Anil Dash posted a wonderful piece this week on his blog entitled, if your website's full of a**holes, it's your fault and I thought I would take a moment to agree with him and amplify his remarks. He says, "When you engage with a community online in a constructive way, it can be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life. It doesn't have to be polite, or neat and tidy, or full of everyone agreeing with each other. It just has to not be hateful and destructive."
It does seem like civilized discourse has eroded, and some will blame the Internet for that. But we have always had trolls and bad behavior -- those of you were are old enough to remember Usenet groups can attest to this, even 15 or 20 years ago.
Dash lays out some pretty solid rules for keeping content high quality and developing the right sense of community on your Web properties, and they bear repeating here.
- You should have real humans dedicated to monitoring and responding to your community. We are devoting more resources here at RWW to this function and I think a dandy idea that you should too.
- You should have community policies about what is and isn't acceptable behavior.
- Your site should have accountable identities. This is perhaps the most controversial. Anonymous posting is fine, with supervision. Email postings are best, but only if they are "real" email accounts that can be tracked back and confirmed, or when you actually know the person.
- You should have the technology to easily identify and stop bad behaviors. We have been having problems with some comment spam here, and it is a war of attrition: you have to be constantly on top of this.
- You should make a budget that supports having a good community, or you should find another line of work.
Dash says this is just a start of a good checklist, but there is a lot worth reading here and at least make a copy to send to your boss to justify additional funding.