Masters of Community with David Spinks
The Secrets of Well-Governed Communities with Venessa Paech
August 23, 2021
In this episode of Masters of Community, we speak with Venessa Paech, Australia's leading online communities specialist and Founder and Chief Consultant at PeerSense. Venessa is a seasoned online community strategist, manager, researcher, and educator with over twenty years of experience building community online. She’s also the Co-founder and Director of Australian Community Managers (ACM), a network organization for community building professionals in Australia. In this episode, Venessa and I dive deep into what community governance looks like and what your MVP governance program should look like. We also talk about AI and how these tools are helping us build, understand, and moderate our communities more efficiently. You're going to really enjoy some of the more advanced-level community focused topics that we have in this discussion. We ask a really interesting question of “Is there going to be a day soon where a community can be entirely built by robots with no human facilitation?” You'll find out what her answer is in this episode. Who is this episode for? Community managers and moderators who are also curious about the role of AI in community building and management. Three key takeaways: 1. Are tools enough to build a high-engagement community?: Without a solid social infrastructure, tools cannot engage the people in a community. Why are you better together as a community than apart? Asking such strategic questions will help discover the true value that your community brings. 2. Community governance isn’t as boring as it sounds: Laws to prevent online harassment help hold community managers and creators accountable to protecting basic public decency online - just the way they would in person. Proactive governance includes rules, rewards, and recognition around behavior that demonstrates the character of your community. It also includes any reprimands against behavior that goes against your community’s goals and values. Risk planning for community values will find its way into Community Operations over time. Planning for governance starts conversations that help examine the creator’s vision for the community’s culture and character. 3. AI-driven moderation: Governance automation should be more nuanced and include specific actions and behaviors, rather than being binary. Personalization can create “hand-rails” to help guide a member's journey, but looks very different from one community to another. Community strategists can use AI to find new patterns and discover new ways members discover relationships, but these tools need large data sets for accurate predictions. There’s always a risk of bias coming from existing data sets into AI-driven moderation. AI-moderated communities can be used to advance both good and bad causes. Notable Quotes: 1. “Governance...It's really about how we make decisions that define who we are and where we assign value: Is that a valuable activity? Is that not a valuable activity? Where do we draw our lines? What is crossing the line?” 2. “..potentially using that data as a predictive tool to say, look, these are the trends, this is what's been happening in the last few years around content, around behavior, around topics that are discussed.. and therefore extrapolating, this is what might be happening in the future. It's not a hundred percent reliable of course, but when you've got big data sets, which machine learning loves, then you can do some really interesting things in terms of uncovering hidden gems.” 3. “If you label something as toxic, well, it's toxic perhaps to wider society. You know, our norms, our ethics might say, that's not cool. We don't like that. That's not acting. But within that community, it's not at all toxic, it's who we are, what we value, what we believe.” Answers to rapid-fire questions: 1. If you could only eat one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Noodles in any form, particularly Laksa - a Malaysian coconut curry noodle soup. 2. What's your favorite book to give as a gift to others? “Sand Talk” by Tyson Yunkaporta. 3. Wildest Community Story? X-Files Anonymous, her first true online community where she met and dated her now-husband. 4. A go-to community engagement tactic, or conversation starter? Sharing pictures of pets. 5. Have you ever worn socks with sandals? No, but she won’t stop others from wearing them. 6. Who in the world of the community would you most like to take for lunch? Jane Jacobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and John Cote. 7. The weirdest community you've ever been a part of? All the FITA communities. 8. What's a community product or technology that you wish existed? To be able to have a conversation with your community as an avatar would be incredibly interesting. 9. What's a question I didn't ask you that I should have? Similarities between working in theater and working in community. 10. Twitter-sized piece of advice from her deathbed? Truly accepting yourself for who you are and having a relationship with an animal.
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