Category Archives: Community


Participants in this blog
When moderation goes wrong
Thinking of community feed mixers
BBC Editors, blogs and drupal
The Blog as dynamic user profile
Control in blogs and communities (and flickr)
The question of blogging and communities

Participants in this blog

Following a pattern for blogging practice which I read about a while back on somebody’s blog, but cannot retrieve through searching for the life of me ( to be updated later perhaps) … is a list of links to recent (since August) people who have contributed to this blog by leaving comments:

M J Ray

Linda Hartley

Ted Ernst

Bev Trayner

Frankie Roberto

Joitske Hulsebosch

Nancy White

So thanks to the above for your support through commenting, which is much appreciated, and thanks also to the people who may read but haven’t felt like responding. You can expect a similar roundup in a couple of months I suppose.

Posted in Blogs and community | 3 Comments

When moderation goes wrong

Another insightful discussion has broken out in the onlinefacilitation yahoogroup, and it’s great that the messages there are public facing, so that I can provide direct hyperlinks into individual messages which blog readers can visit without having to register or anything.

Beverley Trayner initiated the thread with a question about who owns posts.

Bev later elaborates on the story, which gave cause for concern, and sums up some of the replies received.

Rosanna rewrote one of her responses on her blog , (permalink not working atm) and I’m doing the same with mine below:

Beverley’s story is a true gift for us here, because of the way it
portrays real events in an online community rather than hypothetical
or hoped-for ones. I find the unravelling of disputes fascinating as
much as sad, beause they go so much further in revealing the true
underlying power relationships which are sometimes inherent in the
nature of the particular technology itself, or it’s implementation.

It’s very interesting that the dispute appears to have precipitated as
a result of one group continuing a dialogue referring to f2f meetings
in the online forum. That’s pretty much what I would expect to happen,
but another group, the moderators, which may or may not have an
overlap with the activists, acted to squash discussion, presumably
acting in an overprotecting manner thinking they were helping to avoid
a potential problem with the the non f2f people feeling left out by
these particular conversations.

OK, so the moderators are inexperienced, they don’t have the
confidence to just let things flow. Perhaps they were also guilty of
trying to set up an ‘artificial’ discussion space, with preconceived
ideas about exactly what the potential membership would be expected to
talk about and how they would be expected to behave, even if they
would surely fall short of that themselves.

The question which occupies my mind, is what are the contributory
factors which guided the the moderators to start acting in a way that
broke the community?

I suggest some possibilities:

*Pattern of thought and behaviour brought over from our current
society which encourage a top-down controlling structure as the only
workable possibility.

*The bulletinboard software, like so much social software these days,
comes preconfigured for a hierarchical group of all powerful
moderators. The role of the administrator as appointer of moderators
with the power to censor comes built in, and is therefore often taken
to be the normal way to behave. When under stress, the temptation to
actually use these powerful tools which are positioned right under the
nose, may be difficult to resist.

*Fashionable consensus and nearly all of the written advice and
conclusions from research all tell people that the key to successful
online community lies in facilitation, where the term facilitation has
passed into wider coinage as a euphamism for moderation, which in turn
is a euphamism for one person holding the unnegotiable power over
another to tell them what they can or can’t say and where they can or
cannot say it.

I think that in practice these days, given the difficulty for any
group of people who want to hold discussions in setting up something
that doesn’t involve appointing at least one all powerful moderator,
the best policy is probably to appoint only one, and for that person
to do as little as possible. This is the benevolent dictator model,
or absent dictator model. Technology for the truly unmoderated group
does still exist on the internet, and a few tens of thousands of
unmoderated groups persist quite happily, but not on the
world-wide-web where every space has to be owned by somebody.
Experiments with the “everyone is a moderator” model have not been too
sucessful in the longer run. A simple fact is that the more moderators
a community has, the greater the opportunity for one of them to turn
rogue, go insane , or make a mistake with seriously damaging

Technorati Tags: onlinefacilitation, moderators, technologyforcommunities,

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Posted in Blogs and community | Tagged | 2 Comments

Thinking of community feed mixers

Bev Trayner has been thinking about feed mixers:

Em duas línguas: Still thinking of feed mixers

“When you joined the community you could subscribe to the feed mix which would give you separate feeds for the individual blogs. You could then go through at your leisure, trimming out the ones that you didn’t want to follow.”

I think this kind of thing is what OPML files are for. When someone joins the community, they would pick up the OPML file for it ( which somebody would have to maintain, I suppose) plonk it into their feedreader and hey presto they are subscribed to a whole bunch of blogs which they can then do what they like with. Trouble is, how do they get new ones added in automatically?

( see also Em duas línguas: Looking for the right RSS mixer )

Technorati Tags: RSSmix, aggregators, communitytools, OPML,

Update: See also Enterprise RSS

Posted in Blogs and community, Tools | 2 Comments

BBC Editors, blogs and drupal

Antony Mayfield writes in Blog and viewer influence on BBC news agenda:

The BBC’s The Editors blog continues to be one of the most interesting and useful media blogs around.

And I agree, if you’re at all interested in the process of journalism and publishing, or in current affairs, then you should subscribe for a while, and read the comments too.

He also discusses the strange case of someone being surprised when they discovered that Newsnight editors were reading about them, he sense that people somehow feel that what they write on blogs is somehow, sometimes a private conversation, and not exposed to the all-seeing eyes of Google and Technorati.

