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Philippe Beaudette has been working in Community for 25 years. He’s spent some time with several great companies, including AOL, Wikipedia, Reddit, and Atlassian. He started at AOL, which in my opinion pioneered online community as a practice. Some of the first challenges they ran into there included figuring out how to do things that we now think are simple - things like banning and blocking users when they are paying to be part of your community. A big question was, once this happens, should they allow people to appeal a ban, and if so… how? Their initial answer was to write a letter that you snail-mailed to AOL’s HQ. During Philippe’s time, they moved this to a much more scalable online process. Legal challenges were also a big part of the job. Determining things like, “who do we report this problem to, how do we describe to them what happened and how to enforce the law? And what if they’re outside the US”? Section 230 came into law in 1996 and even interpreting that law was something totally new.

When I asked Philippe. “What about the AOL community would be a surprise to people that were a part of it.” His response was: “there were a lot of volunteers. We found them through referrals, through moderators of message boards. Much of the time when people thought they were dealing with staff, they were dealing with volunteer community leaders.” That dovetailed nicely into his future role, managing community at the Wikimedia Foundation, which supports (among others) Wikipedia.

AOL was very corporate, and Wikipedia was user-generated content that is given to the world. One of the things that people often ask about was the SOPA/PIPA shutdown. That was an impactful time in our community, and maybe one of the coolest, most formative events Philippe got to be a part of. After leading the Wikipedia community’s conversation about the blackout, he got to be a part of the site shutdown [video by Victorgrigas, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons], and a lot of people were nervous about the potential consequences. It was one of the first times that Wikipedia was a part of a global conversation about law and the web. For those of us that remember this, it was a huge part of setting up the foundation of web freedoms we have and fight for today. His team also supported Wikimedia’s general counsel in their collaborative rewrite of their Terms of Use, which involved hundreds of community members. Their conversation about the Terms eventually ended up being longer than the novel “The Grapes of Wrath” (and much less interesting, he says).

At Wikipedia, one of the key projects Philippe worked on was building out support for their volunteers. They worked to listen to users and create a set of curation tools to support their work on the site. They collaborated with a newly formed product team to build tools to let people review and edit content submitted by new users prior to posting an article. Additionally, new editors had different user rights than more seasoned editors and tools specifically for new editors allowed them to onboard more gracefully.

Establishing processes and relationships around how to support vulnerable community members was a big part of what he did. Supporting suicidal users, partnering with the FBI and coming up with policies around what to do in sensitive cases were all a part of his work.

Later, while Director of the Community team at Reddit he worked to involve their moderators early in community decisions around policy. He created a “standing offer” for moderators to set up time on his calendar to discuss whatever they wanted. It became the highlight of his time there. It helped him to understand the differences between the many communities at Reddit, the goals of the moderators, and how they work together and compliment each other. That program has been continued to this day.

Philippe hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Home of my not-so-secret favorite band, Hanson) Also, Oklahoma is home to our very own Teresa, which they got to bond about when they met. Philippe lives with his partner and four Guinea pigs (two parents, two new babies). Philippe was a music major in college originally, he plays piano and organ and is deeply involved in his church music and live-streaming programs.

Philippe with his baby guinea pig

Philippe describes himself as a geek who likes to build things and take them apart. When he realized he needed to learn to better communicate with engineers at Wikipedia he set up his first LAMP stack so he could understand what they did. As a result, he continues to dabble in Linux. He loves to travel and has been to around 30 countries.

Philippe is joining us as part of our new Trust & Safety team. He’s looking forward to piloting that team with Cesar and getting to know our users to understand what makes them tick.

