From oct 2010 my educational posts are published only on Pip

29 juli 2010

Everybody wants happy users

When searching on ’responsibility cyber bullying’ almost all hits concern the schools’ responsibility in this. E-mail, sms and personal homepages have eased being bad to each other. Teachers, parents and school have a tough time raising kids to humanitarian citizens.

When working with Stardoll, we’ve seen this as a part of the responsibility to run a community, as well as a demand from the users. We early decided we wanted our members to leave the site ever day in a comfortable and even empowered mood. A bullied girl is not feeling empowered.

When inheriting 200 dolls and 200 000 member pages from Liisa, I spent many months parallel developing the game and hours in customer service. It stood clear from day one that there was a subculture of girls who liked girls who was not combinable with most teens and tweens from all over the world. Only their names made me blush and both their language and missionary were not appreciated by most other users. We erased these kind of accounts again and again and again until they accepted that this was no longer a place that they could use for their purpose (might sound harsh, I hope they have their community somewhere else where everyone feel comfortable and are happy with this, maybe even get empowered by it).

Next question was not as evident. We could clearly see from the user input that American tweens were much more sensitive to foul language than most others. With their background they did not let one little ‘shit’ pass and they reported everything. By our Swedish standard I guess we found these kids a little policiere and prudent. When translating the site to several languages we implemented a strict language filter that doesn’t let any bad words through. When releasing this feature we had to take a stand – what words did Stardoll accept and not? Would older and European users find the conversation too childish and boring if they weren’t able to write even the tiniest little ‘shit’? We considered that if half of our users didn’t feel comfortable with this language, we had to try to ‘raise’ the rest to accept this. We never had ANY comment or disapproval of the strict language filter.

One of the conceptual values we worked by when developing the site thereafter was ‘Safety’ (later Haven). The girls should be safe to be on Stardoll. Safe to be girls. Safe to try out their style, personality, social interaction, creativity and more. Safe to be online in a big community.

The members also kind of raise each other, they let others know what is ok and not, but to get there the community have to set the right premises. In every decision – in everything from sales, design, banner production, conversion layers and in all communications with the members - we weight in the value concept of Safety. Doing this the entirety will come as close the the ideal goal as possible. Example of details where the Safety value makes big difference is

- Categories available for report. Presenting specific categories for the users to report each other in gives a hint of what is accepted and not.

- No personal information is aloud. Both language filters and categories for report informs of this. All reports are followed up.

- Only winners are presented, other voting results are not visible for anyone. It’s not empowering to get bad votes on something you have put lots of effort on, and it’s an obvious trigger for others to pick on you. The trigger ‘to win – to become covergirl’ is the only that matters, internal hierarchies are not necessary for a great game.

- The copy in a banner is changed from - ‘Everyone is pretty on Stardoll’ to ‘Be who you want on Stardoll’.

- No real life images of members are allowed as they would completely destroy the possibility to try out different personalities without being bullied. The game would be ruined.

- There are space for 30 Best Friends in the presentation, not only one. If only filling in one, the empty spaces look kind of... empty.

- Despite user requests we don't publish a bold Britney Spears when there is something that doesn't seem sound.

- Keep at least one gift free for everyone to give to anyone and encourage to send this gift to newbies and others. This gift must thereby be very general and maybe even be a trigger to start a conversation.

At rare occations when this value has been compromised, when prioritizing something else before the Safety, there has appeared leaks where cyber bullying has found its way. If there is only a tiny chance that a feature might lead to attempts to cyber bullying, it will. It’s a choice – a safer, maybe little less challenging/fun/selling version of the feature to avoid an overall negative experience.

This kind of ‘leaks’ must then be followed up and contraproduced. We run a Best Friends Forever campaign. In the first step we encouraged the members to suggest how to be a good friend on Stardoll. We put 10 of the great suggestions together to a code of conduct and for ten days 200 000 girls returned every day to sign under each of the bullits. The campaign was hugely appreciated and the bad tone we had experienced was calmed – for some time…

I guess what I’m saying is - parents, teachers and users – tell the people behind the features what you want! Don’t work against cyber bullying on your own, but take the producers to your help. They have great opportunities to make impact, to reach out.

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