Byte sized #8: Healthy online communities edition

I’m a weird reader in that sometimes I read just the comments on things like advice columns; the actual advice is that not relevant to me but watching people duke it out over social norms is my reality TV fix.

One of the best jobs I’ve had was at the now-something-else 50Plus.com watching retirees chat and post on our forums. (Pro tip: People do not necessarily get wiser, but you can love them anyway.) But how to maintain great online communities can be tricky, even when you invest resources into it–which many sites do not.

This post over at Autostraddle about healthy online communities and the struggle to maintain them as we’ve moved from a homepage culture to a Facebook culture is pretty great, outlining top issues and their response to those issues.

There have been a lot of analyses of the big Reddit meltdown but I pick Davey Alba’s summary at Wired. I’ll also point you at Gina Bianchini’s piece for Re/code solely for the phrase “control is not an option.” Any brand manager or editor worth his or her salt knows that once you forget about the reader, you’re in hot water. But in online communities it’s your animator/moderators who are your bread and butter. When I was playing PernMUSH lo so many moons ago, I learned this one the hard way.

Josh Dzieza’s profile of The Awl at The Verge is a great read but buried in is this important quote which I would summarize as “communities of interest are currently winning, just not your community”:

The transition from media hosted on websites to media built around social platforms is more profound than people realize, Herrman says. As more content is published directly onto Facebook, users will gradually lose a sense of who’s producing what. The most consequential journalism becomes just another unit of content in a single stream of music videos, movie trailers, updates from friends and relatives, advertisements, and viral tidbits from sites adept at gaming fast-changing algorithms and behaviors. Readerships that seem large now will turn out to be as ephemeral as Snapchats.

And finally, an oldie but a goody…Internet Commenter Business Meeting

Byte sized #7: Being a better person is good for you

Here at casa Gruden, I’ve been mired in confronting our family’s stuff; my mother-in-law is moving in with us at the end of August (yay!) and so we are clearing out some rooms, in a house we’ve occupied for 10 years. It’s an amazing gift of time to be able to do it drawer-by-drawer, but it’s also an exercise in meeting my younger self…books that changed my life, books that didn’t; art supplies and home projects; notes for articles that didn’t take off.

Maybe that’s why this set of links turned out so airy-fairy.

Why Kickstarter is good for you! Over at The Atlantic, Kathy Gilsinan looks at research into compassion and brain chemistry.

I linked to this piece on Twitter last week (follow me!) but it’s stayed with me long enough that here it is for posterity: Brett Martin’s The Chef Who Saved My Life. I have been gifted with a few moments like this at terrible times in my life, and I hope you have too. But we can’t all write about food and camraderie and dark times of the spirit this nicely.

A hat tip to Cloud at Wandering Scientist for sharing this ThoughtWorks piece by Ted McCarthy on why designing apps to be addictive might be, you know, wrong.

However, if you want a little adrenaline spike before your next meeting, try the Great White Shark Circles Around Surfer video below. My parents took me to Jaws at the drive through in 1975, thinking that I would go to sleep in the back seat. I only sat up for the parts with the spooky music, and once the attack was over my parents would realize I was sitting up and tell me to lie back down. As a result, I both have an irrational fear of sharks and I thought for the longest time, well past my teens, that the entire movie was filmed underwater.

Which is why I am sucker to click on any link like this one. Fear as a motivator: Check!

Byte sized #6: World leaders!

President of the United States weighs in on peas in guacamole. Internet outrage at its finest! I predict a slew of recipes-with-unusual-things-in-them. Also, yum, guacamole.

Op-ed or blog post? I’m still a bit bemused at the variations on this one, sample from The Atlantic: “On Monday evening, President Obama took to the Huffington Post to announce that he would more than double the threshold for what a person can earn and still be eligible for overtime pay.”

Reply All’s podcast #25, Favor Atender, is a pretty amazing story of Twitter, a head of state, and how ranting online can get you into trouble.

Covers of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is kind of a hobby of mine and so here’s one of the latest. Not related to world leaders but maybe a nice break.

 

Monkey mind and the zen web editor

I’m not a Buddhist, but I try to engage Buddhist principles in my life for the same reason a lot of diets work: It shakes up my viewpoint enough that I have to work hard to decide which choices to make. Then I can see which junk is taking up shelf space.

This post over at the source of all wisdom, The Huffington Post, defines monkey mind for us:

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.

The Internet, and particular social media, is basically built on monkey mind. Yes, there are luminous pieces and epic moments to be found out here on the web, but if you are in the business of regular, daily content, I would argue that part of your success is almost bound to be wrapped up in how well you appeal to monkey mind.

If your readers were having a calm, centred moment, they probably would not be hovering their finger or cursor over your link.

Every brand, site and web editor has to come to terms with this contradiction. How to deliver quality that also appeals to the monkey mind. Sometimes it’s about an “engaging” (read: distracting) headline. Sometimes it’s a graphic. Sometimes it’s timing. Usually it’s all three and then some.