Industry Spotlight: Jennifer Cadieux, Ludia

This week I caught up with Jennifer Cadieux, Ludia Inc.’s Lead Moderation and Social Care Specialist. Two Hat just co-created a case study (How Ludia Leverages Insights From Player Chat to Improve Their Games) with the Ludia team, so this was a great opportunity to catch up with Jennifer and hear more about her work.

Carlos Figueiredo: Can you tell us about how you started your career in the games industry, specifically in the area of social care and moderation?

Jennifer Cadieux: I started as a Functionality Quality Assurance tester at a third-party provider before switching over to their Player Support section. When I first moved over I handled things like customer support tickets and some light community management duties which is where I learned about the social care aspect.

I was lucky enough a few months in to get assigned to a moderation job and fell in love with it. No two days were ever the same and the players kept my days interesting. When I was hired on to Ludia it was only natural to continue in this in a hybrid environment.

CF: Many companies look at content moderation as only something that addresses negative behavior, but we know that it’s much more than that. How do you use Two Hat’s Community Sift to get valuable insights from player chat and make better games and experiences for your audience?

JC: Chat offers a wealth of information that players may not necessarily voice anywhere else.

If we see a trend of a specific word getting moderated over and over that has no negative context then we can use the tool to dig into that and see how and why it’s trending.

Everything from player nicknames for creatures to acronyms they use helps us clarify the players’ experience and relay suggestions and frustrations to our production teams.

CF: What is your favorite feature in Two Hat’s Community Sift and why?

JC: I really like the flexibility to adjust policies per queue; different games have different age restrictions so it’s extremely important to us to be able to tailor these per title and queue.

CF: What’s the best thing for you about the Ludia community? What makes it unique?

JC: Their nicknames for our various creatures crack me and my team up, like The Rat, Golden Chicken, and Dentist.

The community of players as a whole is very witty and clearly have a passion for their chosen titles. As we handle multiple titles we get to see lots of different players but one thing that runs through them all is their clear love of mobile games.

CF: What is something about content moderation in video games that you wish everybody knew about?

JC: We care about our players and their experience. The moderators don’t want to ban you, they want you playing and having fun. 

About Jennifer Cadieux

Jennifer Cadieux is based out of Montreal and created the Moderation and Social Care role at Ludia in 2018. She is an avid learner and can be found bingeing documentaries in her off time. Using knowledge gained from a lifetime of learning about other cultures she is driven to create safe places for players to interact with and learn from each other.

 

Learn more about the wonderful work of the Ludia team by downloading the case study.

Industry Spotlight: Zach Boasberg, Rovio

This week I caught up with Zach Boasberg, a Player Experience Specialist for Rovio Entertainment Corporation. We recently published a Rovio case study (Promoting a Welcoming Player Environment) that we collaborated on with Zach earlier this year. I wanted to get his thoughts on the content moderation and the current state of the industry.

Zach has an incredible knowledge of and passion for fostering awesome player experiences, so I was very excited to hear his insights.

Carlos Figueiredo: Can you describe a day in the life of a Player Experience Specialist at Rovio? What drives your purpose in this area of work?

Zach Boasberg: As part of the Player Experience team, my focus is on bridging the gap between the players and the developers making the games. On a daily basis, I’m using the different player touchpoints at my disposal (support tickets, player communities, reviews) to get an understanding of how our players feel, what they like and dislike, and then bringing that feedback to the developers in a constructive manner.

I care about our players having the best experiences possible in our games, not just because I play games myself and know how they feel, but because ultimately happy players means better business. So I’m always on the lookout for where the pain points are, and making sure that anyone that chooses to play one of our games has a lot of fun!

CF: Many companies still look at designing a positive community and having content moderation as a necessary evil and a cost center. We know that it’s quite the contrary: content moderation is a fundamental piece of a sound strategy to reach new users, retain them, and increase revenue. How does this play a factor at Rovio?

ZB: Social elements are a feature of many of our games, as it’s a great way to keep players engaged. Being able to chat with other people and make friends, or collaborate with a team, is a great driver for retention.

But players aren’t going to want to come back to your game if they have bad experiences while interacting with these social features. This is why we see content moderation as an important part of the puzzle.

By doing what we can to ensure that the interactions players have in our games are consistently positive, friendly, and safe, we’re optimizing the return we get on the social features we’ve invested in.

Ultimately, players want these social interactions, and I don’t see that demand slowing down. So we definitely see it as worthwhile to make sure our social features are as polished as any other feature we put in the game, and that includes having robust content moderation.

