Featuring illustrious speakers like:
- Heather Champ, Director of Community at Flickr, the world’s largest photo-sharing site
- Emma Monks, Senior Manager, Moderation and Safety at teen friendly virtual world, Habbo Hotel
- Community Consultant Ed Mitchell
- Ally Branley, Community Manager at Channel 4
it was an intensive series of talks and small group sessions aimed at helping web content creators and online community managers build, grow and manage successful online communities.
The first post, an introduction to the speaker presentations, introduced Community Consultant Ed Mitchell who shared a number of interesting case studies featuring some public sector online community initiatives.
This is second post focuses on the meat of Emma Monks of Habbo Hotel’s talk.
As before I’ll start with my usual disclaimer: what follows has been typed up (and summarised in parts) from my busy notes on the day.
If you were there and recognise something that wasn’t, please correct me in the comments.
Emma started off by sharing that she is not signed up to any of the social networking services; she neither blogs nor twitters. However, she has spent the last few years managing one of the world’s largest teen virtual worlds, Habbo Hotel.
She mentioned that early on when a tag cloud was introduced on Habbo, the members found a way to manipulate it into saying rude words! Funny…
Emma’s interesting biography is on the Hello Digital website. Some of the other things I noted from her introduction to her talk:
Soon after that she decided that if she was going to get involved in online communities, she’d make sure she was paid to do so.
She worked on an online community project at Line One (now Tiscali) that allowed people to confess their worst sins. The community then voted on whether the person should be damned.
I think she said this site lives on in some form at Tiscali.
She worked at AOL for a period of time and then moved on to Habbo as “AOL got a bit too big”.
Habbo is a virtual world comprised of 18 virtual hotels. There are 18 community managers and 220 moderators. Emma co-ordinates the community managers and moderators.
She added at this point a note to aspiring community managers:
Community Building Tip #1: Think about how you will moderate your community and what the potential problems are.
On to some stats for Habbo Hotel:
There are 111 million registered Habbo characters and the site receives 9.5 million browsers per month.
It’s a way for teens to express themselves.
Members sign up for an account (free and monthly subscriptions available) and receive a virtual ‘room’ they can customise using ‘furniture’ and graphics provided within the virtual world.
Some of the graphics is free but members can also buy furniture using an in-game currency.
There is no way to share real life likeness within the virtual world; members are not allowed to upload images of themselves.
The user base is split 56% boys 44 % girls.
63% are 13-16 years old.
92% are at school.
Another tip for aspiring community managers:
Community Building Tip #2: Never expect what you’ve built to be used in the way you expect it to.
At this point she showed us some amazing pictures of rooms designed by ‘residents’ at Habbo Hotel using the most unusual furniture to create very grand artistic pieces.
The community managers at Habbo expected the residents to make regular rooms out of the furniture provided. Instead some created rooms designed like the Titanic, a train emerging out of a tunnel, a racing car and some other inventive abstract pieces, making unusual use of some of the in-game furniture. They seemed to favour using the cheapest items available(?): a doormat, a room separator.
Habbo have found it easy to bring people together for a common cause.
They were able to bring together 250,000 residents for an International Peace Day on 21st September.
She showed us a video of one of the rooms in which the teens gathered showing speech bubbles of “Peace … and love” (and words to that effect) in a number of different languages.
Their enthusiasm for the International Peace Day showed that teens really latch on to causes. They are doers. There is a lot of creative heroism and some of this is expressed in using virtual items in unusual ways.
At this point she showed us some interesting video clips of avatars (characters?) from popular massively multi-player online role playing game, World of Warcraft, dancing alongside singers in popular music videos.
The videos ranged from from Michael Jackson to Meatloaf(?) to Britney’s Toxic; it was an amusing few minutes. If you’re reading this and have seen any of those out on the wild internet, please share a link in the comments. Thank you!
She said people form communities in the virtual world and then create them in the real world.
On other successful examples of online communities:
They literally have ‘thread diaries’ which encourage comment and support around a particular goal.
The example I noticed showed someone sharing how they planned to live on £4,000 for a year.
“People like to do everything in one place and use what is provided.”
“Forums are so supportive in a way that blogs are not. Already built into the community”.
Key points (for online community creators):
- Don’t be too rigid with off-topic rules.
- Create outlets for creativity.
- Don’t be too precious about your ‘vision’.
- Poll users regularly and let their feedback guide you.
Emma’s vision for the road ahead:
- Total disclosure of personal details loses its appeal. Example: Lisa Locket on MySpace, clear example of ‘oversharing’ on the web
- Anonymity and projecting one’s personality through a character becomes popular again (At this point she added “Habbo doesn’t let users create profiles.”)
- More legislation – tools for players to report user generated content
- Safety tips easily accessible on kids/teen services
- Age verification – on minors? How!?
- Defined notice and takedown times – 4 hours for teens?
- Parents guide prominently displayed
Community Building Tip #3: Build in tools to help you moderate the community effectively.
Make sure you have systems in place that show you why people are being ejected when that happens. Put an automated report system in place.
That’s it! Of my notes anyway.
Impressed? I was…
What do you think about the idea that total disclosure of personal details will lose its appeal in this ‘age of Facebook’? I’d love to know your thoughts. Share… in the comments.
Next up: Ally Branley, Community Manager at Channel 4’s talk. Live tomorrow.
- 4Talent Inspiration Session – Building Online Communities like Flickr and Habbo Hotel – Part 3
- 4Talent Inspiration Session – Building Online Communities like Flickr and Habbo Hotel – Part 1
- 4Talent Inspiration Session – Building Online Communities like Flickr and Habbo Hotel – Part 4
- Sheffield Melts Creativity – Melt 2008 Inspiration Session – Part 3
- Sheffield Melts Creativity – Melt 2008 Inspiration Session – Part 4