Tag Archives: community

Q&A with Laura Oliver, community coordinator, news at the Guardian

What does your job involve?
My job is to be a bridge between readers and users of Guardian.co.uk and our news team and to try and find better ways for readers to engage with, interact with and consume our news output. As part of this I’m responsible for monitoring feedback to Guardian.co.uk on and off site, coming up with new ideas and editorial products off the back of reader ideas and demands and ensuring that guardian.co.uk‘s news is making connections to the wider web and other online communities to better distribute our news and find new audiences for it.
Laura Oliver the Guardian
What is an online community, is it just about comments?
Comments are a part of it but they only represent those readers who feel happy to contribute in this way. We need to work on ways to encourage and manage constructive comments whilst tapping into other ways to get our readers involved and – more importantly – represented on site and in the newsmaking process. Online communities exist in so many forms – from social networks and forums, to blogs with dedicate followings and gamers. They can spring up through interest, geography or platform. Being aware of the range of online communities out there can only help us reach a wider audience with our news, and if we’re clever about it we can find ways to serve particular communities without duplicating their existing networks.
Why are online communities important?
Simply put – because for online news this is your audience, this is who is consuming, sharing and spreading your work. Just as a good business will listen to what it’s customers especially regulars say, we too need to be aware of the people who are reading and interacting with Guardian news on and off site. They are important in lots of ways: for feedback, traffic, generating new editorial ideas, keeping us accountable and filling in the gaps in both our news coverage of a certain event and in a broader sense, by taking a story or issue to new angles and new discussions.
Why are newspapers in particular trying to create and encourage them?
To create a news product that is of the web and not just on it by bringing in interactivity; to hold us to account; to make use of the expertise and knowledge of our readers and encourage them to fill in gaps in our coverage and make it better; and because building a community will hopefully build loyalty and time spent on a site or page, which can also have commercial potential.
How do you manage a large online community?
At the moment we’re trying lots of things: rewarding good or constructive users (in different ways); working closely with our fantastic moderation team; encouraging all members of the news team to get involved in community building and management; using tools to track communities around news eg on Twitter and analytics to measure what they are doing on our site and when to inform future decisions. There’s no one golden rule – it’s about having different strategies that will work with different sorts of readers and can operate within the boundaries and language of other existing communities such as Facebook or bloggers.
Is this journalism?
I think this is a question that needs to die! It’s an increasingly important part of the news production process and a role that sits along with many that would either previously not have existed or not been considered journalism by those who want to keep that term reserved as a means of protection in a rapidly changing workplace. To anyone who questions the importance of communities to journalism, you have to ask- well what are producing this news for if not to be consumed by your audience? They now want to be part of the informing process and there’s no way to turn back that tide; journalism should no longer exist in isolation from its audience
What is the future for online communities?
In terms of online communities around news, I think we’re only just starting to see how news organisations can make the most of what the web has to offer to better serve their readers around news coverage. We’ll see more tools springing up to help us manage and build communities and lots more experiments in doing so – both good and bad. Hopefully we’ll also see continue growth across the industry in these kind of roles and understanding of why they are important.

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Filed under Lizzie Davis, online communities

Online community management guidance from experts at The Guardian

The Guardian has a very successful online community that is run by some very talented individuals. We caught up with some of the people in the know to gather the best advice for you.

Anna Codrea-Rado: Content co-ordinator for The Guardian

“The key to community management is identifying and understanding an audience. What we’re doing with the Guardian Professional networks is all to do with niche professional communities and how we can provide them with resources that make doing their job easier. We aim to give our audience a platform for them to share their insights about best practise in their professional field.

Community management is an organic process that needs constant attention and nurturing. You need to put a lot of effort into to it in order to reap the rewards.”

Laura Oliver: Community co-ordinator for The Guardian

“I think the [most important thing in journalism is the]  rise and rise of internet publishing. The power of the web that we’ve seen in the last few months in Egypt, in Gaza a couple of years ago and in Iran in 2009 both by people on the ground and now by main stream media knowing how to take advantage of that.”

So there you have it: the importance of an online community for any business, especially journalism, should not be underestimated and the process that it takes to nurture such a community is a hard but rewarding one.

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Filed under Katy Balls, online communities

Google vs Facebook: Online searching is about to get more social

Google is attempting to do what Facebook do best. This week it revealed its biggest social networking initiative since it launched the best-forgotten-about Buzz last year, in the hope of securing a stronger online community.

Google might be the most visited site in the world, but if Mark Zuckerberg (or this very blog) has taught us anything, it’s that the stronger the connections between members of an online community the better – and more lucrative.

The search engine group will not create its own full social networking site, but
will instead use features similar to those on Facebook in order to add a social element to the search service.

It will include Facebook-style “like” buttons which will display a user’s preferences to their contacts. On top of this new “+1” buttons will appear next to search results and users will be able to show their personal preferences, which will then be seen in the search results of their online friends. The company will use data from its existing services, such as Google Chat, to decide whose search options to show to which users.

Let’s hope that unlike earlier failed attempts by Google to get online communities involved, that this one brings something more valuable to their massive group of dedicated users.

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Filed under Beth Adamson, online communities

Leading your readers

As Robert Niles from The Online Journalism Review, insightfully said yesterday “writing in any interactive environment is an act of leadership.” You need to grab the leadership of your community with both hands and set the tone, style and informative model for your readers, otherwise someone else will.

In true leadership style Niles has written six snippets of advice – which he has invited us all to share with you – to encourage well informed, rewarding and interesting writing from your readers when they engage in your community.

1) Write what you know

The best posts come from people writing about a personal experience. Tell us about an activity you’re deeply involved with, a subject you’ve studied in-depth or an experience you’ve had. Maybe it’s just a review of a new restaurant you’ve visited, or a place you visited on vacation. Whatever you write about, forget for a moment about what others might say – or have said – about something and just tell us your story.

2) Don’t tell us if something’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’

Whenever a writer declares something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the piece becomes about the writer, and not the thing the writer is writing about. Whenever you read a review like that from someone you don’t know, don’t you start thinking about whether you can trust this reviewer or not? So leave those types of words out of your writing.

3) Describe, in detail

Instead, describe your experience, using as many clear details as you can. Put us in the situation with you, and describe as you would to a friend who wasn’t there. Take us through the experience, step by step. Consider the fives senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – and describe each, as appropriate to whatever you’re writing about. Consider these statements:

“The hamburger was terrible.”

“The hamburger looked and tasted like a McDonald’s heat-lamp refugee, thin and wilted, but it cost £12 instead.”

I’d much rather read the second post – it keeps the focus on the burger itself, rather than the writer’s reaction to it. I’ll certainly remember the second statement more than I would the first, too. And I’d be far more likely to forward it to my friends. Keep that in mind when you’re writing. Detailed descriptions really help other readers feel like they are there with you, sharing this experience.

4) Link, don’t copy

If you find something else online you want to share with other readers, don’t just copy and paste it to the site. Link to it instead. That way, other readers can see the original source for themselves.

(In following Niles’ advice myself, read the rest of his article here.)

5) Explain why you link

Whenever you link to something, though, explain why you’re linking to it. What’s it about? Why is it important to you? Why do you think it would be important to the rest of us? You explanation helps start a conversation about the link.

(I linked to his article as I believe it is extremely useful for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic. Not only is his article insightful, the entire site is a great read).

6) Respect, and respond

When other readers share their experiences on the site, respect them. If you don’t feel that their experience reflects your experience with the same event/subject/place, then respond by sharing your experience with it.

Again, leave out those judgmental words (especially the negative ones: ‘terrible,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘awful,’ etc.), and write instead about your experience. That helps keeps everyone’s focus on the subject under discussion, and not on a emerging flame war between readers.

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, online communities

Legal responsibility in an online community

Once you have an active online community the challenges you face as manager of that community can be tough. There is none such tougher in terms of the consequences if it goes wrong than the legal issues that can arise. These legal issues are also not so black and white.

The legal question: If a user writes a defamatory comment in an online community is it the user or the publisher of the online community who is responsible for it? And does the audience number matter?

Don't lose your money. Avoid defamation.

Rob Minto raises these issues in an insightful post on the Online Journalism Blog lookig at two landmark cases and their impact on the issue.

Case 1: A case of libel between Caerphilly town councillors Eddie Talbot and Colin Elsbury.  Mr Talbot sucessfully sued Mr Elsbury for £3000 for defamation after he tweeted that Mr Talbot had been removed by police from a polling station.

Case 2: Jane Clift lost her case against the Daily Mail, where she tried to obtain the identities of two users who left defamatory comments on a Daily Mail article.

Rob Minto makes the valid point that while the Tweet went out to Mr Elsbury’s 30 followers the Daily Mail comments would’ve been seen by millions.

Confusing yes?

Until the law becomes clearer on the matter, our top tip is avoid publishing or making defamatory statements in general. Just to be safe.

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Filed under Katy Balls, online communities

Simplicity in support groups

Online support groups are the kind of community that everyone needs at some point.

Whether it’s a tricky question that needs answering or you need to figure out the best way to do something technical or you just need to work that lovely new camera you just bought, everyone has been to an online support forum.

I’ve definitely done this to answer technical questions I need answering about my mobile, camera and laptop, but I can safely say I have never asked a question, I’ve simply scoured the forum to find the answer the the question I know has been asked before.

