A starting point of thoughts on online community

Because if I don't start, it won't happen.... Here's a huge batch of articles on online community:

These come from some folks who have run or are running fairly large online communities, some of which have been going for quite a long time.

The point being that I think OlyBlog as a community could stand to do some learning from these sources. (I almost jumped into the anonymity question but never did get my thoughts together.) After almost 10 years of web communities, there actually is some best practice available. :)

More to come, hopefully. I am notoriously lousy about following up on these sorts of vague big ideas, so no promises.

Comments

Design for community

If anyone wants a copy of Design for Community, I have a copy to spare.

One of the big things to address with community building is the fact that we all actually live in the same community - as supposed to a "Worldwide Hello Kitty Collecting Forum". The one thing that really connects us, is our real life community.

mathias

einmaleins

mathias

einmaleins

Hey!

I just found my Weekend reading list! I knew it was around somewhere. Thanks epersonae.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

That's a lot of awesome knowledge there.

The thing of it is, we've been around the block with theses issues (usually more than once). I've been collecting posts that have to do with the blog under Blog Skool.

To my mind, the challenge that we face isn't how to start or maintain a community (our traffic shows that we are already able to do that), it is more about how to do it in such a way that improves the quality of the conversations and builds more value for the local community.

At some level, I think we're up against an education problem: there aren't enough folks in the community who "get it" about citizen journalism. So, we have to do a lot of explaining about what we're doing as we're doing it.

I'm looking forward to sitting down with folks and talking about these issues in detail. I'll put up a poll with some times when I get my scheduled sorted out later this week.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

I don't know...

the challenge that we face isn't how to start or maintain a community (our traffic shows that we are already able to do that)

Is that really true? To me it seems like our traffic shows we're a pretty effective tourist destination, but as far as getting people to stop and set up shop as productive/participating community members we're not doing so hot.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

The people who look at OlyBlog...

...are part of the community. They depend on the blog, and it is important to them. Please don't discount their participation.

The quality issue speaks to how we make OlyBlog welcoming to more people who presently are users but not contributors. The more folks who become educated about just how easy it is to produce content, AND feel comfortable doing so on OlyBlog, the more active participation we'll see.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

make a TCTV ad/program about CJ & OlyBlog

...I'd umbrella OlyBlog with my 501(c)(3) for that =)

?

I'm hardly discounting the people who only view. After all, I'm creating an awful lot of content under the assumption that people will find it useful/good. What I am discounting is our current status as a community organization that gets people to actively participate. Unless I'm mistaken, epersonae wasn't giving examples in the vein of "hey, here's how you start a community," rather, she wrote "I think OlyBlog as a community could stand to do some learning from these sources." These are examples of online communities with a lot of active participation and participants.

Yes, we're up against an education problem. I think some of the education problem is on our side as well.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

Hmm...

..."tourist" sounds pretty dismissive to me.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

"to me"

A lot of economies rely on tourism and tourists. Without people stopping by to read OlyBlog we'd be just another tree falling in the forest. But insofar as I can tell our goal isn't to create a passive consumer based product. Instead, it seems like we're trying to create a space that encourages a circular flow of information instead of the traditional linear media. So are we succeeding? Can we do better? Are there existent examples of online communities that could potentially help us reach this goal?

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"Tourist" also means...

...someone who is just passing through. In fact, that is its primary meaning. Perhaps it was not the meaning you were intending. The people who look at OlyBlog are not passing through. They look at the blog precisely because they live here and care about Olympia. "To me," that makes them not tourists, but rather potential contributors.

The important work is how to invite them into an active mode. Diminishing their status doesn't get us any closer.

