Saturday, April 19, 2014

You are no longer Away

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is, How can I be a good community member?

Particularly when you are newly joining a community and don’t have a good feel for the dynamics of the group, it can be a fine line to walk between being a rude and intrusive voice with no respect for traditions  -  and a quiet, inoffensive voice that almost becomes a non-entity.  How do you contribute something, but without shocking?

I’m confronted with this in three ways: 

1. Discussion not Debate

The blog posts that spark an idea in my mind that motivates me to add as a comment are usually the ones where I disagree with the blog author.   

 If I agree with the author, I smile and nod to myself and continue reading without responding.  I’m entertained and educated but not goaded into commenting.  The result is that I come across as a community member who is disagreeable and contentious.

The lesson is that I need to learn the value of adding comments to a blog so that authors know that what they are saying is resonating with a reader; that they are communicating and their effort is valuable. And further, I need to learn how to add helpful comments that contribute to a discussion without seeming to derail it, without turning it into a debate.

2.  Find a Positive Voice

When I add a comment that disagrees with the author’s main point, I run into a second problem.  Primarily, I run the risk of stating my opinion so forcefully that I come across far too aggressively and the author becomes defensive.  Alternatively, I offer something in the mildest terms possible, so that anyone reading has a hard time actually discerning my point, concealed as it is beneath layers of moderating text.

Unfortunately for me, the answer is “be a better writer”.  Everyone has to find their own voice, and for me the answer to this second problem is to make affirmative statements rather than contradictory ones.  It is much better for me to say “I enjoy PVE storytelling” rather than saying “I hate endgame grinding”, even though both statements are true.

3. Linking without Leeching

When I write comments, they tend to be too long.  I mean, why write a comment on someone else’s blog unless you’ve really got something to say?  That seems like I’m actually showing respect to the author, by treating the question they raise with the seriousness it deserves. And if that’s true, it’s going to take a lot of sentences to do it properly. And I want it to be clearly written, as well.  Sometimes 'clearly written' can look the same as 'bluntly written.'

But the truth is that long posts on someone else’s blog feel rude to me, too.  It’s like I’m taking over someone else’s platform for what really should be located on a blog of my own.  I have yet to master the art of pingbacks and leaving links to my own blog always smacks of shameless self-advertising.

Yet this seems exactly what the internet is designed to do: create links between resources. And when I see these links created by other commenters, I’m happy to find another blog that is thoughtfully discussing the same topic.  My problem is that I feel like I’m doing it wrong. I just need to learn how to do it right.

Bloggers can be a solitary bunch. Joining a community like the Newbie Bloggers Initiative provides me with an opportunity to knock off some of the corners that my introverted nature has left in place.

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people.”Jean Vanier

1 comment:

  1. What about conversation? Or even collaboration?

    Maybe one function of the comments section is to allow the blogger to gauge audience reaction -- applause or boos. And maybe another is like bloodletting -- if a post generates a head of steam in a reader, the comments section allows the reader to blow off steam (mostly) harmlessly. Maybe one function is also to enhance the interest/entertainment value of the blog by offering a forum for a lively debate, by giving space for other voices (interesting voices, conflicting voices, humorous voices, etc) to join the first. Maybe the blogger is hosting the conversation rather than presenting a TED talk?