Thousands of moderators November 1, 2010 4:51 AM   Subscribe

Facebook has an open position for a Questions Community Manager. The text itself is pretty fascinating with superlatives like"anything you can dream up", "thousands of moderators" and "the full resources of Facebook at your disposal". I obviously thought about AskMe and Jessamyn, and she agreed it was an interesting Meta post. Knowing that communities start from the ground up, I am especially interested in thoughts about how such a gigantic operation can be handled, if it can at all.

If anybody can't reach the link, I'll post the whole announcement. Meanwhile, here is just the "Responsabilities" part:
* Devise creative ways to attract high-quality contributors, e.g. through the use of contests, corporate acquisitions, targeted advertising, incentive programs or anything else you dream up.
* Work side by side with the engineering/product team to design user interfaces that attract high-quality contributions.
* Manage a team of thousands of moderators and develop tools to empower them to do their jobs more effectively.
posted by bru to MetaFilter-Related at 4:51 AM (24 comments total)

Meanwhile, here is just the "Responsabilities" part:

I'm glad to see "spelling" isn't on the list.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:01 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, just a joke, not intended as a threadshit.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:02 AM on November 1, 2010


It's Facebook and therefore the spawn of Satan and people who talk on cellphones at the movie.
posted by nomadicink at 5:20 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


But if it pays money..... I'll just take the money he said was for the school district and be happy with that. We all know the schools won't ever see the money anyway.
posted by theichibun at 5:28 AM on November 1, 2010


I love how their examples of creative ways to attract high-quality contributors all seem (to me) guaranteed to have the opposite effect. Which I guess is a good reason why they need to fill this position. They need to hire somebody who gets how to build an online community.
posted by FishBike at 5:50 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know how Afroblanco decided he wanted to write for himself, not for MetaFilter (see recent mention in MeTa)? I don't feel that way about answering questions on AskMe. But I sure as hell feel that way about "contributing" to the black-hearted, insatiable corporate entity that is Facebook Questions. I don't want to "help" people on Facebook—or Facebook's investors—do anything.
posted by limeonaire at 5:59 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Weird! Whoever gets this job will have their work cut out for them -- which isn't to say it couldn't work, in a weird way, but there are a few things which make this an odd concept, to me.

Facebook doesn't strike me as a website which has any kind of community in the real sense. It's a place to make connections and keep up to date with people you already know (albeit tangentially), not to meet new people. When people post updates their messages are intended for their friends, not for the "facebook community" as a whole. It makes sense to have a questions forum for people who already have a shared sense of community, or some shared interest; facebook isn't that place.

People go to restaurants (for example) because they're nice places to hang out with their friends, not because they want to share details about their lives with everyone at the different tables. Whereas Metafilter is like ... [trying to think of a good analogy, having a hard time]
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 6:00 AM on November 1, 2010


Facebook better not go outgrowin' its britches now...
posted by From Bklyn at 6:24 AM on November 1, 2010


Building on what cat's pyjamas is saying, it seems that Questions could be useful for connecting friends-of-friends. If I posted a question asking "Whats a good place to eat lunch around the Louvre in Paris?" you, my friend, may not know, but you may know several people/friends in Paris who might know.

You would click a button and this question would appear in some sidebar of that Parisian person which says "Questions your friends think you can answer" The motivation for them answering is that they have a mutual friend in common with the asker.
posted by vacapinta at 6:30 AM on November 1, 2010


Huh. Given the never-ending parade of Facebook/privacy stories, does anyone really think it'd be a good idea to ask any even slightly risque question? If they have anonymous questions, how long do you think they'd last before the first leak? Can I coin the phrase anonymouting?

Offering up even more private information to Facebook just seems like a bad, bad idea.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:37 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


bru: "...high-quality contributors, e.g. through the use of contests, corporate acquisitions, targeted advertising, incentive programs or anything else you dream up...."

None of these tactics will get them the kind of organic, genuinely useful "high quality" contributors they want. Especially since the "thousands of moderators" are really the people providing or identifying the useful content - the answers. Contests, buying companies, partnering with advertisers to provide answers (which is the most telling idea in the string), rewarding people for participating. These are all solutions for growing eyeballs you can sell not for building a product that appeals to people looking for answers.

