Today’s post in the February Net2 series is inspired and informed by a conversation I had with Sylwia Presley [reads “Sylvia” in English] . Sylwia is a social media practitioner and consultant who has worked on many projects that involved online community organizing. The thing we focused on when talking though was her engagement in Global Voices -- an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world. Sylwia works as an author at Global Voices and as editor of Polish Global Voices Lingua site . We have chosen Global Voices, because it is the most vivid and sustainable community that Sylwia has been working with. We hope that looking at her lessons learned will prove valuable for the Net2 audience.
Global Voices Online
Global Voices Online is an international, volunteer-led project that collects, summarizes, and gives context to some of the best self-published content found on blogs, podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs from around the world, with an emphasis on countries outside of Europe and North America. Global Voices is formed by a multilingual community of bloggers who collaborate on a range of projects including a translation project -- Lingua. Lingua is about making stories from the Global Voices in English website available in other languages.
The main collaboration tool for the community is a mailing list. Every country, and every region has its own editors, as well as a team of volunteers who contribute to the blog be it by writing or translating the content. What makes them a community are the shared values outlined in the Global Voices Manifesto, a document drafted collectively by participants of the Global Voices 2004 conference and many other bloggers around the world.
To Build a Community
First of the things to keep in mind when approaching the topic of “online community organizing” is, that it is always difficult to manage volunteers, which is the case in this series There are three main ways in which an online community comes to life. The first two are associated with a prestige that is either given or comes when a critical mass of content momentum is reached. The third one is “a spark” that motivates people -- a particular passion or interest that will make people both contribute and come back. That latter is the Global Voices case.
To Keep a Community
Respecting and managing people’s emotions an expectations plays a very big role in the community building process. If it is the personal values, if it is the “difficult to grasp” feeling of being safe, and comfortable, you have to be particularly careful. You can’t play with or manipulate people -- social media drive transparent communication, and it is very difficult to hide your agenda. And the downside is that once you make people uncomfortable, they leave. Once you abuse people’s trust it is difficult if not impossible to regain it, which is why Global Voices is based on mutual trust and focused on an actual work for the cause.
To Be Able To Let Go
Managing people’s emotions is a tricky and hard to handle task, and it it fails, it might not be your fault. So: be easy on yourself. There is little you can predict -- it might be the over engineering, it might be the topic not being interesting enough, it might be the relevance of a project or idea for the local community -- in which case it might be even better if it fails sooner than later. It might be for lots of different reasons that your community project won’t work. But with community work, you need to be ready for that: some things catch on, and some don’t.
Talking to Sylwia was a pleasure, if you’d like to share it, please feel free to contact her using her Twitter handle, follow her blog, or leave a comment here.
Also: If you’d like to read more, and/or get involved in any of the projects that Global Voices is currently working on -- visit the site. The contact tab would be the best if you are looking for assistance.