing trend to offshore moderation work to low-wage countries.  As an employer, I understand the urge, but it is difficult to maintain high quality with non-native speakers, not to mention the difficulty of oversight of procedures regarding the emotional well being of those moderators.  Just because they are offshore, doesn’t mean negative content won’t affect them the same.
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I am interested to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Let me know what you think in the comments or via twitter.
Posted in marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, tween, virtual worlds, web business

Facebook and livestreaming tragedies

Great NPR Marketplace story on the conundrum of “free speech” and expression on social media during these tense times and how to moderate content for brands and different audience consumption.

http://www.marketplace.org/2016/07/07/life/facebook-and-livestreaming-tragedies

On the conversations happening at Facebook in the aftermath of Philando Castile’s death:

I imagine there are conversations around content moderation. You know, how do we treat events like this? Should they be subject to the normal rules surrounding violence or is there some kind of special dispensation that should be created for videos about news events, or videos that depict injustice. I think it’s a very tough line to straddle. –Deepa Seetharaman, reporter covering Facebook and other social media at the Wall Street Journal

Posted in trends, web business

NPR Marketplace: The Price of Profits

NPR’s Marketplace recently published a series studying the history of corporations and how their priorities have changed over the years.  One of the main points of the series focused on the evolution of the role of the employee in relation to the corporation.  The fact that employees cannot assume they will be taken care of by their employers resonated with me.  While I do believe in personal accountability for one’s own path, I also believe that a company can write their path so that it takes into account the people who are helping bring in revenue, and hopefully profits.