ABC An abecedarium of community management Meg PickardIndependent Digital Engagement Consultant megpickard.com Email: hello@megpickard / Twitter:@megpickard
HELLO I’ve recently started reading books with my baby daughter. At the moment, she’s more interested in eating them than learning from them, but as I look at the various ABC tomes we have, I wonder whether these words will be relevant to her in later life. What if Badgers are extinct by the time she grows up? Will she recognise that thing on the T page as a telephone, since none of them look like that anymore? Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about words and concepts which might equip the next generation to better deal with the world they will inherit - and in particular, our world of community management and online social interaction.@megpickard
A is for anonymity A big red herring. The last few years have demonstrated that using a real name is no obstacle to people being disruptive or obnoxious (just ask Facebook and sites which use Facebook comments). Stable and persistent identity is more important than real name.@megpickard
B is for bullying We hear a lot about trolling these days and the word is used interchangeably with bullying. Bullying is an unfortunate consequence of the way social interaction online has developed over the years, but not caused by the internet and no more acceptable online than off.@megpickard
C is for climate change Climate change is a red ﬂag for community *@$%€?! managers. It’s one of the topics that seems to be impossible to discuss without ire or insult. C is also for Customer Service: if you’re going to do it, especially in a public sphere (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), dont do half a job, only focusing on the positive.@megpickard
D is for Dimbleby David Dimbleby on Question Time is more than a host: he’s a kind of moderator. He frames the discussion, ensures different voices are heard, encourages contribution and participation and generally keeps things running in a civil way. Moderators online could beneﬁt from this approach - more host than bouncer.@megpickard
E is for editorial control In content-led communities, there are always choices about what/when to publish and how to frame or support a piece of content for maximum community beneﬁt. Sometimes, organisations actively choose to provoke or rile their audiences (to generate discussion, or viral effect, or attention, or all of the above). This is trolling, even if it’s happening “above the line”. Bear in mind that if you position something provocatively, you can’t be surprised if people are provoked. That’s not to say that authors deserve every comment they get, but editors need to share some responsibility for the quality of the@megpickard conversation.
F is for ﬁsking Named for journalist Robert Fisk, Fisking is point-by-point rebuttal of an article or argument. The practice may be well-established, but has been recently popularized (and named) by various American conservative blogs, which took issue with Mr. Fisk’s skeptical view of US foreign policy in his articles. The term "ﬁsking" has come to denote the practice of "savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet"@megpickard
G is for Godwin’s Law Godwins Law is a natural law of Usenet named after Mike Godwin concerning Usenet "discussions". It reads: “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one” Twenty years later, this still holds true.@megpickard
H is for heckling We’re used to thinking of heckling as destructive, drunken yelling during a performance., intended to disrupt and insult. But originally, this wasn’t the case. The term originates from the textile trade. A Heckle was a comb used for teasing jute or ﬂax ﬁbres so they could be spun into hemp or linen. In 19thC Dundee which already had a reputation for being radical, the “hecklers” would have someone at the front of the workshop reading out the day’s newspapers, accompanied - and often interrupted - by furious debate. This vocal practice was carried over to public meetings for politicians, and the term took on new http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/aniara/2798189665/ meaning. So heckling: informed, if rowdy, debate and questioning of authority on current affairs. Sounds like many@megpickard newspaper comments!
I is for Internet (someone is wrong on the) Opinions make the internet go round. Remember that opinion (or experience) isn’t the same as fact. You dont need to convert people or win every single time. Source: the ever-marvellous xkcd@megpickard
J is for justiﬁcation A sense of ownership or entitlement means that community members often demand explanations for mod actions. This can be a type of trolling, as it puts the burden of wrongdoing on the moderator not the community member. Image by one of the web’s genius legion of macro-makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you! Transparency is good, but be wary of getting derailed by going into great detail in public space. Offer individuals the opportunity to contact the moderation team, and refer to clear community guidelines.@megpickard
K is for kidding A get-out clause which allows people to say unsayable things. It usually means they’re NOT kidding.@megpickard
L is for lulz LULZ or ‘doing it for the lulz’ means doing destructive/cruel/daft things for laughs, playing to crowd. It takes shadenfreude (taking joy in the suffering of others) to a different level. Schadenfreude is laughing because you saw someone fall over. Lulz is laughing because you tripped them up. It’s a depressing form of online behaviour, partly because it has a tendency to escalate, and partly because it normalises cruel, offensive or Image by one of the web’s genius legion of macro- obnoxious behaviour.@megpickard makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you!
