Good community building at Bakersfield.com
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community building, and how to deal with abusive comments or blog posts. I’ve argued that it’s important to be visible in the forums and blogs yourself, as editor/blog host/forum host. That is the best and only way to gain understanding for sometimes removing content. A dialogue. And mutual respect.
As Readers’ Editor, I try to participate as much as I can in Aftonbladet’s forums, but I often lack time, which I strongly regret. Instead, most often my contact with the forum users are via email when something’s gone wrong.
Sigge Eklund, Aftonbladet’s blog manager, works closely with the bloggers and uses his blog Bloggvärldsbloggen to keep them updated with news both about our blogging tool and things happening in the Aftonbladet blogging community and in the blogosphere in general.
Following the reported problems with the reader comments at AZ Starnet and at the Sun-Sentinel, and also Yahoo shutting down its Yahoo News message boards because they got dominated by “a small number of vocal users”, I was happy to find a US blog host who is doing exactly what I asked for in my post about AZ Starnet.
Jason Sperber is community manager for the citizen blogs at Bakersfield.com. In a recent post on his blog there he is very clear about what’s okay and what’s not in blog posts and comments at the Bakersfield citizen blogs, and why.
I’ve got some stuff to say that some of you aren’t going to like very much.
First off, let’s stop with the namecalling. No more calling each other “idiot” or “stupid,” or worse, in lieu of an argument. No more twisting folks’ names or blog handles into vulgar parodies. If you can’t make your point or defend your argument without resorting to base namecalling, then there are plenty of places for you to play, but this isn’t one of them. You detract from any point you’re trying to make when you go there, and we’re tired of it.
Spurious speculations about posters’ private lives are not welcome. Insults based on assumptions about individuals’ identities or parts of their private lives are not welcome. Again, argue your point, use sarcasm and humor and satire to underscore your argument and undercut that of your opponents, but don’t attack the person you’re arguing with. And if you’re on the receiving end of such an attack, that is not license to fight fire with fire.
By now, some of you have already assumed that I’m talking about or to you. Know this—if this doesn’t apply to you, then it doesn’t apply to you, and you don’t need to get defensive. But if it does, no matter what your political or ideological or religious beliefs, no matter how you identify yourself, I am talking to you. “He started it,” “I’m just defending myself”—these excuses don’t wash. Be the better person, walk away, ignore, and report. Don’t lower yourself.
Do read all of the post, and the user comments. It sets a good example.
Admittedly, being host for a blogging community is not exactly the same as being host for a forum. In my experience, bloggers often take more care to be civilized since they have the reputation of their own blog to think about, and also they are often volunteering more personal information than forum users.