Tag Archives: online communities

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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Changing Media Summit 2011: what happened?

The Guardian are leading the way in social media among so-called “old media” companies. their forums are thriving, their website is constantly updated and each individual section has its own individual twitter feed.

Is it any surprise, then, to find that they also host one of the most important events in the media calendar?

The Changing Media Summit took place last week and had speeches from the CEO of YouView, CEO and chairman of AOL, co-founder of Foursquare, director of partnerships Facebook.

kaleidoscope

Picture: barto, Flickr

At a few hundred pounds per ticket we lowly bloggers had to give the event a miss. But I’ve a hunch that many of you did too. Thankfully, the Guardian, wise wise media provider that it is have posted interviews with many of the speakers online. This is where all the developments are happening, community makers. This is future in the making.

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Facebook Community

In this video we look at problems that can arise in large online communities such as Facebook.

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, Katy Balls, Lizzie Davis, 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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Online community to watch fundraising concert for Japan

Classical music audience

Royal Albert Hall. Photo: St Stev, Flickr

In just under half an hour two colossi of the classical music scene – Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim will conduct a concert with two of Berlin’s legendary orchestras (the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Berliner Philharmoniker). They aim to raise money to help survivors of the Japanese earthquake.

The fact that these two conductors and orchestras are performing on the same evening and in the same venue may be unusual enough but why would I be writing about it here?

The answer is that it is being broadcast in the “Digital Concert Hall“, an online video link, essentially. But like a physical concert hall, you have to pay for a ticket. This digital hall is run by the Berlin Philharmonic with the aim of broadening their audiences and taking their music to a much larger number of people per concert.

For each concert, therefore, the Berlin Phil create a one-off online community – a digital echo of the audience physically there in the concert hall. And, of course, the fact that they charge means more revenue or – in this evening’s case – more funds raised.

Do buy a ticket if you can – these orchestras are truly brilliant and the proceeds could not be going to a worthier cause. Doors have just opened!

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Five weird online communities

You’ve heard about Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Myspace. But here are ten that I bet haven’t made it onto your radar. And probably for good reason…

1. 23andme
Spit in a bottle, send it off to 23andme and they claim to be able to analyse your DNA to tell you about your physical traits (which presumably you already know about), risk factors for 97 diseases, your predicted response to drugs and learn about your ancestral origins.  Medical break-through or Chillingly Orwellian?

2. Blippy
Join this website to share all your credit card purchases with the world. They don’t quite put it that way of course. This is the PR version: “Blippy is a site that lets you share your purchases and see what your friends are buying online and in real life.” A step too far?

3. Togetherville
A social networking site for kids – a kind of facebook for little’uns. Much is made of the safety of this site on their welcome page but am I alone in thinking kids should be making real life friends, not learning how to become “responsible digital citizens”. I also object to the use of the words “awesomosity” and “kidtacularity” in this video.

4. Klout
Think online communities set you free from the politics of the real world? Think again. Klout is a social network which measures your, well, clout, in the digital world. There must be a rule written somewhere that humans can’t just DO an activity, they have to MEASURE themselves doing it. And find out who is best. Sigh.

5. Miso
Miso is an attempt to make that most private of activities – watching TV – social. You can see what your friends are watching, see what they think of it and they can see what you’re watching. And points are involved somewhere along the way. Perhaps you gain points for an education programme but lose them for watching Dancing on Ice…

 

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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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