With respect to the links that epersonae generously provided: my point isn't that we're doing everything right -- it never has been. I'm not sure how you got there. The fact is there are no easy solutions. And we have been doing a lot of work on the issue over the years, something I think that has been overlooked here. And maybe I missed it, but when I look at these links, I don't see much about how to activate a passive readership.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

a tourist is a potential contributor

You seem to be caught up on me diminishing people who are currently using OlyBlog passively rather than actively. This is your interpretation and I think it is an incorrect one. OlyBlog as it currently stands relies on people who do not currently make this a base of operations. They may pass through to get information, but they are not setting up their day-to-day online business here. Content creators get to work under the assumption that there are guaranteed readers or viewers and I'm pretty sure that's why John Manini stopped by earlier this morning. There is nothing diminishing about this fact. I would say that anyone putting in work on OlyBlog as an establishment is not a tourist just like I would say anyone living in Olympia and putting work into it as an establishment is not a tourist. Tourist.

Last night as I read through some of the links epersonae provided I saw quite a bit about activating an online community. From moderator behavior to community building there's a lot of advice there that, from my perspective, we either haven't tried (e.g. create staff guidelines and reputation systems) or we've taken the opposite approach (e.g. take emotion out of decisions). I agree, we've been doing a lot of work here, but I disagree that what is being offered is an easy solution. I think we should read through this information before we discount its OlyBlog applications.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

I know I shouldn't...

... but this petty fighting over meaning of words by two active docents is a sad symbol of the sites outlook.

Yes, differences need to be discussed and layed out into the open and digested.

But No one wins.

Move forward, embrace what possiblities are ahead, rather than argue over what the word "tourist" means. 

By fighting over words you break down what Olyblog can be, should be, could become.

Docents play a big role-model for all visitors/tourists/contributors of Olyblog. 

mathias

einmaleins

mathias

einmaleins

This may come as a shock...

...but there are people here -- not docents. I've devoted too much time to this blog -- trying to figure out how to increase active participation and reduce acrimony, to be told that "perhaps we should try to educate ourselves." Exactly what else has been happening for the past three years?


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

no different that WiFi or game scene

Working and churning through towards goals is a common process (whether it is OlyBog, community WiFi, or maintaining a tight game community), so perhaps the introspection is over for Rick, and that is OK...

...but that does not mean that everything in that vein (self-examination) is off-limits, and I'd hope that others could appreciate that perhaps now is the time that OlyBlog goes out into the community via TCTV programs, TRL workshops, and Free School events, to promote, describe, and communicate about CJ & OlyBlog.

I think having "live sessions" of OlyBlog in public could be innovative, especially when coupled to actual CJ events like meetings, hearings, events, and happenings.

I'd like to suggest that OlyBlog be visible at the ENA Picnic in August, perhaps have a table and talk about CJ with folks that are interested...

...one of my pet projects has been trying to connect the neighborhood associations forums into a spot on OlyBlog, so perhaps that can be a direction to move in-

-any thoughts?

sounds excellent

Some physical community outreach coupled with live CJ would be excellent.

We can easily set up an area for neighborhood associations on OlyBlog. Having them all organized together under one blog would seem to encourage cross pollination of ideas between them as well, not to mention increases their ability to share experiences with getting funding, volunteer shares for neighborhood projects, etc.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

I'm sorry.

Didn't mean to lecture you.

As I said, I shouldn't have started, so I at least will not continue.

Peace! 

mathias

einmaleins

mathias

einmaleins

hey man...

...it is all good: you got your concerns & voice, and OlyBlog certainly has enuf space for that, as well as folks hashing out meaning & intent.

Being nice is great!

Semantics is a OlyBlog staple, so don't stop chiming in =)

...I for one am looking fwd to Friday NOON at Cherry St. Cafe!

No worries...

...and I am all ears, especially for specific ideas. It gets problematic for me when it comes to this vague suggestion that we've been sitting on our hands for all this time.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

sorry if I seemed vague

I know I have something more specific to say, I just can't seem to gather it together, so I thought tossing out all these links I've collected over the years might have some effect. Which apparently it did. And reading the discussion is helping me clarify what I think, and what I want to say, so that helps too. Not to say that y'all have been sitting on your hands, only that these additional pieces might clarify, give new ideas, keep from making same mistakes as others, etc., etc.

?

Who even said we haven't been educating ourselves? Or where is it implied? I don't get this Rick. I really think you're taking this too personally. People are interested in helping OlyBlog become a better place for all of us and I think we ought to be welcoming of this input and energy. In the end we're a customer service organization.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

I'm done with this conversation.