The problem is this: if your product isn't attractive to users at a basic level, incentives don't work. Users already have a tool at hand that does this for them - a search engine - one that will take them to a variety of places with answers, often high quality answers. Those high quality answers are presented because they are the most important thing. They're the focus of the research website, the useful blog, the community answers site. Building a new tool to compete means with that means that you need to provide better service than what already exists. You can't do this if you are focusing on volume and not quality (of answers, in this case).

Facebook isn't about better serving its members, it is about better serving the people who pay them. That's why they're looking to ramp up quickly, to drive eyeballs, and to make money off both the traffic and the answers. ("What's the best peanut butter for cooking?" "Why it's Julen-brand P-N't Buttah - now with peanutesque chunks of ... nut-resembling material!")
posted by julen at 7:55 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have hopes that Facebook Answers could very well dethrone Yahoo Answers as a great and terrible hilarity-generator.
posted by Drastic at 8:00 AM on November 1, 2010


Devise creative ways to attract high-quality contributors

Yeah, OK, that seems like it's possible. Very high noise-to-signal problem you'd have to solve, and Yahoo fucked it up so badly that now there's a community of idiots devoted to making sure OTHER attempts will fail in ways likely to maximize lulz, but maybe that can be overcome with a competent enough community manager.

e.g. through the use of contests, corporate acquisitions,

Um. 'High quality contributors.' I do not think this means what you think it means.

targeted advertising, incentive programs or anything else you dream up.

Ohhh, OK, I get it: you want to attract a swarm of 17-year-old malcontents who will min-max your site's reward system, and in doing so, create a staggering amount of utterly worthless content. But you want to dress it up in a way that maximizes page views and advertising impressions, because your product is not the people generating or viewing this content, but is rather the advertisers paying 30 cents for every hundred viewers who see their poorly-spelled ads for ringtones.

Anyway, Jessamyn already turned this job down when they offered it to her, and that is the single smartest interweb decision I have seen anyone make all year, so good times all around.
posted by Mayor West at 8:09 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


You would click a button and this question would appear in some sidebar of that Parisian person which says "Questions your friends think you can answer" The motivation for them answering is that they have a mutual friend in common with the asker.

That feature seems to be implemented at least partially. I've never used Facebook Questions, but I nonetheless have a sidebar on my Facebook feed listing 3 random questions. Lately it seems to preferentially show questions asked by friends of friends (e.g. it'll say "'What's the meaning of life?' asked by a friend of John Doe," where John Doe is a friend of mine).

The whole thing is very irritating, and I wish there were a Greasemonkey script to get rid of it.
posted by jedicus at 8:20 AM on November 1, 2010


Jessamyn already turned this job down when they offered it to her, and that is the single smartest interweb decision I have seen anyone make all year, so good times all around.

To be fair, I'm not totally sure what they were offering me, but I got an email from someone with a facebook email address who wanted me to come out and "discuss opportunities" with them about somethingorother related to their "questions" product and I said "no, thanks" In fact I went further than that and said "No, thanks, but if you want some suggestions for other people in the biz who might be a good fit, let me know" and I never heard from them again.

I agree with what julen said, I think there's a fundamnetal disconnect between a quality community and one that involves targeted ads, incentive programs or whatever. I mean an incentive program could just be like a foursquare badge, or a favorite, but it's probably more in line with promoting their advertisers and cross-site tie-ins with other facebook products. And really, thousands of moderators? Can't imagine that is any fun at all. The people I know who work in giant moderator packs usually have a hard time doing anything but dealing with inter-mod feuding and sort of making sure people are doing their jobs. There is no way at all that this will be a fun job.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 AM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Thousands" of moderators...!!!
posted by jamjam at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2010


And really, thousands of moderators? Can't imagine that is any fun at all.

Yeah, it's the sort of thing where, when you scale it like that, you're inherently dealing with a different sort of job. There is literally no way that what me and Jess and Matt do on metafilter could work for a place with a thousand times as many users and a thousand times as many moderators—it's just a fundamentally different situation at that point. Constant close contact, mutual respect, working out a consensus or compromise quickly in the face of disagreement, trusting everyone with autonomy: that's workable with a handful of people, not with an army.

Which I appreciate as a serious challenge for dealing with any humongous-crowd situation. I may not have much of anything nice to say about Youtube comments, but I appreciate that the problem isn't reducible to "nobody cares"; there may be some systemic/management issues driving a failure of that stuff to improve, but it's also just a great big bejeezus of a logistical problem even if you dedicate crazy resources to it.

As for the job posting itself, the thing that strikes me as weirdest about it is the way Facebook seems to be fishing for ideas with the job offer: they don't even know what they're hiring you to do, exactly. Like they're staffing up a thinktank for how the job you're being offered would even be helpful to the company. Doesn't really shout "we have thought this through" to me as far as Questions goes, but I remain curious about how the whole thing will play out in action.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:47 AM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good luck with that, Facebook.

Within two years they'll be as relevant as Myspace.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


And God bless all who fail in her.
posted by flabdablet at 1:01 AM on November 2, 2010


...mutual respect...
This is why I think Afroblanco is a little bit wrong. I have a little fantasy where Metafilter is first a community of people interested in sharing the shiny thing they found, and secondly a money-making venture. Secondly in that it is money-making only in so far as making sure all the bills are paid and no one in its employ goes hungry - not that 'it' is turning down money, but that the central purpose of the site is not to make money and thus decisions get made with that priority in mind. Facebook is not there to be about 'respect' or consensus or community - it's there to make money. If that is what you want to be a part of, great. But I imagine, as Jessamyn said, it would more often than not be extra not fun.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:31 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


five fresh fish: "Within two years they'll be as relevant as Myspace."

I've started to believe this too, though I suspect we differ in our opinions of the relevance of Myspace. Myspace started out as a platform for bands, then it was a platform for everybody, now it's a platform for just bands again - a strategy, I hasten to add, worth $385M a year on only 1000 employees - a shift relative to FB, sure, but not a monumental one. So let's say Facebook shifts back to its original mission as a website for college kids - it goes from $800M a year to $600M a year and shifts from the #2 website in the world to ... #10 or so. That's still a decent-size deal.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


bru: "Knowing that communities start from the ground up"

This is why Facebook Questions is going to have a really hard time succeeding.

MeFi succeeded because it was actually pretty small for a (relatively) long time. Active users tended to know each other by username, if not more. A de facto "editorial tone" settled around some basic principles that the community got behind (no self linking, don't make personal attacks, better to write more than less, etc.). I think if AskMe had launched on its own as opposed to springing from an existing MeFi community, it would have failed miserably.

Facebook Questions inserted itself into a vacuum with none of that, and I think it's hard to back into Capital-C-Community. That said, I think they really want this to succeed- like Google, they want to accumulate as much searchable data as possible- and they've got tons of cash to throw at this problem.
posted by mkultra at 9:37 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


* Devise creative ways to attract high-quality contributors, e.g. through the use of contests, corporate acquisitions, targeted advertising, incentive programs or anything else you dream up.

Contests: "If you work for us, there is a very small chance that we might pay you for it!"
Corporate Acquisitions: "If we buy you out, you'll have to work with us! Let's hope your position survives the downsizing!"
Targeted Advertising: "3x+3ND y0uR W0Rk104D 4 fR33!!!1!"
Incentive Programs: "If you accumulate two full months of working hours, we'll send you a keychain!"
Anything Else You Can Dream Up:

How about treating people who work for you as employees rather than consumers, i.e., "We are currently accepting applications for the position of ____________," and then you hire the qualified applicants and pay them with money.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Facebook seems to be fishing for ideas with the job offer: they don't even know what they're hiring you to do, exactly. Like they're staffing up a thinktank for how the job you're being offered would even be helpful to the company.

I don't think you're being cynical enough. They want the ideas. This is quite common in my experience in the media world. Magazines and TV shows, to my certain knowledge, ask people to come in for an interview with anything up to ten ideas for articles or TV-show segments. And then, of course, they hire the boss's cousin.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:47 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


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