Cisco posted this great video giving just that advice, as well as four other top tips to simply and quickly benefit the most out of online support groups.

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, online communities

Creating an online community from scratch: EastBound Magazine

City University’s annual XCity Magazine which is distributed to City Alumni, this year enhanced their online community through interactive features on the website. This included awards that meant the reader became a part of the magazine as they got involved through voting and online conversation. They were very successful in doing this and building on a readership that has been growing for decades.

However, what happens when you try and build an online community without any previous readership established?

This is the challenge a group of us faced recently when we set out to start a new East London area magazine called EastBound.

In this case, before we could even make our site interactive we had to establish an audience and then from this a community. When starting an online community from scratch there has to be a reason for your target reader to visit your site.

Sure- polls, competitions, comments, guest blogs and lively discussion is the ideal but before you can get that going you need people visiting your site in the first place.

What EastBound taught us:

Establish a need. There needs to be a reason that a user is going to visit the website or blog. In EastBound’s case aswell as having features that would interest our reader we put up event listings that they would need. By making the website a place to refer to for directions and what is going on each night in East London we drew in users.

Entertain and sustain. Keep the user’s interested with features, interviews etc that they want to read so they spend longer on your site.

Visuals are important– users aren’t going to stick around and interact if the site is dull to look at regardless of how good the content is. Use pictures, logos and colour to create a distinctive style that they can then on associate (positively) with it.

Encourage interaction and interact yourself– once you have established an audience make them into a community through polls, surveys, posts that encourage comment and comps. To start the ball rolling, start making conversation yourself. Make sure that you reply to any tweets or comments.

Use twitter, facebook and other social platform media to reach out to new users and keep contact with current members of the community. Asking questions about topical issues guarantees a response.

In simple terms- make it as easy as possible to be interactive.

The finished EastBound website

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Filed under Katy Balls, online communities

The truth worth of online communities

Mariam Cook of the Guardian wrote an insightful comment piece about the true worth of online communities and the affects they have on your community in real life, or “IRL”.

As said by her son who was describing his virtual World of Warcraft life, an online community is addictive. It’s “like having another life – being in another world and doing all the things you have always dreamed of.”

To see the true addiction levels of World of Warcraft watch the clip below of the reaction a boy has to his mum telling him she has cancelled his membership.

Cook explores the fact that while they may be dangerous and addictive, they also let people who would otherwise never meet connect on many different subjects and mutual interests. Have a look at the article here

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, online communities

Profile: My Football Club

Internet users bought their own football club for £35 a pop

Myfootballclub.co.uk is “the world’s first web community owned club”. It owns Ebbsfleet United, the Kent team currently playing in the Conference South. The club was taken over by the site when around 27,000 members paid £35 each in a deal estimated at £700,000. It shows what the power of a well-managed online community, when a footie fan can own part of a club for a bargain price and make real decisions regarding its future from the comfort of his living room. How does it work in reality when an online community has the power to make real decisions?

Funding An annual subscription from members pays for the running of the club

Boards The members are represented by a Society Board of 7 elected members. They monitor internal processes, set strategy, handle the confidential side of management and liaise with staff.  Any current member of My Football Club can stand can stand for election. There is also a management board of three people who make day-to-day decisions at the club.

How does it work? Any member can raise a proposal for activities at the club. Their ideas will then be discussed in the site’s forums before being offered as a formal proposal.  It will then be put to all the members and voted on.

Votes: Members can vote on any club management issues including player transfers, kits and ticket prices.

I think this is the type of thing we’ll be seeing more of in the future as online communities become more niche, focused and better managed.

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Filed under Beth Adamson, online communities

Online Communities: A Beginner’s Guide

While interest in online communities  may be on the rise, for some (including myself a month ago) the concept might need a little bit of explaining.

Q: What is an online community?

A: An online community is a group of people with interests in common who use the internet to communicate, get to know each other and work together.

Q: What are some examples of online communities?

A: Online communities are everywhere on the internet. Facebook has the biggest online community while other online communities include comment forums on news/magazine sites, blog readers and specific interest internet forums.

Q: Why is it important to manage your online community?

A: If an online community becomes unhappy with the site that hosts them they may well leave that site. Members of online communities are quite fluid as they don’t have too heavy ties with any host site. This means it is important to make sure you’re community is happy- otherwise they might leave you!

Q: Any particular reason members of an online community would become unhappy?

A: This could happen for many reasons. One example is if the members felt ignored or if they disapproved of things happening on the host site. For example, the online community that is the discussion forum on the Guardian website might see members leaving if the pages were filled with racist comments that the Guardian didn’t remove.

Q: How can I make my online community a happy one?

A: Read this blog regularly!

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Filed under Katy Balls, online communities