You're clearly not able to hear what I'm saying.

Edit: I have no beef with Elaine at all. She was very gracious in posting her research. But when you (enpen) figure out how this kind of blog should be run, then you can come and tell me about how were doing it wrong. Deal?


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

*sigh*

Just because I disagree with you does not mean I am not listening to what you have to say. I am an individual arriving at conclusions that apparently differ from your own. I think you are being needlessly confrontational and this is precisely the sort of thing I think is a negative for OlyBlog and is addressed quite a bit in some of the suggestions for community moderators in the links above.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

CJ education

I'm feeling that TRL could be a good vehicle to introduce CJ to the community, and maybe the Neighborhood University could have a session on CJ as well (like for community activists)...and as always the Free School is a great resource & "connection depot" for folks about town.

Following Through

Olyblog needs to follow through.  For example, on the front page, Jusby is still the sponsor of the month and decobilia is still blogger of the month.  These programs kicked off in April.

As soon as we have a full time staffer..

...we won't have that problem. The problem as I see it is this is a lot to manage with five part part time volunteers. We need, I think, about 20 people dedicated to doing one thing each, not five splitting 20 jobs. That would be dreamy.

really?

My suggestion would be to work on the site versus post in comments...

...I'd totally separate the use of the site between time as a user versus time spent as a docent doing housekeeping, etc... (OlyBlog chore wheel anyone? =)

In fact, I support the idea of new labels...

Docents should be "anonymous helpers/guides/peace-keepers", ID'd by vague user handles that simple indicate how many "docents" are logged in at any given time (i.e.: Docent_01, Docent_02, etc...).

Who cares who the guides are?...and knowing has caused undo tension, so...

...when YOU post, use your "real" handle to make it clear what is docent speech vs. personal speech, and let's investigate if the system could be tweaked to issue docent handles when folks want to "log-in" and volunteer online as docents.

To me, this seems like it would clarify the process, sets a legible tone, describes the social parameters of interaction, and reduces interpersonal bias in giving & receiving direction.

-any thoughts?

 

Good idea.

I like the thought of splitting the roles, but it would take away from transparency somewhat. That might lead to more conflict.


Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

throw more info at the user

I'm all for open...so...

...make the list of folks that are "approved docents" public, but not on the front page insomuch as named identities...

Functionally, the log/database can display "who was which docent for any and all threads (by post)", so if need be, the wheels can be "pulled off the wagon" and an "overhaul can take place" if something really bad happens...(vehicle metaphor time folks =).

...but I'm betting that having to process the gist of what a docent is saying (in that voice of an semi-anonymous docent) will help the user use the site better and make a nicer place, versus the user being concerned with who is saying what needs to be said...

I think that puts more emphasis on the content of the dialog versus the process of the dialog, and tends to use the structure of the process (the flow) to direct the  interaction versus constrain the interaction...

...and as for me, think I'd be more inclined to offer time as a docent if I had the ability to separate that docent voice from my "chad360" online_persona...(my hurdle is that I just don't see "chad360" as a legible docent voice).

 

agreed

stevenl actually just recommended something similar to me, that we consider setting up rotating duties for docents. In the site building vs. site moderation side of time commitment something has got to give, and the sad reality is that when the comments are hot the amount of time spent moderating takes away any time available for site building.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

well...

...if nothing more, I'd offer that the fact that folks are so closely aligned in where/how they are thinking about this stuff is really encouraging to me, and a source of a certain amount of happiness and contentment.

Having OlyBlog is way better than not having OlyBlog...

...but having an OlyBlog that shows us all how we are connected and involved (even if it is just each of us musing along the similar vein), is in itself, a great source of community.

Big hugz folks! great to hear these ideas and such =)

agreed

Olyblog needs to follow through. For example, on the front page, Jusby is still the sponsor of the month and decobilia is still blogger of the month. These programs kicked off in April.

I'm in no small part to blame for that one as the award was my idea and I agreed to try to find sponsors. I overestimated my ability to take on more. For the time being that block & award are removed.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe