Online Communities, Comments and Curmudgeons

A wicked combination I know, but before I tell you what each means to me individually, I will introduce myself. I’m Angela Connor.

I love what I do on many levels. Yes, there were times when I didn’t necessarily love my job at several points in the past, but my love for journalism and the convergence of media has never waned. I received a Values Award in my previous position at a newspaper for “clearly communicating the growing need for multimedia content in today’s fragmenting media marketplace.” That’s a direct quote.

The plaque is on my office wall here at WRAL.com in Raleigh, where I’ve been the Managing Editor for UGC since February, 2007. That’s user-generated content for those of you who may have thought it was an acronym for ugly, gregarious curmudgeons. I wish I were the managing editor of them as well though, so I could put them all on a 30-day performance review.

This is my first blog here at Technolo-J, and if they’ll allow me to stay, there will be many more to come.

Now, about online communities. I am an online community manager. I moved to Raleigh to manage and provide long-term vision and strategies for GOLO.com. We are in our second year and have more than 8,000 members. I communicate with those members often. I know a whole heck of a lot about the people in the community. One could even say I know too much. I planned a one-year birthday bash for the community a few weeks ago, held it at Starbucks and met people with names like Mohawkhb, Sue Donym, CottontownRambler, Cuzin Lukey and Tarheel Army Mom. I believe that local communities that are managed well and where the members are treated with respect can thrive and serve as an asset to traditional media organizations.

Let’s move on to comments. I supervise a team of moderators. These moderators decide which comments will be allowed on WRAL.com news stories. It’s a challenge, but we set standards and make our expectations known. Our goal is to create an environment for civil discourse where our visitors can engage, debate, and even fight, as long as it’s civil. I have no tolerance for those who say newspapers should abandon comments. No they shouldn’t. They should manage them.

That leads me to this: Curmudgeons. I have commented on a number of blog posts recently about this very topic. Simply put, they are everywhere. Some of them fall under the radar, happily grumbling at their cubicles or in the corner of the break room wearing a fixed scowl. Others are quite verbal. They refer to 35 year-olds as “kids.”  They hate the internet, and they may even still own a typewriter. They don’t want their story scooped online, even if it’s their own company’s website and they think that bloggers are direct descendants of the Anti-Christ.

You know the type. If you know the type all too well and you see him or her in the mirror everyday, it’s time to make a change. Resistance is futile. So, right here on the Technolo-J blog, I am opening up a new center called Curmudgeons Anonymous. The first step is admitting the problem.

You: Hi. My name is Curmudgeon, and  I’m a curmudgeon.

Me: Hiiii Curmudgeon.

Welcome. You’re in for the ride of your life.

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