CF: We just collaborated with you and your team on a case study. One of the highlights for me is how you have operationalized mechanisms for a positive, welcoming, and safe community across all the games you produce. Why does that matter to you and the team?

ZB: When we began strategizing on how we wanted to approach content moderation, the first key consideration that popped up is our brands. We’ve of course got a very strong brand in our Angry Birds franchise, but we also have our Rovio brand as a game company.

Many of our players know us as a company, and we have a commitment to meet expectations of quality when it comes to Rovio games.

Therefore, by ensuring first that we have a solid baseline of settings for our content moderation, we’re making it so that our players can know they’ll have a consistently safe and fun experience when engaging in social features in any of our games. And in this way, we’re also protecting the integrity of our brands.

However, the other side of it is that our games are quite diverse, and the different communities of each game might have different needs or expectations. So while we’ve decided at a high level what sort of interactions are never OK in our games, we’ve also left room to tailor our content moderation to different genres.

A clear example is that while players in one of our competitive player-versus-player games might expect to be able to trash talk their opponents a bit, that sort of behavior could come across more strongly as bullying in a casual puzzle game.

We try to remain aware of these genre and community specific considerations, and balance having spaces where players can talk they way they’d like, without allowing disruptive players the room to cause harm.

CF: What’s your favorite thing about the community of Rovio players? What makes it unique?

ZB: We have an amazing community of players, and I think part of what makes them so great is their passion! Our fans, especially our Angry Birds fans, love the games as much as we do. They’re also not shy about making their voices heard!

Any time we’re able to hear directly from our players is great, because it gives us a lot of insight, and helps us make even better games.

CF: Last question: How has 2020 fundamentally changed the way you and your team work to ensure players have a positive and welcoming experience? What is the biggest lesson you learned so far this year?

ZB: I think the biggest point we’ve reaffirmed this year has been that content moderation is not something that can be set up once and then forgotten about. Having an automated filter is an important tool as a first line of defense, but if you never go back to check what’s being filtered or not filtered, you miss out on optimizing the overall experience.

On top of that, user generated content is always evolving and changing. This means it’s necessary to stay on top of what’s going on in your communities. This all adds up to taking a proactive approach and treating content moderation as a persistent function, rather than a one-off task.

CF: Thank you for your time today, Zach!

ZB: My pleasure, Carlos!

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About Zach Boasberg:

Zach is originally from near Boston in the United States, but has been living in Helsinki, Finland since 2015, and has been a Player Experience Specialist at Rovio since 2017. A passionate gamer himself, Zach enjoys being able to interact directly with players and help craft great gaming experiences for them.



How We Maintain a Chat Filter in a Changing World

Have you ever wondered how Two Hat maintains a dynamic and up-to-date chat filter in an ever-evolving world, in 20 languages?

In light of recent global events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we wanted to provide insight into our internal process.

We spoke to Portuguese Language Specialist Richard Amante, a journalist with 15 years of international experience, about how he and the team stay on top of the latest news.

As Richard explains, the Language & Culture team researches trending topics and new linguistic expressions and adds them to the dictionary in multiple languages. It doesn’t end there.

After the team adds new expressions to the chat filter, they review and adjust how those expressions are used across different communities and in different contexts. That includes finding and fixing false positives (low-risk content incorrectly flagged as high-risk) and false negatives (you guessed it — high-risk content incorrectly flagged as low-risk), detecting new and unexpected linguistic patterns, and upgrading and downgrading the riskiness of a phrase based on cultural shifts.

Especially today, in a world where so many of us are stuck at home, the lines separating our “real life” from our “online life” are blurry, if they exist at all. Whether we’re forming a clan in a multiplayer game or commenting on a friend’s profile pic, we’re having conversations online about everything, from the latest news to pop culture.

You might be wondering — why does this matter? It’s simple. Our clients want to know what their players and users are talking about; and more importantly, they want to keep them safe from abuse, hate speech, and harassment — while still promoting healthy conversations.

Every online community has different standards of what a healthy conversation looks like. An edtech platform designed for 7-12-year-olds will likely have a different standard from a social network catering to millennials. Here is the great power of Two Hat’s Community Sift: While the Language & Culture team provides a baseline by adding new words and phrases to the dictionary, clients can augment those words and phrases in real-time, as needed.

In this way, we work closely with our clients to maintain a living, breathing global chat filter in an ever-changing world.

Want to learn how Two Hat can help you maintain a safe and healthy online community? Request a demo today.

