The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Online Communities
Session description: "Comments, link-love, blog-rolls, who's in, who's out? The Internet has the potential to be the great equalizer, to breakdown artificial barriers. Is that what we're doing, or are we all sticking to our respective corners of the online world? What signposts do those who feel outside the online majority look for when deciding if an online community will be welcoming to "people like me." Can you build community that becomes more inclusive, rather than exclusive -- and does it have broader social implications if you do (or don't)? Join Joy Palmer, Liza Barry-Kessler, Dory Devlin and Valencia Roner as they take a look at this often-sensitive subject. We'll cover everything from anecdotal experiences to research data on how online communties tend to behave and evolve."
Audience: Do niche communities / niche blogs make people connect only with similar people who share the same niche?
Valencia: I don't limit myself (on my blog). I make sure the audience knows that I'm open to anything.
Kelli: What about when someone writes something that's very important, but is written to you privately? Is there a way to bring that conversation out into the open?
Valencia: You need to take it on a case-by-case basis. You can also talk about it, but make the person anonymous.
Heather B.: I've noticed that sometimes people will send you things privately that they don't want to put in the comments, because they felt it might offend you.
Audience: You can also expand/rethink your blogroll, to add blogs that you think are interesting, but don't necessarily mirror the things your blog usually covers.
Viv: I have three blogs. I have a mom blog, but I also have a gaming blog. I found that Stumbleupon has been a good tool to show new things to my friends.
Gena: I am African America. But when I'm writing about software, or FEMA, I'm writing about who I am right now. I had to come to a place where, no matter what, this is the person who I am today and whatever you're reading is filtered through my experience. It took a while for me to feel safe enough to say "this is who I am." I intersect on a lot of different communities. If I'm welcomed in that community, I'm going to go back and forth.
Valencia: I think we're the sum total of our experiences. The beauty of places like this, and the beauty of the blog is that we can interact.
Holli: How did I deal with this? By taking the power of other people away for people to attack me, and setting the rules.
Skye Kilaen: We have a comment policy in place, so our visitors don't need to armor up before reading the comments. If it's not a safe space, you're systematically cutting out a large number of people and participation who don't feel it's safe to be there.
Lilly: I wonder if people who are mean are more likely to comment more? How do we make it so that 'nice' people aren't intimidated by others out there?
Audience: When getting trolled, I suggested to the troll to start their own blog. So she did. (And at that point I knew I'd made it.) We don't think of the trolls as part of our community.
Audience: I put a post out where I asked readers what their favorite blogs are. I got a ton of comments, and there was this "web of inclusion" that was created.
Liza: You can put inclusive asides in posts.
Joy: The element of risk is one worth taking. You might not feel that you have the "right" to speak about something, but one way to reach out is to just write. Another way to reach out is via the blogroll. There are designs and visual cues that you can put on the blog.
Penelope Trunk makes an observation and asks a very enlightened question:
"Instead of worrying about the wage gap let's worry about the Web 2.0 gap. The second round of the Internet revolution is being run largely by men. In fact, as tech companies need less and less marketing, the usual spots for women in tech companies are disappearing. And as the barrier to entry gets lower and lower, and founders get younger and younger, the hours people put in to start a company verge on 100 percent of waking time, something that women seem to be just plain not interested in doing.
I am not sure what should be done about the Web 2.0 gap. I have a feeling that it ends up getting more and more male-centric -- just like video games. For example, most blogs are aimed at technical types. (Something we might be able to overcome.) Yet the most prominent blog ranking site, Technorati, ranks blogs based on how many people link to them. So a blog catering to people who don't blog themselves would be ranked lower in the blogosphere. The subtle burying of women's voices online.
I'm not sure if it's a big deal or not. But I am definitely sure the time gap and the Web 2.0 gap are having more impact on the business opportunities women see than that statistically irrelevant pay gap is. It's just that the mainstream media is accustomed to writing about pay gap, and not about who is playing poker with the founders of Digg and who is playing Xbox with the founders of Reddit."
Interesting perspective. (I'm still mulling this over and need to check some of the assertions above before buying in wholesale, but this sounds plausible at first blush.) Your thoughts?
Technical Tools To Build Traffic
Site description: "Grabbing an audience and keeping them engaged is enhanced by technical know-how. We're going to help you get some, including how to use syndication to your best advantage, and a little DIY search engine optimization. This is a reprise of what was one of our most popular sessions at BlogHer Business in March, featuring, once again, Elise Bauer and Vanessa Fox."
The Top 5 Ways to build traffic:
Elise also shared a number of site design tips:
The Art of Storytelling
Session description: "There have been many calls for a session about the art of writing itself...how to improve your writing, how to find your unique voice, etc. This session covers narrative prose, and the blog as a platform for narrative prose specifically. In a blogging world of 140 character posts on Twitter and link posts posing as "content", is there a place for stories? Author, blogger and screenwriter Claire Fontaine talks with other bloggers Birdie Jaworski and Ree from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, about why they still find time to write intriguing beginnings, gripping middles and satisfying ends."
Audience: We're trying to build a collective story by way of interviewing a number of people. What suggestions would you have?
Birdie: I live in a small town in New Mexico. The families in my area have an incredibly rich history, but no one ever tells them. I went to the library, found old photographs of the community, and now I am showing the elder members of the community the photographs, and asked them to tell me about that place. If you show people something that can be a visual cue, it can bring back a flood of memory. It's been fascinating.
Claire: Asking the right questions is probably key. If you can ask the right questions, it can tease those stories out.
A lot of interesting conversation of "telling stories" versus "blogging" or other similar forms. Stories are just that ... beginnings, middles, and ends. Characters. Narrative arc. Stories are a very different creature than an episodic blog post that is not of any particular "form."
Audience: Which are the stories that I want to keep close, and just for my family and friends? Which ones do you put out there into the world?
Claire: I just published a memoir. For me, telling "risky" or "scary" stories from your past frees yourself. The stuff that people respond to are the stories that we were originally afraid to publish.
Claire asks herself three things every time she writes: "Is it true? Is it clear? Is it beautiful?" But she also explicitly does NOT think about the "reader," as she would lose her "inner conversation" that creates her stories. The only fact-checking is "am I telling the truth from within?"
Birdie uses contrast as a mechanism. For example, she writes about a man in her town, and compares him to herself. In doing so, she brings out more of what she is about and, at the end of the story, at which she and the subject are equal, but different.
Audience: What about "creative nonfiction," (yes, I know I'm using the term wrong) where I put two things together that were each true, but didn't happen at the same time? Or I leave out the middle of the story, because the beginning and end were the most interesting. What's the right way to do this?
Panel: You *definitely* need to disclose that. Even putting the phrase "based on a true story" will help to prevent you from getting into the trouble. Or, if you're not sure of a fact, preface it with "I think" or "in my opinion"...don't state something as fact if that's not the case.
Claire says "every story is an unanswered question." And don't answer that question until the end. That mystery is the key.
Session overview: "Communities have a lifecycle. What we do to nurture them depends on where a community is in its life. Talk with people at all stages of managing online communities as part of for-profit and non-profit endeavors. What are best practices, pitfalls and warning signs to look for at the birth, growth spurt or middle-age of your community?"
A few key points that have been made regarding growing a healthy community: