Can you tell us something about how you’ve approached the design of euphoria to encourage people traditionally marginalized online to speak up and feel safe?
Hah, this is a great question, but is also a great way to send me on a bit of a rant, I apologise in advance.
The first static page we had on the site was our statement of values, which was kinda us making it super clear where we stood on things and what our values were. The document was written with significant user input via our “town hall” room. Yes, we had our statement of values up before we had our ToS. Please don’t tell the internet police on me.
And like, I think so much of it comes down to the culture of a place. You can have a gazillion technical tools and a ToS that no one reads, but also taking the time to have the conversations about how you communicate is important, as well as just being really upfront with “hey guys, screaming racial slurs and abuse ain’t gonna fly here.” Though we’re privileged to be doing this from the beginning, right out of the gate, rather than trying to figure out how to manage a community that has already devolved or already has its own (potentially negative) norms.
Community based live chat is interesting, because it has a lot of overlap with other online speech/communication, such as twitter, reddit, various comment sections, and of course is similar to Slack, which a lot of folks are familiar with because they use it for work. Community based chat can also have a lot of the pitfalls that all of these platforms do, all happening in real time. Intense, yeah?
But it also makes it far easier to get users to view you, to view the site staff, as real human beings. Assuming of course that you have site staff that interact with users, which we do. They know I have too many cats, that I love tea. A lot of them probably know that my mum is sick.
Why has it mattered? Because when I’m like, “hey yall lets talk about trying to be open and friendly to newcomers, and think about how women and minorities have often felt they are left out of the conversation online”, they’re willing to listen and engage in those discussions. Because I’m a real person and hey that all seems reasonable, lets maybe have real convos instead of devolving into twitch chat or youtube comments. I’m not an algorithm to folks, or some faceless admin somewhere off in the sky. Like, humans tend to respect human-enforced norms, and enjoy manipulating computer-enforced ones.
And so then those folks who have had those conversations with us go on and make their own communities on our site, and they carry that with them and those ideas propagate through the system, because they’re seen as leaders by their peers, or because they feel empowered to speak up in a positive way, because they know we have their back.
Like… yeah there’s all sorts of technical stuff one can do (and that we are doing), but at the core, for us, its a people thing. Stuff like lack of real-name policy is important to us. Especially for our LGBT community, having that anonymity has been really important and freeing for folks. Low barrier to entry is another thing that is important to us. IRC chat has long been used by internet trolls and outright hate groups to help them organize. What happens when we make IRC less esoteric, more modern, and more safe? What a cool organizing tool that could be for activist groups and folks in general.