AppsLab FAQ: What if Someone Posts Porn?

I’ve decided to start a periodic feature I call AppsLab FAQ, which serves several purposes.

First, it gives me topics to blog when I’m short on ideas, which happens frequently.

Second, it gives me a permanent place to store experiences and lessons learned in a given subject area. So, the next time I get asked the question, I can refer to my stock answers and point the person asking to a resource.

Third, it allows you to weigh in with your thoughts and experiences, ideally making the answer better and more road-tested.

As the name suggests, these are questions we get asked a lot; they have complex answers and represent genuine concerns or areas where we need to provide real guidance.

So, without further ado, I give you the first FAQ, “What if someone posts porn?”

This one inevitably comes up in any discussion about a community. I’ve normalized it to porn, but generally, people are concerned that members of their community or outside trolls and spammers will post objectionable material or commentary.

This is a legitimate concern. It usually starts small, like “what if someone says something negative”, then escalates to “what if someone curses”. You can hear the mind racing ahead to viruses and ultimately to porn.

Even though these all get lumped together into a single “what if” concern, they have different probabilities and therefore, different mitigation techniques.

Let’s start with “saying bad things about X”, where X equals your product, service, company, etc. People starting communities want to encourage the good and avoid the bad. To this concern, I say “so what?” Then I qualify my statement because the amount you should care depends on the nay-sayer’s affiliation.

If a customer says bad things, be concerned. Engage with genuine concern and try to resolve or mitigate. The same goes for anyone who has a tangible stake in whatever it is you do that warrants a community, e.g. if you have a partner community, pay attention to what partners say.

Otherwise, the rest is pretty much noise. I generally try to engage people who seem to have a real concern or are frustrated. Feel free to ignore people complaining or bad-mouthing you or your community. The community will self-police, more on that later.

Regarding viruses and porn, I usually ask if that’s a real concern or a nuclear winter scenario. Then I mention that in my experience with Mix and Connect that I’ve never had any need to moderate or remove someone for objectionable or dangerous content.

I have it easy though because in a work or business community, you are much less likely to attract spammers and trolls. I’ve spoken to many community managers, and typically, they employ some type of moderation to handle these worst case scenarios.

We firmly believe that a community self-polices, i.e. members are invested in the content and will shout down and moderate any community abusers without requiring you to take a heavy hand. If that doesn’t work, always ensure you provide the terms of use, so there are no surprises if you have to remove an offender.

It’s funny to me that business communities have this concern. I’ve heard horror stories of ad hoc communities inside the firewall that hosted offensive pictures. Obviously, it’s a valid concern, but I think if you make the community’s purpose clear, you can avoid 99.9% of these problems. You run into problems when your community appears to be private or personal (vs. public or work-related).

This is another one of those areas where consumer communities do a better job because they have to, e.g. large social networks like MySpace and Facebook have policies in place enforcing certain decency standards.  These communities are personal (not work-related) and therefore much larger and more attractive to spammers, trolls and all the other Interwebs baddies.

So, this is how I answer the “what if someone posts porn” question. Does this help, if you had that question? Do you get that question a lot? If so, do you have anything to add to the answer? You know what to do.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

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