 

Tech Perspectives: Surpassing 100 billion online interactions in a month

In 2020, social platforms that wish to expand their product and scale their efforts are faced with a critical decision — how will they automate the crucial task of content moderation? As platforms grow from hundreds to thousands to millions of users, that means more usernames, more live chat, and more comments, all of which require some form of moderation. From app store requirements to legal compliance with global legislation, ensuring that all user-generated content is aligned with community guidelines is nothing short of an existential matter.

When it comes to making a technical choice for a content moderation platform, what I hear in consultations and demos can be distilled down to this: engineers want a solution that’s simple to integrate and maintain, and that can scale as their product scales. They are also looking for a solution that’s battle-tested and allows for easy troubleshooting — and that won’t keep them up at night with downtime issues!

“Processing 100 billion online interactions in one month is technically hard to achieve. That is not simply just taking a message and passing it on to users but doing deep textual analysis for over 3 million patterns of harmful things people can say online. It includes building user reputation and knowing if the word on the line above mixed with this line is also bad. Just trying to maintain user reputation for that many people is a very large technical challenge. And to do it all on 20 milliseconds per message is incredible”.  Chris Priebe, Two Hat’s CEO and Founder

Surpassing 100 Billion Online Interactions in a Month
I caught up with Laurence Brockman, Two Hat’s Vice President of Core Services, and Manisha Eleperuma, our Manager of Development Operations, just as we surpassed the mark of 100 billion pieces of human interactions processed in one month.

I asked them about what developers value in a content moderation platform, the benefits of an API-based service, and the technical challenges and joys of safeguarding hundreds of millions of users globally.

Carlos Figueiredo: Laurence, 100 billion online interactions processed in one month. Wow! Can you tell us about what that means to you and the team, and the journey to getting to that landmark?

“At the core, it’s meant we were able to keep people safe online and let our customers focus on their products and communities. We were there for each of our customers when they needed us most”.

Laurence Brockman: The hardest part for our team was the pace of getting to 100 billion. We tripled the volume in three months! When trying to scale & process that much data in such a short period, you can’t cut any corners.  And you know what? I’m pleased to say that it’s been business as usual – even with this immense spike in volume. We took preventative measures along the way, we focused on key areas to ensure we could scale. Don’t get me wrong, there were few late nights and a week of crazy refactoring a system but our team and our solution delivered. I’m very proud of the team and how they dug in, identified any potential problem areas and jumped right in. At 100 billion, minor problems can become major problems and our priority is to ensure our system is ready to handle those volumes. 

“What I find crazy is our system is now processing over 3 billion events every day! That’s six times the volume of Twitter”.

CF: Manisha, what are the biggest challenges and joys of running a service that safeguards hundreds of millions of users globally?

Manisha Eleperuma: I would start off with the joys. I personally feel really proud to be a part of making the internet a safer place. The positive effect that we can have on an individual’s life is immense. We could be stopping a kid from harming themself, we could be saving them from a predator, we could be stopping a friendly conversation turning into a cold battle of hate speech. This is possible because of the safety net that our services provide to online communities. Also, it is very exciting to have some of the technology giants and leaders in the entertainment industry using our services to safeguard their communities. 

It is not always easy to provide such top-notch service, and it definitely has its own challenges. We as an Engineering group are maintaining a massive complex system and keeping it up and running with almost zero downtime. We are equipped with monitoring tools to check the system’s health and engineers have to be vigilant for alerts triggered by these tools and promptly act upon any anomalies in the system even during non-business hours. A few months ago, when the pandemic situation was starting to affect the world, the team could foresee an increase in transactions that could potentially start hitting our system. 

“This allowed the team to get ahead of the curve and pre-scale some of the infrastructure components to be ready for the new wave so that when traffic increases, it hits smoothly without bringing down the systems”. 

Another strenuous exercise that the team often goes through is to maintain the language quality of the system. Incorporating language-specific characteristics into the algorithms is challenging, but exciting to deal with. 

CF: Manisha, what are the benefits of using an API-based service? What do developers value the most in a content moderation platform?

ME: In our context, when Two Hat’s Community Sift is performing as a classification tool for a customer, all transactions happen via customer APIs. In every customer API, based on their requirements, it has the capability to access different components of our platform side without much hassle. For example, certain customers rely on getting the player/user context, their reputation, etc. The APIs that they are using to communicate with our services are easily configurable to fetch all that information from the internal context system, without extra implementation from the customer’s end.

This API approach has accelerated the integration process as well. We recently had a customer who was integrated with our APIs and went live successfully within a 24 hour period”.

