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.
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 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.