MS Podcast#136


The largest online art community.

(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.

Fiona Hooley, Director of community operations for DeviantArt, the largest online art community, discusses her new role.

0.00—0.17 intro
0.19—2.03 DeviantArt and Fiona’s role
2.04—2.59 sense of scale (re: community)
3.00—4.08 what the platform offers
4.09—4.36 niches
4.37—6.15 areas of development
6.16—7.22 what is exciting
7.23—8.41 differentiating between other social networking sites
8.42—9.50 future plans
9.51—10.01 thanks and outro

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Fiona: Ok, my name is Fiona Hooley and I’m the director for community operations here at DeviantART.

DK: Brilliant. Well it’s a pleasure to have you with us Fiona.

Fiona: Thank you.

DK: I want to come straight in and ask you for those uninitiated out there what is DeviantART and if you could expand at the end of that maybe what you exactly do for them.

Fiona: Okay. Well at DeviantART is the world’s largest only art community. We’re the premier destination for creative expression. And as my role at DeviantART to ensure that the day to day things are running smoothly. I’m responsible for overseeing the community help desk, customer service, corporate aid and etiquette administration team. Those are the team and people who deal with things reported through the community for inappropriate content, copyright violations, any kind of policy related things within the community. And also oversee our, what we call, (blank part in audio) network administration. They are a team of volunteers who support the chat and forum network within our community. So I have quite of extense of who we; any kinds of policy changes or any policy development go through me. I’m also responsible for community accolades and community recognitions. Selecting the people from within the community who are what we call people who’ve been like rising stars within the community, they’ve shown examples of excellence whether it’s through artistic style or general community involvement. I suppose it’s all ranked community development that I’m involved in within the community. Yeah.

DK: Okay. Well, that sounds very extensive. And I know you’ve only been imposed for five or six minutes but I know you’ve been involved with DeviantART for much longer. Give us a sense of scale of the community in terms of like the breadth of it. How many countries? How many people? Just give us that sentence if you could.

Fiona: Well, the last statistics that we took, we were over 8 million art estimated art enthusiast, last registered accounts within the community. Eighteen million unique pieces of art submitted across multiple mediums. So you’re looking at 75,000 or so new pieces uploaded every day; that’s a lot of art. Nineteen million unique monthly visitors to the community. So, yeah we’re huge. Every country, globally, I’m sure I could find someone from anywhere in the world who is registered on DeviantART.

DK: Is it just like a normal social networking site? In other words, if I were to sign up tomorrow what would I see and what could I do?

Fiona: I wouldn’t say we’re like any other social network. We’re quit resistant to that comparison actually. We’re definitely a niche market there. We’re a unique community in that we have artists and art appreciators. If you’d sign up today, you know you’d open account, and if you’re an artist, hopefully you’d upload a piece of art that you worked on. And by doing so you’d be inviting our members of the community to write what they thought about your art or your literature or your thumb. And you know they’d give you feedback, they might add it to their favorites, they might put it into a collection, and there are also ways they can give you feedback. There’s generally a specific community where you can get direct interaction on a one-on-one with people who are like minded about art and community.

DK: Because you describe yourself as a niche platform if you like. Are there niches within the niche there?

Fiona: Oh yeah, definitely. We have a very big anenimy and monca community within the main community. Digital art, photography, traditional artists; we even have art crafts, jewelry. We have poetry and prose, there’s all sorts of sub-joiners in the community.

DK: And in terms of your role as the community director there, I know you’ve been there for about six months in that role specifically. So what are you seeing in terms of areas for development when you came in and started that overview?

Fiona: Well I think one of the first things that I’ve done is to try and bring in some more transparency and integrity into the community. In the past, there was quite of bit of accusations that we weren’t being upfront with what was going on behind the scene. So I suggest a number of things were we were being very public with the level of actions that we had taken in particular to artwork that was being removed, how many reports were going through the community, what projects we were all working on. Being much more upfront with the community about what they wanted to see happening and how we were listening to what they were telling us and how that was saying what sent us specific projects.
Hopefully there’s a lot more transparency there since I came onboard. I have had a quite a bit of feedback on that, so that’s good. And I’ve opened up quite a number of different ways that we praised and recognized an achievement within the community. Having a bit more of an open door to people. Because I was a volunteer with the community myself originally. And obviously I signed up to the community as someone who was wanted to learn more about art. So I know what it feels like for a new user and I’ve used that quite a lot in my role now as a director with the company.

DK: So what excites you about not just the community but the platform that you provide if you were to sign up and stay with it so long and now you have a job there. What excites you about it specifically?

Fiona: I love the fact that every day is completely different and 24 hours on DeviantART can feel like a lifetime. There are just so many different people coming together with sharing ideas. The synergy between departments in the company as well as within subsections of the community is amazing. You have people from all shapes of life, all ages, all abilities and they all come together. My background is in social working community education, so to see this happening online where people are coming together and you know helping each other out. We’ve recently had quite a few high-profile charity events in the community. We’ve got people raising money for HIV awareness, for breast cancer awareness and there’s a lot of philanthropic things going on in the community as well.

DK: I want to go back to a point that you said in regards to when I mentioned that you were like a social networking site.

Fiona: Yeah.

DK: So why are you stating that you are unique and you do differentiate between that?

Fiona: For me personally, I think I get quite annoyed at times with the use of social media being or social networking being bonded to everything that’s happening online. I think it’s a phrase that’s overused and we’re kinda, a lot of people and I’m guilty as well, I’m using it quite a lot and it’s taken away from the value it could be. I think that when people hear social networking they automatically think “Oh God, it’s Facebook, or MySpace.” And you know I don’t think that it actually means very much to people when you’re talking about something that does pervade much more quality for young people in particular but you have an environment where they’re not only able to share their artwork with people but they can actually make money from it as well in our print stores. So I just think it’s unfair to call it specifically a social network because we’re a lot more than a social network. We can actually be a professional network, a career network, a support network. I have a bit of a thing about that social networking increase.

DK: That’s fair enough. I just wanted to clarify that and I understand it now. So to wrap up this interview I’d love to ask you a future question.

Fiona: Yeah, sure.

DK: Maybe relating to your role or maybe DeviantART as a whole, what are the future plans for you guys?

Fiona: Well, we’re actually working on a really exciting project right now where we’re building a groups platform for the community. It’s really exciting for me in particular to be involved in this because from conception we’re looking at both the social construct, things like that. The sort of philosophy behind a brand new element of a community and it’s going to a fantastic opportunity for people to come together and actually have chose to work as a proper group. It’s not just going to be like the kinda thing where you’ve seen on other communities in the past, where you know, wear this badge and you’re in a group. We’re actually going to be providing a really exciting system where people can do quality group work together. Really exciting and innovative collaborative too, so I’m really excited about that.

DK: That sounds awesome. Well, thank you Fiona for giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers. We really appreciate it.

Fiona: Thank you for having me.

5 thoughts on “MS Podcast#136”

  1. Great interview DK. As a long time member of deviantart (writing poetry under a pseudonym) it is good to see the direction and growth they have taken without, as Fiona said, looking like they are jumping on a social networking bandwagon.

  2. Many thanks for taking the time to listen and commenting David – always appreciative of any comments :-)

  3. One of the worst things dA did was take her on board. She is taking them in the wrong direction, sorry to say.

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