Customers expect reliability and usability in moderation platforms. When a moderator goes through content in a Community Sift queue, we have equipped the moderator with all the necessary data, including player/user information with the context of the conversation, history and the reputation of the player which eases decision-making. This is how we support their human moderation efforts. Further, we are happy to say that Two Hat has expanded the paradigm to another level of automated moderation, using AI models that make decisions on behalf of human moderators after it has learned from their consistent decisions, which lowers the moderation costs for customers. 

CF: Laurence, many of our clients prefer to use our services via a server to server communication, instead of self-hosting a moderation solution. Why is that? What are the benefits of using a service like ours?

LB: Just as any SaaS company will tell you, our systems are able to scale to meet the demand without our customers’ engineers having to worry about it. It also means that as we release new features and functions, our customers don’t have to worry about expensive upgrades or deployments. While all this growth was going on, we also delivered more than 40 new subversion detection capabilities into our core text-classification product.

Would you like to see our content moderation platform in action? Request a demo today.

How to Support Content Moderator Wellness in 2020

We started 2020 having no doubt about the importance of content moderation for social platforms. As Talerton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet, writes, “Content moderation is constitutional to the functioning of platforms, essential to what platforms are.” However, I believe that we have yet to fully appreciate the work of moderators, support them, and safeguard their wellbeing.

Take a step back to May 2019, when I spoke at and attended the Content Moderation in 2019 workshop hosted by IAPP. Gillespie was the keynote speaker, and he made a compelling case for redefining the moderator role: not as the custodian responsible for keeping the Internet clean, but rather one of guardianship.

In that same workshop, I witnessed the inception of an idea to create a professional association that would defend the interest of moderators and Trust & Safety professionals. Fast forward a year later, and enter The Trust & Safety Professional Association. The soon-to-launch organization will be focused on advancing the trust and safety profession through a shared community of practice. It’s encouraging to see this happening! Content moderators need support, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that we are spending more time online and moderation duties get more challenging.

“Moderation is the most essential, yet underrated, aspect of social-digital experiences. You couldn’t have an event in Times Square without police officers, Comic-Con couldn’t exist without event staff, and you wouldn’t send your kid to camp without camp counselors. Why should digital experiences be anything else?”

Izzy Neis, Head of Digital at ModSquad (Why Community Moderation Matters)

A critical piece of support needed is the protection of moderator wellbeing. Here at Two Hat, a mission-driven company founded on the ideals of Trust and Safety, we believe in giving moderators the tools and the best practices to ensure that:

  1. The impact of high-risk content on their wellbeing is minimized;
  2. They can focus their time on purposeful moderation, intentionally using their human expertise instead of doing manual work that machines can take care of;
  3. Wellness & resilience is a priority

Reduce Exposure to High-Risk Content

Protecting users from damaging user-generated content like gory images, dangerous/hateful speech, and chat that encourages suicide is a fundamental responsibility for online platforms. Equally important is the need to protect the moderators who ensure your online community remains a productive and thriving space.

Filters that identify and action on abusive behaviors are table stakes. There’s no need to expose moderators to high-risk content that AI can identify and proactively block without the need for human review. Furthermore, by proactively filtering you can immediately reduce the amount of user-generated reports, drastically reducing the workload of moderators.

In a large mobile game, user-generated reports decreased by 88% with the addition of a chat filter
From the e-book Content Moderation in Challenging Times

Purposeful Moderation

The work of a content moderator can feel like an endless battle against an ever-growing pile of content. I know this because I was a moderator once and I felt that challenge every day.

This is why it’s critical for a moderator to feel like they are doing something meaningful and purposeful. Knowing that the work you do every day has a tangible and positive impact on the community and in the world will help you connect and reconnect with why you’re doing that job in the first place. It’s very challenging to moderate and feel that connection without having the right tools, processes, and procedures at your disposal. One of the most important processes is to prioritize staff wellness and resilience.

Wellness & Resilience

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of what content moderators contend with from an emotional point of view. As Pascal Debroek, Head of Customer Service at Hatch Entertainment Ltd. said earlier this year:

“You have to understand that these can also be emotionally draining jobs. Most of these are pure customer-facing, and in a lot of the cases deal with either sensitive topics, aggravated end-users dealing with a situation that did not meet their expectations or even outright insults and threats.

Let’s not forget, most contacts with players stem from an emotional state; happy, sad, angry, you’ll encounter them all in these roles. And because it pays off to be empathetic in such roles, it also means your employees are more susceptible to the emotions that surround them.”

Today, I want to share a critical step you can take with your team to level up everyone’s wellness and resilience: build team and individual wellness plans. A wellness plan is an actionable set of activities that help you manage stress and recharge yourself.

For example, my own personal wellness plan might look something like this:

  1. Play drums for at least 15 minutes a day
  2. Take a short walk when it’s sunny outside
  3. Play video games with my family and friends
  4. Meditate (here’s a link to a 1-month free experience in the meditation app I use)
  5. Phone a friend or family member who knows my area of work and is OK with discussing challenging topics with me. (I had to use this one last year when I returned from a child protection conference and heard lots of stories that were heart-crushing. Hearing about such realities already pays a toll. Imagine those true heroes who review child abuse imagery and help protect kids globally.)
  6. Listen to some of my favorite songs

I hope this inspires you to build your own plan. You can go as specific as you want and as prescriptive as you need. Perhaps you want a set of actions you can take every day. Or maybe you prefer to have a pool of actions you pull from depending on the day. Also, as a moderation team, you can build team activities that help you cope with everyday stress. Playing games together might be a great way to do that. In an age of social distancing, you can play online games and also get creative with games you can play via video conferencing!

Back in 2018, we collaborated with therapist and wellness trainer Carol Brusca on a “Stress, Wellness, and Resilience” training session for Two Hat clients. She also shared her top 10 wellness tips for online moderators and community professionals. We just republished that piece adapting a few points to the new social distancing reality we are living.

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If you saw value in these tips and would like to know more about how technology can protect your moderation team’s wellbeing, we can help.

Request a demo today to see how Two Hat’s content moderation platform can reduce your workload and your exposure to harmful content.



Content Moderators: 10 Tips to Manage Stress During COVID-19

Back in 2018, we collaborated with therapist and wellness trainer Carol Brusca on a “Stress, Wellness, and Resilience” training session for Two Hat clients. She also shared her top 10 wellness tips for online moderators and community professionals.

Content moderation and player support are tough jobs on the best of days. Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, most moderators and player support professionals are now working from home. Online platforms are experiencing exponential growth, which means that moderators are busier — and under more stress — than ever.””

“It’s really important to explain to moderators and staff is that we acknowledge that this is a difficult time, and this is why we [as leaders] are playing our part in terms of doing moderation… Moderators are doing a difficult job at the best of times and right now they’re working a lot of hours and it’s extremely important that we communicate with members of staff about how they’re feeling.” Vernon Jones, Head of Safety at MovieStarPlanet

Content Moderation in Challenging Times webinar

Below, we’ve updated Carol’s original tips for managing stress to reflect today’s new reality.

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As a community manager or content moderator, you experience the dark side of the internet every day. Whether you are reviewing chat, social media, forum comments, or images, high-risk content can be draining — and you may not even realize the damage it’s doing.

Studies show that community teams on the front lines of chat, image, or video moderation are especially vulnerable to stress-related symptoms including depression, insomnia, vicarious trauma (also known as “compassion fatigue”), and even PTSD. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that you have the right tools and techniques at your disposal to support your mental health.

1. Talk to someone.
Having and using social supports is the number one indicator of resilience. Asking for help from someone who cares about you is a wonderful way to get through a difficult time.

Does your company’s health plan provide access to a mental health professional? Take advantage of it. There’s no shame in talking to a therapist. Sometimes, talking to a stranger can be even more effective than confiding in a loved one.

If you can’t see a therapist in person right now, there are virtual options available.

2. Learn to say no.
If we do not set boundaries with others we can find ourselves feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. If you notice this might be a habit for you, try saying “no” once a day and see if you begin to feel better.

Of course, saying “no” at work isn’t always an option. But if you’re spending too much time reviewing high-risk content, talk to your manager. Ask if you can vary your tasks; instead of spending all of your workday reviewing user reports, break up the day with 15-minute gameplay breaks. Check out our blog post and case study about different moderation techniques you can use to avoid chat moderation burnout.

Setting boundaries is essential when you work from home. You cannot be “on” 24/7. Again, work with your manager to set fair and reasonable expectations.

3. Go easy on yourself.
We are quick to criticize ourselves and what we have done wrong, but not as likely to give ourselves credit for what went right, or all the things we did well.

Remember that you work hard to ensure that your online community is healthy, happy, and safe. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and treat yourself to some self-care.

The last few months have been at times scary, confusing, and deeply uncomfortable. David Kessler, who co-wrote On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, says that the discomfort we are collectively feeling is actually grief. He says that it’s important that we acknowledge our grief and name it:

“We’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different… The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

4. Remember, this too will pass.
There are very few situations or events in our lives that are forever. Try repeating this mantra during a stressful time: this struggle will pass. It will make getting through that time a little easier.

(Maybe just repeat it silently in your head. Your co-workers — aka, spouse and pets — will thank you.)

This is especially hard right now, when we’re stuck at home, trying to find a balance between our work life and home life. While we cannot know when there will be a “return to normal”, it’s still important to acknowledge that the added daily stress isn’t permanent.

David Kessler offers these words of wisdom: “This is a temporary state. It helps to say it… This is survivable. We will survive.”

5. Get plenty of sleep.
We need sleep to replenish and rejuvenate. Often when we are feeling stressed, we struggle with sleeping well. If this happens to you, make sure your bedroom is dark and cool; try some gentle music to help you get to sleep, or use an app that plays soothing sounds on a loop. If staying asleep is the problem, try having a notepad and pen by your bed to write down your worries as they come up.

Pro tip: Save the marathon 3:00 am Animal Crossing sessions for the weekend.

6. Have a hobby.
Having a hobby is a great distraction from the stressors of everyday life. If you can do something outside, all the better. For many people being in nature automatically decreases stress. Remember to wear a mask and practice good social distancing!

Or, stick to video games. Playing Tetris has been proven to help people who experience trauma.

7. Drink tea.
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea.

We know that the smell of a freshly-brewed pot of coffee is like catnip to most moderators… but hear us out. Green tea has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.

8. Laugh it off.
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It literally tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Try a comedy movie marathon or a laughter yoga class (this is a real thing; hopefully there’s a virtual version now!).

And hey, a 10-minute meme break never hurt anyone.

9. Exercise.
Getting plenty of exercise will decrease stress hormones and increase endorphins, leaving you feeling more energized and happier.

Ever had a 30-second, impromptu dance party at your desk? (Zoom dance party, anyone?)

No, really!

Often referred to as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is released in our body when we’re under pressure. Excess cortisol can cause you to feel stress, anxiety, and tension. Exercise brings your cortisol levels back down to normal, allowing you to relax and think straight again.

So crank up a classic, stand up… and get down.

10. Try the “3 Good Things” exercise.
Each night, write down three good things that happened during the day. This practice makes you shift your perspective to more positive things in your life — which in turn can shift your mood from stressed to happy, even if the three good things are tacos for lunch, tacos for 2 pm snack, and tacos for 4 pm snack (thank you, SkipTheDishes!). Good things don’t have to be earth-shattering.

Gratitude comes in all sizes, especially now.

So, whether you’re sipping a mug of green tea, talking to a professional, or shaking your groove thing in the name of science and wellness, never forget that a little self-care can go a long way.

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For tips on reducing your moderation workload during the pandemic, download our e-book Content Moderation in Challenging Times: Techniques to Moderate Chat & Manage Increased Volumes.



Content Moderation in Challenging Times

As much of the world’s population faces an extended period of staying home, people are spending more time on online platforms. What does this mean for online communities and those who manage them? The increase in traffic volumes in popular games and social networks is spiking sharply.

Chat volumes are soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But volume alone is not the problem:

  • How are the exponential increases in user chats impacting content moderation practices and business workflows?
  • What are the new trends related to COVID-19 and what are online communities experiencing at this time?
  • How can we as an industry provide safe and inclusive spaces for users during and after the crisis?

To help answer these questions, I recently chatted with Vernon Jones, Head of Safety at MovieStarPlanet, and Two Hat’s Amy Vezeau, Manager of Client Integration, who shared with me their views on the state of online communities and content moderation. We focused on three main topics:

  • The scope of the challenge, especially as it relates to a spike in chat volumes
  • How COVID-19 has affected content moderation practices and impacted teams, business, and users
  • Practical tips and actionable approaches to add to your content moderation strategy during this challenging time

I’m so excited to announce that we’ve gathered these insights in a brand-new e-book Content Moderation in Challenging Times: Techniques to Moderate Chat & Manage Increased Volumes that you can download today

I’ve spoken to multiple organizations over the last two months that are looking for guidance, and this is a great piece of content that will help you navigate the changing landscape of content moderation during and after the pandemic. You can find it here.



How to Monitor COVID-19 Chat in Your Online Community

Back in 2017, I hosted a webinar called Preparing for Breaking News & Trending Topics. In it, I spoke about my time moderating large online communities at Disney Interactive, and the importance of staying on top of pop culture and culture-defining events both large and small.

In 2017, I spoke about the tragic events in Charlottesville as a cultural touchstone; an example of platform operators having to make difficult decisions about how to let their users process and discuss the attack. I shared a six-step protocol that Community Managers and Trust & Safety professionals can follow to ensure that their team is prepared to handle breaking news and trending topics.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may not be breaking news, it is an ever-evolving global event, and everyone is talking about it online, regardless of the platform. We’re seeing COVID-19 chat in mobile games, kids’ platforms, teens’ social networks, and MMOs.

