Category Archives: collaboration

Interview: Stephanie Parker

For the ‘interview someone’ part of this week’s learning activity, I reached out to Stephanie Parker (who is also a former student of Professor Rheingold’s) who previously worked at¬†Viki as a community manager. As her title implies, she had to work with fans of the community everyday as part of her job. Viki is a primarily Asian pop culture subtitling platform where fans subtitle the TV shows they want to watch into multiple languages (crowdsourcing!) in a legal and moderated environment. The company was purchased by Japanese conglomerate Rakuten a few years back and is based both in San Francisco as well as in Singapore.

Stephanie said that she had enjoyed her time at Viki and that it had been a ‘valuable learning experience”.

As a community manager, the bulk of her work involved:

1) Communicating directly with community members, hearing their concerns, solving their technical issues

2) Creating social/marketing material for the community, such as blogs about Korean dramas, contests or giveaways

3) Meeting internally with other teams (like product/engineering) to make sure new features are coming along, and bugs are fixed

She is a big fan of K-Pop, so her job at Viki allowed her to work in communication and social media, while at the same time still be involved in K-Pop regularly. She has attended events such as K-Pop conventions as part of her job as well.

For Stephanie, the most challenging part of managing a community online was maintaining a distinction between being a ‘manager’ of the community, and a ‘member’ of the community.

Being a K-Pop fan, Stephanie also considers herself to be a member of the community she is in, so when conflict arises she has to remind herself to stay professional as a manager and follow ‘an established procedure for conflict resolution’. There are also social dilemmas as your relationship as a manager morphs over time when you become closer to the other members of the community. Furthermore, sometimes there might be a conflict of interest between the desires/wishes of the community vs the direction of the company. In these cases, the community manager might be sandwiched between both sides.

As a community manager myself, I find that my concerns are very similar to Stephanie’s but on a smaller scale. Viki is known to have a very active fan community so it is interesting to hear from an insider on the workings of the job. It also reminds me a lot about this article. It’s great how Professor Rheingold’s advice stays true and valid after more than 15 years.

Wikia

Chances are if you are into some sort of video game, anime/manga or TV show, you’ve been on a Wikia community before. Originally a spin-off of Wikipedia, Wikia now functions as an independent company and is a formidable growing community platform for fandoms that influence decision-making within each of the industries that Wikia engages with – which is a lot.

The front page has some stats on the website. Well, talk about impressive!

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My encounters with Wikia previously were mostly restricted to landing on one of the Wikia communities after Googling the name of some obscure character in some TV show whose back story I had forgotten after abandoning the show for a few months. I knew that the content was generated by fans, so they were most likely accurate. What I didn’t know was the scale and the business model that Wikia runs on.

At the 2014 New Context Conference in San Francisco, I learned about Wikia during a pitch by CEO Craig Palmer, and it made so much sense that I became a fan of the company right there (even though I still don’t use Wikia as a contributor). It became as just a Wikipedia-like platform for fans to organize and curate information about their favorite things. However, over time, Wikia had developed strong communities that have even become ‘official communities’ recognized or endorsed by the companies that produce some of these ‘things’ that people are crazy about including games and dramas. What I liked best was how Wikia involves its Superfans (the tribal leaders within this collaborative intelligence ecosystem)

They have selected (or accepted applications in some cases) for Wikia stars who get to be the ‘leader’ of their respective Wikia communities. It is like the equivalent of earning a recognition or certification of ‘I’m your Number 1 Fan’. Wikia basically harnesses the power and potential of fandom.

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Superfans are not just leaders in creating and curating content on the site. Sometimes they are even involved in the planning stages for the next big thing from the companies whose products they are fans of. With Wikia, the gap between industry and fandom has been brought closer together.

According to Palmer, Wikia believes that in order for a company to successfully interact and engage with superfans, they have to let go and give the fans:

– acknowledgement
– honesty
– trust
– attention
– authencity
– swag
–¬†somehow create an ‘insider feeling’

The fact that something like Wikia even exists and runs on such an interesting business model is just absolutely fascinating for me (so fascinating that I’m doing a Learner Lecture on it even though I just wrote this). Thanks to this talk I saw a lot of new possibilities within my own line of work as well. Wikia rocks!

Second Life

This has been sitting at the back of my mind since about two or three classes back when we briefly discussed virtual communities and environments. I recalled using some sort of really cool virtual environment for my freshman PWR class but couldn’t remember what it was. After some researching and contacting people, I finally recovered that missing piece of memory and rediscovered the awesomeness that is Second Life.

Like any other MUVEs, Second Life is a piece of software that connects online into a boundless virtual world. It functions a little like a cross between the Sims and Minecraft. You get an avatar you can dress up, talk to people and explore different world. On the other hand, you can also purchase (using an in-environment currency) materials and build your own world from scratch. Most of the places you can visit in Second Life are built by fellow fans.

When you first enter, you end up on this island with other recently born Second Lifers.

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After wandering around, you end up at this portal that takes you to the Welcome Center.

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Not sure why 15 minutes into Second Life I was already break-dancing alone in a club…

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Other than wandering around, you can also choose to teleport to anything from places to events. Even live concerts and as you can see, ‘trivia in bars’!

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I searched ‘Disney’ and somehow found myself in a beautifully constructed ‘Walt Disney’ museum. Here’s a fan-made curation of what she considers to be the history and progress of Disney.

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Also, one of the coolest thing is that there is actually a Stanford within Second Life. This was where I had my first ‘virtual class’ in PWR class three years ago. If you look closely, there are black squirrels scurrying around everywhere! This is a virtual environment built by Stanford’s Libraries.

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In our glamorous Second Life, Searchworks go on a huge life-sized wall, there are no less palm trees than in real life, and the fountains are still working.

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I think running Second Life requires quite a fair bit of computing power, so my old, low-spec Lenovo froze on me after some time. However, I definitely recommend going in to Second Life for a very virtual yet very real representation of the power of curation and collaboration. Also, if you visit the Stanford Library in game, you get a virtual SULAIR T-shirt. I haven’t figured out how to put it on though…