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    Is it in the job description that you have to own a pet? – rene Mar 23 at 19:49
  • @rene Guinea pig? Ayo didn't have one. – Ollie Mar 23 at 19:56
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    @Ollie ah, right. But Rosie had a pet as well and was prominently featured. – rene Mar 23 at 19:57
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    It's not in the J.D. that you must, but let's face it: pet people > non-pet people. (Start up the flamethrowers, I know I stepped in it there.). – Philippe Mar 23 at 19:59
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    I'm not a pet person, so happy to oblige! *hoses Philippe down with 50-foot jet of flame* – Ollie Mar 23 at 20:00
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    @Philippe ... I only have toddlers for pets but I don't think they count. :( – Catija Mar 23 at 20:02
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    @Ollie, I had it coming. and Catija, sure they do! – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:08
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    @Catija You have a hippo - surely he counts?! – Rand al'Thor Mar 23 at 22:00
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    Oh... It's /u/AchievementUnlockd! Hello :D – V2Blast Mar 24 at 9:31
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    @V2Blast - indeed it is. :-). It's good to see you again. – Philippe Mar 24 at 10:08
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    @Philippe don't you find it's so annoying when you're trying to get a good profile photo and those pesky humans seem to have to work their way into it :p - Welcome! – Jon Clements Mar 24 at 12:24
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    @JonClements - QUITE RIGHT! – Philippe Mar 24 at 14:45
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    Re "AOL, which in my opinion pioneered online community": AOL destroyed the very well developed social norms on Usenet (and consequently completely destroyed Usenet itself). If social norms isn't the definition of community, I don't know what is. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Mar 24 at 16:49
  • @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q - i think there's room to argue that AOL was a next iteration on the social norms of Usenet, which weren't going to scale much further (indeed, they were already showing wear on the edges.). I'd look forward to that debate, in a pub sometime, if you'll let me buy you a drink and talk about it. – Philippe Mar 24 at 19:24
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A very warm welcome to you and your human. It’s fantastic to see Stack Exchange being truly diverse in employing its first guinea pig.

May your hay always be dry and your wheel well oiled!

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    My critters say - and I quote - "squeeeeeeek squeak squeak squeak." Thanks for the welcome. :) – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:10
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Welcome to the community, and good luck!

The Stack Exchange network is often compared/constrasted to Wikipedia and Reddit; what do you expect to be the most important similarity and the most important difference between Wikipedia's and Reddit's communities and ours?

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    I have always thought of the SE Network as occupying some of the same space on the internet as Wikimedia/Wikipedia and reddit. I think there's a substantial userbase overlap, though i dont know the research. As to the similarities and differences between WP/reddit/SE - that's a huge question and not one that I'm ready to go too deeply into yet, but I would say that the difference b/w reddit and wikipedia alone - including motivation, style, etc, are huge by themselves. As I learn more, I can probably take a better swing at this. – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:02
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    Thanks for the response, I'm confident you'll be able to give a full answer in 6-8 weeks :) – Glorfindel Mar 23 at 21:06
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Welcome!!

I fondly remember the days when AOL had their community Guide program. It was really groundbreaking at the time and relates to our theory and practices of moderation extremely well, better than most modern moderation systems.

I'm definitely excited for things to come!

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    Thanks, Tim. I agree totally. The shutdown of the Guide program and the transition to "Community Leaders" was, imho, one of the great tragedies of AOL. They mishandled it badly and never quite recovered. – Philippe Mar 24 at 19:23
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Welcome, Philippe!

Establishing processes and relationships around how to support vulnerable community members was a big part of what he did. Supporting suicidal users, partnering with the FBI and coming up with policies around what to do in sensitive cases were all a part of his work.

This is really impressive. Knowing how to deal with the very difficult content and situations that might make other users and moderators falter is really important. Even more important is reaching the human on the other side of the computer (or in rare cases, the authorities) in very tense situations. Given that you created the emergency system Wikipedia uses in response to threats of physical harm, I have a lot of confidence that, in the face of such a rare event, you'll be able to provide very credible advice to your new coworkers.

I look forward to seeing you around!

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    Thanks, I'm happy to be here, and hope to live up to your confidence. – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:09
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Welcome Philippe!

What is the last thing you built and took apart?