With that in mind, I hope you find this six-step protocol to monitor COVID-19 chat on your platform valuable.

1. Compile vocabulary
The first step is to compile a list of words and phrases that you expect to see the community use. We’re going to use the term COVID-19 as a starting point. Obvious examples include:

  • alcohol wipe
  • border closing
  • confirmed case
  • corona
  • coronavirus
  • covid
  • covid19
  • epidemic
  • hand sanitizer
  • outbreak
  • pandemic
  • quarantine
  • social distancing
  • virus
  • WHO
  • world health organization
  • cdc
  • centers of disease control
  • infected

You’ll want to ensure that you’re watching for these words in your community – and in particular, how they’re being used. Is the community simply sharing their experiences with the pandemic, or are they harassing each other and potentially spreading misinformation?

2. Evaluate
The next step is to go beyond assumptions and review how your community is actually chatting.

Are they using words and phrases that you didn’t account for in your original list? Are there common misspellings? On the internet, language can change within a matter of hours. New compound terms including “covidvacay” and “coronacation” have come out of the pandemic and this rapid adoption of languages shows no signs of slowing down.

As you go through this process, it’s critical that you and your moderation team ask yourselves difficult questions, including:

  • Is quoting what could be construed as dangerous/hateful speech (kungflu, Chinese virus, wuflu, etc) acceptable for the purposes of discussing it?
  • When does humor cross the line?
  • How will you handle misinformation and the spread of fake and potentially dangerous news? Do you need to update your content moderation policies?

In a quick, 5 minute sampling of a single hour of chat across a variety of online communities, we saw COVID-19 referenced in a variety of different ways (spelling and grammatical errors included):

  • “what if the coronavirus is fake and its part of the placebo effect”
  • “so dont meme corona”
  • “my grandpa died of Corona rlvirus”
  • “and i have no shifts at work to pay them back cus of corona”
  • “it depends on if its a serious conversation. joking about corona has become an offense. which personally i find ridiculous. who are we without our jokes”
  • “well my mom is staying with me until the covid dies down so i can’t play games during the week until after 10pm -_-“
  • “the whole world got corona not just Italy”
  • “noone was expecting to get covid 19”

Another thing to consider is languages other than English. For example, in the Dutch language diseases are commonly used for bullying. Our Dutch Language & Culture specialist was quick to notice Dutch community members using bullying phrases like “corona child”, “corona loser”, and “corona face”.

Pay special attention to permanent UGC like usernames. You may allow users to discuss COVID-19 in chat, but do you want them to create a display name like CovidVectorGuy2020? Probably not.

3. Adjust
Now that you know how users are chatting, it’s time to adjust your chat filter to account for these new words and phrases.

Before you make any changes, consider:

  • How often was an expression used? One time in 1 million lines of chat? 20 times?
  • If you adjust a rule, what’s the impact?
  • Have you inadvertently created chat rules that are too strict? For example, “corona” is a kind of beer, and also refers to the circle of light around the sun or moon.

This is where using a sophisticated chat filter that recognizes context is critical.

4. Validate
Now that you’ve adjusted your filter, monitor your changes to ensure that you’ve avoided creating false positives and false negatives.

For example, you don’t want a phrase like “Corona means crown in Spanish” to trigger an action, whereas you would likely want “I hope you get corona” to result in moderation action (or a false send; whatever works for your community).

Tools that give you a live view of community chat can be very helpful here.

5. Analyze stats and trends
In the Two Hat content moderation platform, clients can run reports to view all chat within a specific time period, or to identify trends and common words.

Whatever reports are at your disposal, we recommend that you compile a regular report of trends and word count for all relevant stakeholders.

Consider:

  • How is sentiment trending? Positive or negative?
  • After you’ve identified a new trending word or phrase, how often is it used? Is there an upward or downward trend?
  • How many warning messages, mutes, or suspensions did you have to issue daily, weekly, and/or monthly to users who are using the topic to harass others, target someone due to their nationality, or spread misinformation?

6. Review regularly
New trends will arise. The term “social distancing” is common now, but it wasn’t two months ago.

Just today, “China’s Chernobyl” began trending on Twitter. By the time this blog is published, there will be a new trending term that you should be aware of.

At times like this, staying on top of chat trends is critical. With increased volumes as more people are in lockdown and spend more time online, it’s important to safeguard all users and ensure a positive and productive experience in your platform.

