No matter how enthusiastic a user community is, members of that community won’t contribute content that has value to an organization unless the user environment is safe and secure.
According to Khabie, Digitaria employs filters to screen out message-board users on the Falcons’ website who are phishing or generally attempting to exploit the fan community. “There has to be a certain effort to protect the users, there’s got to be a safe place,” Khabie says. “It’s a place for families. We do everything in our power to look out for them.”
According to STA Travel’s webmaster, Craig Hepburn, STA requires image authentification for posts to safeguard against email spiders and other automated programs that troll for personal information and post spam in blog comments. Users must solve a simple mathematical equation (e.g., “2+2=?”) displayed as an image and fill in the correct answer to post. The company that developed STA Travel’s blogs, the British company Off Exploring, also regularly screens content for bad language, libel, and inappropriate photos and video, Hepburn says.
“They can report that to us and we can quietly remove that content,” Hepburn says. With STA’s CMS, RedDot, and its full-text, page ID, and date search, any piece of content can be found quickly, while the system’s global search-and-replace feature allows administrators to alter specific terms across an entire website. Automated versioning allows any changes to be rolled back. “We’ve been maybe quite lucky—touch wood. Up to this point, we’ve never had any major issues.”
Having ensured the security of their user communities, organizations seeking to decrease their potential Web 2.0 content management headaches should seek out and empower community ambassadors to help police content. The Sitecore CMS development team stressed the importance of this “ambassadorial approach” to content moderation.
“It’s a tricky subject, but we wanted to create a class of fans willing to work with the Falcons,” Sitecore’s Guarnaccia says. “They’re unpaid, but so loyal that they’re willing to take on this extra role and police themselves.”
According to Guarnaccia, these ambassadors are necessary to any post-moderation strategy. In the Sitecore CMS, administrators can give ambassadors the power to ban other users temporarily or permanently, to edit or delete content, and to communicate privately with other users. He believes a class of passionate users accorded moderation abilities like these can help stabilize and bring consistency to an online community. In exchange for their services they receive a certain measure of status in the community, he says.
“That’s more important to these people than anything else,” he says. “They do it at the end of the day to make themselves feel good and be that important person in the community.”
To further encourage users on the Atlanta Falcons’ message board to submit quality content and discourage terms-of-service violations, users can receive reputation points from other users, which are displayed in their user profiles. Users can also become “a fan” of another user or add favored users to a buddy list. The number of fans and buddies a user has is another indication of one’s reputation within the user community.
No amount of participation or good will from a Web 2.0 feature’s user community can completely rule out the possibility that undesirable content will be published. A blog post may conform to editorial standards but still express an opinion at odds with the sponsoring organization’s business aims or branding goals. Publishers can delete submissions like this but organizations that do so risk appearing heavy-handed.
Prospero’s Williams is familiar with this danger. “As soon as you let people start talking with each other, you’re going to realize there are lots of divergent opinions and that those divergent opinions sometimes are colorful or offensive or inappropriate,” he says.
STA webmaster Hepburn sympathizes with this situation. STA Travel’s blogs are, in part, used to promote travel opportunities to the distant locales they describe. Travel blog entries are geocoded so that RedDot can serve up links to relevant travel offers. A negative trip write-up could dissuade travelers from booking a flight with them, he says. However, rather than delete posts, Hepburn says STA Travel engages with divergent opinions in an effort to keep the blogs “open and free.”
When an STA Travel blogger questioned the safety of traveling around Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, rather than delete the message, Hepburn says STA Travel contacted a representative from the South African tourist board to post a rebuttal and the original post was left up. In the same vein, Hepburn says STA Travel also publishes a number of staff blogs that are clearly marked as staff content, so as not to confuse visitors.