What would be your first thing on the SE network you would like to build and take apart? (I assume you take things apart to get a better understanding of how they work, not the take things apart as toddlers seems to do, a.k.a. destroy beyond repair.)

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    At my church, we've been livestreaming, and it has been a nightmare to get the system going right (Qsys, OBS, Facebook Live, sound, yada yada yada.). I've been deep in the depths of that system. As for what I'd like to take apart and rebuild on SE, it's too early to say. It's dangerous to tear things out or poke at them too much until you know how they fit into the greater ecosystem. – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:00
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Welcome to SE, Philippe!

Got a few questions for you, including:

  1. Since you were (and are) a fellow musician, what is your favorite piano song?

  2. What sort of contraptions do you especially enjoy taking apart - computers, cars, Stack Exchange etc.?

  3. What is one particularly impressive sight you've seen on your travels (you might like Travel SE)?

I hope your stay at Stack Exchange it a good one!

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    Favorite piano song to play or to listen to? I'm in love with the Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto, but no way can i play it. :-). I do love the Satie gymnopedies. I love to take apart both THINGS and PROCESSES - computers, systems (like the video streaming system at my church), or things like onboarding experiences for websites. Particularly impressive sight: the Forbidden City in Beijing, or the Duomo in Milan. – Philippe Mar 23 at 20:07
  • @Philippe awesome - I also like the Rachmaninoff concerto ;) – Ollie Mar 23 at 20:09
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Welcome Philippe!

That résumé is impressive!

Having a family of 4 guinea pigs including both parents and their 2 children, is so cool! I am also fond of your passion for music, traveling, building things, and taking things apart, since those are four of my favorite things! When travel restrictions relax, if you're able to visit Oxford, I'll invite you to play the big organ for us at the Hertford College chapel :)

Since everyone else is asking questions, here's mine!

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    I found my conversations with moderators at reddit to be some of the most fulfilling parts of the role there. While I am not in a position to say yet what it's going to take for me to really be succesful here (and maybe a similar offer is in order), I think it's important to point out that my role here is different: my focus is trust and safety, not moderator support. So to answer simply: I'm not sure yet. But I know that I will be working closely with mods, with or without my standing offer. – Philippe Mar 23 at 22:53
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    Also, I'm a bit of an Anglophile - and one who will take you up on your offer next time I'm in Oxford! – Philippe Mar 23 at 22:54
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Welcome Philippe,

As others have failed to do so, I would like to point out that SE also has a chat. While the details of the chat system may elude you for a while, with different sites using different chat servers, feel free to drop by on the Tavern on the Meta and say Hi.

Ps. Not that it matters much in writing, but how is your name pronounced? Is it more of a French or a Spanish pronunciation?

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    French - Phil-eep :-). And yes, I know that SE has chat - and I absolutely will be making appearances there. I just started, however, and time has been spent doing orientation activities. Once I can reliably find the bathroom (concerning, since I work from home), I will start to explore a bit more. – Philippe Mar 24 at 10:09
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    I trust that you manage to find your way around soon enough. If you're ever looking for directions on any SE site chat might be the place to ask. A lot of combined knowledge just hangs around doing nothing ;) – Luuklag Mar 24 at 10:20
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    Good to know, thank you! – Philippe Mar 24 at 12:10
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    Hey... I do lots of things!!! – Catija Mar 24 at 12:11
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    @Catija huh? Who said otherwise? – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Mar 24 at 12:50
  • @ShadowWizardisVaccinating, I did, in my comment above. – Luuklag Mar 24 at 12:54
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    @Luuklag oh the "combined knowledge just hangs around doing nothing"? Didn't think of Catija as "combined knowledge" until now. :D – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Mar 24 at 12:56
  • I don't know which is worse @ShadowWizardisVaccinating – Luuklag Mar 24 at 13:00
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Welcome Philippe!

If you ever figure out what makes me tick, let me know, I will pass it on to my Doctor!

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  • Noted, I'll be sure to do so. :-). – Philippe Mar 27 at 8:16

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