Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Life of the party October 2, 2008

Filed under: community — contentninja @ 7:00 am
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Josh Bancroft uses the metaphor that having online communities is like hosting a party.

And to have a great party you have to be a good host. He notes that companies that have online communities often think they own the communities and often behave like dictators. Tsk, tsk. Here are Bancroft’s “rules” for being a great party host:

  • Think of yourself as an equal member of the community, with some special responsibilities.
  • Remember, you’re throwing the party. You built and “own” only the party venue.
  • Invite interesting people to the party and have interesting people for them to talk to and interesting topics for everyone.
  • Provide amusements, but not stupid, mandatory party games.
  • You’re there in case something goes wrong and needs to be addressed.
  • Enjoy the party for yourself, but don’t make yourself the center of attention the whole time.

The concrete example Bancroft gives is comments. He recommends that the community have clear rules for comments and only those that break the rules get pulled. In other words, a critical comment that’s within the rules gets to stay, even if it’s critical of the party host.

This isn’t just a great how-to point for online communities. It speaks to a fundamental problem for journalists as we move forward into a digital-first world. WE have always owned the party and been the center of attention. Or we thought so.

It’s not “all about us,” anymore. I’ve been saying that for months, and I’m not sure anyone’s listening. After all, I’m still hearing objections to allowing comments because “they might get ugly.” And?

Maybes and what-ifs cannot be reasons for refusing to change. To every what-if we should respond, “Then we’ll …” And since we aren’t going to be dictators or the center of attention anymore, we can ask the community for help, too, in finding solutions.

Will it get ugly? We hope not. Will it be messy? You bet. And have you noticed that real life is, too? Welcome to the party, my friends.

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4 Responses to “Life of the party”

  1. Greg Says:

    Love it. I learned from from first Live Blog experience that it wasn’t about me shoving info down people’s throats, it was about the users interacting with each other. The community has the knowledge and wants to be heard, we just need to provide the vehicle.

  2. NIT Says:

    Oh ninja, I’m listening, and I agree! The party metaphor works well. Cleaning up, as it were, is left to the host, but at really good parties there are always one or two who stick around to help. I have a feeling that the same is true in the online community world.

  3. Chuck Peters Says:

    Very helpful analogy. I also assume that our “vehicle” will encourage many hosts outside the company.

  4. Dale Jones Says:

    I’ve been in all of our live blog sessions from the press box at Hawkeye football games. One of the first things I notice is the quick feeling of familiarity among participants. And the party analogy works right down to this level, because there is certainly a festive atmosphere in these sessions. Of course, it’s an event, it’s fun and people are there looking for a good time and validation in their pursuit of it. But the way these things have taken off, leads me to believe we’ve met a real need — locally.

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