Kevin Anderson, 'A proposal for a real revolut...
Kevin Anderson. Image by fidothe via Flickr

I’ve tweeted it already, but it’s well worth reading this post from Kevin Anderson at his blog, discussing how journalists (and, we’d add, everyone who runs a discussion site) has responsibility for setting the tone of debate.

An extract, but read the whole thing:

Poisonous communities don’t sell. They don’t sell to most readers, and they damn well don’t sell to advertisers. It’s really interesting the different responses I hear when talking about some high profile engagement-based comment sites. People in the media laud them as visionary, ground-breaking and industry leading. When I speak to members of the public, they call the same sites toxic, offensive and aggressive. I often joke that a lot of publishers engagement strategy is really an enragement strategy. Find the hot button issues of the day and push those buttons until they bleed. … We have the opportunity to pull our audiences further into critical civic conversations but we have to seize it, not believe that interaction is only for ‘them’.

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2 thoughts on “Setting the tone

  1. A timely post – the skill (art?) of online community building is one that is still in short supply and is often overlooked in government (or indeed most other) engagement projects. Simply getting people to look at your website, let alone sign up or in some other way interact with it, is incredibly difficult!

    One thing that always surprises me is when public bodies manage to develop a community with some traction, they often let it wither, rather than thinking what else they could ask this group of people about.

    Local government in particular is well used to the concept of citizen panels – the obvious online counterpart could have hundreds of members, who contribute towards the issues that they have an interest in, as and when needed.

  2. I was saying this to someone in local government just the other day: why build your audience every time? Build them and keep them. If only there were an organisation – a society, if you will – of people who were interested in creating democratically useful things like that…

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