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)

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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 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 kids, online community, z personal

Social Good FTW

Lately, in an effort to engage with my new home in Salt Lake City, I have been volunteering on local projects that take those international and large-scale skill sets I have developed and try to apply them in hyper-local situations:

Working towards safe and engaging audience communities online can feel detached at times, especially when you are working in the thousands or millions of users ranges.  I haven’t lost my desire to work on online projects, of course, but it’s great to be able to see those digital skill sets translate so easily into the offline space.

It’s nice to see the direct impact via work on the local level. I have met and been inspired by so many people in my new city and I am excited about the potential I see here.

Posted in gaming, kids, online community, tween, virtual worlds

Top 3 online safety tips for parents

A dear friend of mine asked me on Facebook if I could share with her my “top 3 safety tips” she needed to know, now that her oldest was 7 and her youngest was fast approaching internet age.  While I could talk for hours on this topic, I think I came up with the 3 things that parents of young digital natives should think about as they brace themselves for the years ahead.

1. I would start with thinking what you want your family rules about internet to be.
– Are they allowed to download things to the computer/device? If so what/when?
– Are they allowed to talk to other people on sites, games, etc? If so, who and when should you know about it?
– Who is in charge of passwords – you or them?
– Do they really get what privacy means and why we keep our personal info to ourselves?

2. Think about setting up a transparent dialogue about tech and digital activities.
Casually talk about different sites, games, devices, etc so that it’s known that those things are under your watch, just like other offline toys, games & relationships.

3. Think honestly about your kids naiveté and innocence.
Are they on the younger/more doe-eyed side of that spectrum? If so, make sure they know not to trust everything they see on the internet.
Are they more street smart? Make sure you are having the early conversations about bullying and how you expect them to treat others, even when they can’t see the other person’s face.

Just like with all parenting – there is no silver bullet, but the earlier you start taking the benevolent authority role with digital, the more they will see you as a resource rather than an adversary.

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online community, tween, web business

GeekDad interview

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My colleague, Bill Shribman over at WGBH, interviewed me for GeekDad.com recently.
Here’s a snippet:

You threw my daughter out of Animal Jam when she was making plans to meet a friend for lunch, which I thought was a pretty impressive catch. She thought she had mistyped “duck.” What other kinds of behaviors or activities have you interrupted?

Thanks – I always love it when we can turn a discipline from the game into a positive parent interaction. As far as other behaviors/activities, where do I start? Obviously, for COPPA compliance, players trying to give out personal information is a very high priority – that’s addresses, emails, and phone numbers – but even Skype and other instant messaging usernames, FaceTime handles, and any other methods where players would be communicating outside of the game and potentially sharing that personal info.

While there is no law around it (which most parents are surprised to learn) we are also very diligent regarding inappropriate behavior and conversations, including cyber dating, drugs/alcohol, violence, vulgar language, cyberbullying and anything else we have deemed inappropriate to be associated with our brand and within the younger demographic we attract.

Read more here: At Least 17 Reasons Why Your Kid May Be Playing Animal Jam