To that end, I’m currently offering free community consultations. We can use the time to discuss your content moderation approaches and policies and see if there are any opportunities to update and adapt it in this dynamic online landscape.

Request a consultation using the form below.



Upcoming Digital Panel at GamesBeat 2020: “Player Behavior: Your Secret Growth Tool”

The player/user behavior, content moderation, and Trust & Safety disciplines tend to be viewed as part of a cost center. Proactive moderation is usually tacked on to games and platforms after the product is launched, or as the result of a crisis/PR nightmare.

Content moderation is smart, it’s necessary, and even lawyers like it, but can it also be an opportunity to facilitate amazing player and viewer experiences in your platform and reach a bigger and more diverse audience?

As it turns out, a proactive approach to player behavior, moderation, and Trust & Safety can accomplish that, and more. This is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis, in a time when gaming companies have experienced exponential growth in chat volumes. Some communities report up to 3000% more chat in March than in February! A massive increase like that means companies are opened up to both risks and opportunities that our industry simply cannot afford to ignore.

Luckily, there are multiple opportunities to better safeguard your player and userbase as well as foster an inclusive and healthy gaming environment. These include things like proven techniques that have reduced disruptive behavior by 40%, to understanding that the social stickiness of moderated chat in games increases engagement and drives long term value in online platforms.

The Opportunity to Chat
From Two Hat’s whitepaper “The Opportunity to Chat”

There are a lot of other techniques out there – and we are pleased to announce that we’ll be sharing some of them with the industry during the upcoming GamesBeat (virtual) summit!

On April 29th, 4:15 pm PST, join the GamesBeat Summit 2020: The Dawn of a New Generation stream to catch the panel “Player Behavior: Your Secret Growth Tool”, and hear from experts at the forefront of platform and game design as well as Trust & Safety and culturalization in games to learn more about:

  • What approaches can help companies harness this growth opportunity
  • How to get started right away and start making an impact on how you design and manage your communities

Hear more from our fellow panelists Kim Voll from Stray Bombay and Clara Siegel from Facebook in our GamesBeat Summit 2020 panel discussion “Player Behaviour: Your Secret Growth Tool” — and make sure to download the accompanying checklist with new best practices and insights inspired by our panel discussion.



Sky: Children of the Light is the Kind of Game We Need Right Now

I play sky with my nephew, he is 6yrs old. We have a routine he gets home from school and the evenings I’m home from work we play for a while. He loves sky and he’s such a kind boy. Sky is such a beautiful place where he uses all his candles making friends.

I moved from my parents house 2 years ago now and I don’t get to see my siblings very often. However, my little sister and I always find some time to play to the game at the same time like that we can keep in touch

I’ve met so many awesome people on Sky, most of them live on the other side of the world. We keep track of each other’s timezones so we can play together. I have Sky friends who don’t speak the same language as me but that’s what the cute emotes are for!

Those are just a few of the tweets from Sky: Children of the Light fans, in answer to the question “Do you play #thatskygame with family, long-distance friends, or your significant other? 🥰 We are so inspired by these stories and would love to hear more from people who use Sky to connect with loved ones.”

Sky is a new social adventure game from thatgamecompany, the studio responsible for some of the most innovative and beloved games of the last 10+ years, including Journey, Flower, and Flow.

Featuring inventive gameplay based on compassion and community, gorgeous music, and a world populated with broken constellations, ancestor spirits, and Candles, Sky is the gaming experience we need right now. It’s a compelling example of a game designed with a singular purpose – connection and community.

The results speak for themselves – Sky has won multiple awards, including iPhone Game of the Year 2019, the Audience Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards 2020, and most recently the Pocket Gamer People’s Choice award. With over 10 million downloads already on iOS, Sky was just released for Android last week and will be available on the Nintendo Switch this summer.

We’ve paired up with Sky’s Community Developer Robert Hornbek to bring you a short webinar exploring how the studio designed its newest game with positive social features at the core, and how they maintain that healthy community spirit using intentional and purposeful moderation.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why thatgamecompany is committed to player safety (5:00 – 6:32)
  • How Sky: Children of the Light leverages innovative social features for better user engagement and experience (12:38 – 19:08, 25:08 – 28:30)
  • Their moderation best practices built with Two Hat (19:09 – 24:38)
  • Three pieces of advice for teams launching a new social game (28:35 – 33:15)

About thatgamecompany

thatgamecompany is a game studio dedicated to creating timeless interactive entertainment that inspires human connection worldwide. Creator of the critically-acclaimed games Sky, Journey, Flower, and Flow.