In our rush to build community and create social interaction, moderating sometimes get overlooked. When we introduce a great social UX, we get so excited about the spike in user engagement, the vibrancy of interaction, the perfect strangers bonding over app content, that when trolls emerge and discussions get hostile, we can get caught off guard, overwhelmed, and not know what to do. While AppFriends comes with robust word filtering and manual tools for banning bad actors, human moderators were still required for version 1, and we and our customers learned some important lessons from that experience:

  1. For apps: If app owners want their apps to “go social”, they need to do it with their eyes open. Flaming, spam, and abuse will inevitably creep in when you allow users to communicate and post content. While all of us versed with social networks know this, most of us have never been moderators so we don’t see the dark sides of major online communities. When we start moderating our own app communities then, we can get caught off guard as to how vicious bad actors can be. This can be demoralizing, even if the rate of bad actors in your app isn’t anything more than what’s normal. App owners need to be mentally and emotionally prepared in advance for the task of moderating their app communities.
  2. For AppFriends: we learned that relying on human moderators is not enough. We had built in tools for human moderators to control their communities, but ironically, the success of our product led to faster growth and more lively communities than we or our customers anticipated, and our customers were not able to keep up moderating 24/7. This is why for version 2 (releasing February 2016), we put in community moderation, where individual users can mute abusers and users who are muted X number of times are auto-suspended upon further review. This allowed users to control their own experience, while still leaving final judgment to app admins.

Allowing your user communities to interact can bring powerful benefits like greater enthusiasm, retention, appreciation, and evangelism for your app, but it’s important to keep vigilant while keeping perspective when dealing with bad actors. Don’t get discouraged by a few bad apples, but definitely keep them in check!