M is for mansplaining Explaining things in a patronising/ condescending/inaccurate way to knowledgeable audience, under the assumption that they are ignorant or inexperienced in the subject matter. Despite the name, any member of either sex can be guilty of mansplaining. Image by one of the web’s genius legion of meme-makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you!@megpickard
N is for nobody knows you’re a dog The famous New Yorker cartoon poked fun at the relative anonymity of internet users. But these days, between behaviour proﬁling, reputation, tenure, shared ID tokens and so on, while it’s true that no-one knows you’re a dog, site owners, other users and advertisers may be able to infer things from the fact that you like chewing bones, chasing cars, peeing on trees and having your tummy tickled.@megpickard
O is for outrage Internet communities (or, more accurately, groups of people in social spaces online) are prone to getting pitchforky about things, being quick to deride, defend and decry and slow to praise.@megpickard
P is for participation & passion Nothing says ‘this is a community that people care about’ like participation, especially by those who are ‘in charge’ or responsible for it. Be part of your communities, understand the passions that drive them, share them if you can.@megpickard
Q is for quality/quantity The everlasting debate. Sometimes more isn’t better. Sometimes (actually, frequently when it comes to online interactions), more is just... more. In any case, you need to decide what you want to achieve (quantity or quality) and then create engagement strategies to drive towards that goal. These strategies can be quite different!@megpickard
R is for Rick Astley Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But it’s a good reminder of the playful side of online interaction too. Rickrolling people is a kind of trolling, but not destructive or offensive. It can be disruptive, of course - because who can resist dancing along? Image by one of the web’s genius legion of meme-makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you!@megpickard
S is for the Streisand effect Attempting to conceal something has unintended effect of making it more interesting or visible. This applies to moderation actions and invisible editing of social media timelines as much as diva’s Malibu mansions.@megpickard
T is for trolling People often talk about trolls when they mean bullies or haterz. Trolling isn’t always destructive and usually isn’t offensive, though it can be playfully disruptive or distracting. One of the origins of the word trolling is trawling, ﬁshing for reaction, hunting for gullible folks to distract and derail.@megpickard
U is for unrealistic expectations It’s often assumed that a community manager (or community team) exists in order to manage the activity of participants in a discussion or service. But part of good community management is managing expectations for senior management about community activity & tone, and helping to inﬂuence products, positioning, staff participation and so on to optimise it. Image by one of the web’s genius legion of macro-makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you!@megpickard
V is for virtual I hate this word. It should be consigned to the history books. Virtual community is real community: real people, with real emotions and experiences and opinions, sitting in front of real computers. We don’t call telephone calls “virtual conversations”. We don’t call watching television “virtual entertainment”. People sometimes say “in real life” as if different rules apply there - “oh, I’d never say that in real life”. Image by one of the web’s genius legion of macro-makers, whose name I couldn’t ﬁnd. Thank you!@megpickard Being online IS real life.
W is for windows (broken) Broken Windows Syndrome isn’t something to do with Microsoft. It’s a sociological theory about crime. It posits that broken windows, graﬁtti, derelict cars, litter etc - things which make a place feel uncared for - can signal to others that its ok to perpetuate negative behaviour. This is potentially true for communities online & off. http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/alanstanton/4051469852@megpickard
X is for xxx Whats with kisses littering social spaces these days? Another example of evolving interaction norms. X at the end of a tweet or facebook post or email doesn’t mean kiss (sorry). It means “this is personal” or “I like you” or “I’m ﬁnished”@megpickard
Y is for You Own Your Own Words You Own Your Own Words was one of the establishing rules of the WELL community. It originally referred to accountability & personal responsibility. This is a useful concept to remember in modern social spaces. I like to say the platform may belong to us but the conversation belongs to everybody. We all play role in the quality of interaction online.@megpickard
Z is for Zzzzzzz.... The goal of many children’s books is to encourage the infant to sleep. That’s not my intention here today with you. However, it’s the end of a long and stimulating day, and I’m conscious that I’m the only thing standing in between you and the bar. A dangerous place to be. So thank you for your time and attention, and for accompanying me on this journey through the alphabet of community management.@megpickard