Our little corner of the web: caretaking and community

Today the web is 30 years
old. The founder of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has written a passionately worded article about the future of his own invention, and hints at how community building plays a key part.

Today the web is 30 years old.

The founder of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has written a passionately worded article about the future of his own invention, and hints at how community building plays a key part.

Opportunities and dysfunctions

Tim explains that the web has become more than just a place to find information, which was the initial purpose of the HTTP part of the internet we know as the web. The web is also a place to connect with others. It’s not only a shopping mall but also a service provider. A place to find humour, kindness and mutual support.

welcome sign with the image of a house, a cat and the word welcome

There are three key dysfunctions that are harming the web today, according to Tim: deliberate malicious acts, intentionally manipulative systems, and unintended consequences from things that had good intentions.

I think a fourth dysfunction underpins how those three dysfunctions are able to happen – the lack of effective resources (machine and human) for managing online spaces. In other words: ineffective or insufficient community management, design, development and web administration.

As recent articles have alluded to, Facebook’s failures indicate that their platform could be working as intended. Their response showing a new interest in ‘private spaces’ shows a possible change in direction – but time will tell.

red wall with a sign with the word private

Caretakers of the web

For websites, communities and networks to work well, we need community managers, moderators, designers, developers and web administrators.

We also need well-trained and well-resourced people and tools, ethical practices and organisations held to account by effective laws. This is vital to ensure the web is well managed, and users are protected from harm.

The Web Foundation which is working to bring this about with their Contract for the Web which asks people to:

Be creators and collaborators on the web so the web has rich and relevant content for everyone.

Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity so that everyone feels safe and welcome online.

Fight for the web so the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future.

The role of community

Community Managers have a key role to play in caretaking our own online communities and looking after our little corner of the web.

We have the ability to establish our own cultures – offering connection and encouragement, and enabling people to feel that they belong.

We’re able to manage expectations – removing damaging content, encouraging positive behaviour and closing the door on people who harm the wider community.

We’re also able to empower and enable – sharing useful information with newcomers, helping to co-create resources that benefit the community, and signposting people to specialist help and support.

multiple people building a house together

Community Managers who are dedicated to making the web a better place for everyone are worth their weight in gold.

Thanks to the commitment and hard work of many digital roles including community managers, the future’s looking good on the web. Here’s to another 30 years!

Appreciation matters

You never forget the important milestones in life like graduating from University, getting married, or being called a despot for removing a racist joke.

You nostalgically nod when recalling the first time someone told you “I wish I got paid for sitting on the internet all day.”* Or that time the charity CEO said “What’s the point of Facebook.”**

breathe image

Not a lot of people know this, but today is Community Manager Appreciation Day. If you manage an online space where people come together, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed at times, and misunderstood by many.

If you work for a charity, you’ll be absorbed in the real-life experiences of your supporters and on the receiving end of anger, complaints or disrespect. You’ll know the importance of ‘smiling from the wrists down’ when responding!

You’ll never forget the first person whose distress brought tears to your eyes, the first threat to leave your community due to a misunderstanding, or the first time a much-loved member passes away. You’ll know how important it is to find someone to offload with.

toy monkey chain showing support

You’ll also remember the first time someone told you why the community matters to them and what they’ve learned as a result. You’ll know the great feeling of reading through positive feedback, or being able to direct someone to the support they need.

If you’re new to community management, some of those things may be new to you. In time, you’ll find your own highs and lows, and your own tips and tricks to manage through tough times, learn from mistakes and share the great moments.

If you’re a lone community manager, you may not know who to connect with or how to go about this. The best way to do this is to find people in similar roles at similar organisations.

If you’re a community manager and you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone. That there are others who understand.

Keep on learning, keep on sharing, keep on doing. You’ve got this.

graffiti message says you got this

Happy Community Manager’s Appreciation Day! More about CMAD:

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/cmad

*Yes that happened to me.

**That too. In three months they knew they were wrong. In 3 years, I built the brand community from 0 to 14,000 people across multiple platforms.