I picked up on that perception because I’ve always thought it central to what makes blogging work, this tension or disparity between a perception of intimacy and the fact of being a very public space. But if it is the illusion of privacy which contributes to making blogs useful and readable, then isn’t this a somewhat fragile basis on which to continue? In some cases, yes. Where the illusion is based on an actual ignorance of who may be reading, then a sudden comment or the addition of webstats may cause a blogger to stop dead in their tracks and rethink who they are writing for. But in most cases I think it is an agreed suspension of awareness of the potential audience which allows the blogger to write less selfconsciously than in say a public forum, whilst being able to cope perfectly well with any unepected exposure which may happen.

I’m currently trying to grapple with this for the purposes of exploring best ways to set up drupal as a community platform, with it’s combination of blogs, forums and other structures.

Technorati Tags: BBC, editors, blogs, drupal

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Posted in Blogs and community | Tagged | Comments Off on BBC Editors, blogs and drupal

The Blog as dynamic user profile

One of the established methods of facilitating online communities is to have some kind of user profile or identity tool, to help set the context by giving some background behind the names in the discussion. Often with a mugshot as well.

But when you are a member of multiple communities, creating and updating a profile in each space can seem like a wasteful duplication of effort, leading to out of date, terse or missing profiles.

This is one of the ways in which blogs and communities can work well together because if you are a blogger, then all you need to put in your various profiles is a link to the blog and that will probably serve as a richer, more informal and current type of introduction. If a new member joins a network I’m involved with, I’m quite likely to subscribe to their blog for a while whereas if they only have a static homepage or profile, then after the first glance it may never get checked out again. So my suggestion here is that blogs can help new members to integrate themselves into communities more quickly, and that would be a net benefit to both.

Tags: , , technologyforcommunity

Posted in Blogs and community | 1 Comment

Control in blogs and communities (and flickr)

Joistke adds some important points in the blogging and communities discussion:

I think blogs simply add a lot of potential to thought development within a community of practice. Eg. if you did not have a blog, I wouldn’t have a clue what you were busy with or thinking about! Forums may seem more controllable, but they are not.

Yes, blogs are person-centric and this is what makes them very different to forums. Some people use their blogs as a space for personal reflection and working through half formed ideas, in a way which perhaps wouldn’t be afforded in a community forum. On the other hand, I like to surface my own ideas more through dialogue. As such, the contribution of both forms of communication is becoming clearer.

The issue of control is probably crucial when comparing technologies for communities. If a forum is heavy handedly owned or moderated, then some contributors will retreat to their blogs where they have total control over everything, even if the readership is less visible. Or it may be due to an inconvenient pace and volume of discussion on the list. Veering off at a slight tangent, here’s a quote from a discussion on Flickr about Groups vs Tags which reveals a little more about control:

Groups are useful – you can’t be sure people will use the same tags, or tags at all, if people join you know they are relatively interested, and they can have discussions. Also you can remove things from groups that shouldnt be there but you can’t remove incorrectly tagged stuff.

Tags: , , technologyforcommunity

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Posted in Blogs and community, Tools | Tagged | 1 Comment

The question of blogging and communities

In response to my previous post, Frankie Roberto comments:

Surely, though, there is an argument that it’s harder to hold communities together when they are spread over a number of seperate weblogs than when they’re in a single hosted environment. RSS, trackback, CoComment and the like are all useful tools, but within a specialised online community, nothing can beat the immediecy and connected-ness of forums and similar.

I have no doubt about that either. There is also an argument that the simple text based interactions that took place asynchronously over dial-up or overnight connections lent themselves to a higher proportion of deeper, more thoughtful conversations. It sounds backward looking, and luddite but if something has been lost and that is recognised then it may also be recaptured in a higher form perhaps.
Developments in technology tend not to be driven by communty needs, but there’s no reason why they coudn’t be, in theory.

Of course, blogs and forums can work together. Sites like Livejournal, Warwick Blogs and to some extent MySpace all have personal blogs, but with a single sign-in that makes it easy to see replies to your comments and new postings, build friends lists and communicate much more immedietly.

That’s definitely the way things seem to be going, with enormously large, sticky and highly granulated constellations of online communities owned by just a few of the big media corporations. The old blogosphere is probably just a small backwater compared to these new, giant but isolated spaces. For example, did you know that Photobucket has over seven times the market share of Flickr? ( according to hitwise )

I think the answer to the question of which system works best depends on what the communities do and are for. For simply writing and reading about a general topic, weblogs allow more direct ownership of the platform and greater individualisation. For communities focused on specific tasks, or of people who need to work closely together, the more hosted communities might better facilititate the more immediete need for communication.

Yes but… that’s the answer to a question which hardly anybody is afforded the luxury to ask. We don’t generally get to sit down and design how a community is going to work and which tools people are going to gravitate towards. If a community forum already exists and is working well then it is inherent in the current state of things that some of the members will also be drawn towards blogging, and this will probably have an effect, either positive or negative – perhaps both – on the community. You can’t discourage people from blogging if it’s going to happen anyway, but you could encourage them I suppose, if you thought that was appropriate.

The problem that I’m also contemplating, is what do you do if you have a really specialised question which you want to get some answers or opinionms about? If there is an existent forum about the topic or a related one, then that can be a very powerful means of reaching out and tapping into expert knowlege. But if you simply post your question on your blog, you’re not likely to have much luck. Then again, experts seem to enjoy answering queries so even if they withdraw to their blogs to some extent, they may still keep an eye on the forum as well. But will that be enough to keep the forums alive in an overall environment with ever increasing choices and proliferation of channels?

Tags: , , technologyforcommunity

Posted in Blogs and community, Tools | 1 Comment

Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Community on the DARnet Blog