T&S Tips: Tackling an old problem in a new way

Alexander Gee
January 25, 2021

In this post I’ll be giving some light tips on what helped me to take a step back and to approach a problem from a new angle. One thing that many people in the Trust and Safety / Community Management field can relate to is the time when a big part of your head space is being taken up by having to put out fires and when you are thereby staying in reactive mode.

Re-focusing on your objective – “We need to delete all toxic content asap!”

Sometimes we can get into a state of tunnel vision. This could take the shape of honing in on a specific metric and obsessing about how to improve it. For example, when trying to drive down the amount of toxicity on your platform, you end up in a state of optimizing systems and workflows to catch and delete the toxic content as quickly as possible.

To get out of that state what helped me the most was the root cause analysis approach i.e. “Why are we doing this?” Get to the bottom of why you needed to deal with toxicity in the first place and build from there. This often prompts completely new frames of thinking such as “How do we promote positivity on our platform?” and new solutions such as “lets focus on rewarding positive players”.

Get out of your silo – “I didn’t know we even had problems with toxicity!”

Community Management and Trust and Safety issues have historically been kept a bit in the shadows. This means that other teams may not even be fully aware of what you do. Connecting with colleagues in other areas and with different expertise can give you a completely different perspective and tools to deal with an issue. Keeping users safe and creating a healthy community is something which everyone can get behind and something which everyone is happy to opine about.

The benefits I have had from taking the simple step of having a coffee / lunch with a person on another team, have been many: from learning about new cool infrastructure from another engineering team that I was able to employ in my work to how utilizing marketing could be another tool in solving an issue I was facing.  

Start building a case for testing a new approach – “So how are we going to do this?”

Trying out a new approach does not require building out a super complex system. You can often find a way of testing something in a small scale ‘hacky’ way. This would be with the aim of gathering some initial data that can then be used to potentially build out a larger effort around this new approach.

Coming back to the example of ‘lets focus on rewarding positive players’, one of the more complex solutions here might be a fully blown in-game reputation system to identify positive players and to provide them with bonuses in-game. An easier solution could be to promote and solicit nominations for positive and supportive players through an external channel such as a Discord server and reward the identified players with swag, measuring engagement along the way.

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