Greg Stallkamp, manager of Holos Fitness, a social network focused on fitness
Sometimes a small group tends to dominate conversations in online communities. Have you ever had that experience? How do you try to bring the group back to a balance?
GS: We constantly have small groups or individuals dominating conversations. We try to limit this influence by persuading other members to join the conversation. We will also introduce new conversations or discussions into our community that we feel might be more beneficial to the community at large.
Generally, we've seen that dominating personalities will stop their overbearing influence on a discussion when they see that attention has moved on from the issue. If the dominating personality is the only one participating, that person usually loses focus. Instead, we as administrators try to draw attention to new information/discussion/topics on the site. We often do this by directly targeting members who we want to hear from. We will outreach to these individuals in order to specifically hear their opinions.
What are some good tactics to encourage collaboration and avoid miscommunication?
GS: We directly invite certain people to join certain conversations. We ask them specifically how they feel on a certain topic (which is known to be an interest of theirs). We will also try to introduce certain members to other members with similar interests. These automated features help to "get the ball rolling."
Miscommunication is often a problem and discussions can take on a life of their own. Generally, though, I believe people are respectful of their environments, especially if they are treated with respect. As long as miscommunication isn't deliberate, we let things slide. If there is deliberate miscommunication we will either refocus a conversation, topic, or discussion, or in we will remove certain individuals from the situation.
How do you deal with trolls? Are there any safety measures you have implemented?
GS: I think our membership base is smart enough to ignore trolls. They are interested in relevant, direct information. From what we have seen in the past, they blame the "troller" themselves as opposed to the administrator for spam.
In fact we view spam or troll-related information as a validation, suggesting we are focused in the right direction. If we're getting trolls or spam, it's an acknowledgement of the popularity of a topic. We will then try to be smarter about how we facilitate this topic or discussion. Once in a while we might have to delete the profile of a poster who is clearly out just to post spam-related information, but for the most part we deal with the situation by refocusing the conversation in a more productive manner. This is a way to add new energy into a discussion and refocus the discussion on the most relevant points.
Any tips or advice you would like to share with other CMs?
GS: The success of an online community is really a function of the community itself. In my experiences, people will only take advantage of a situation if they think someone isn't watching or policing the situation. We try to police our community in a very polite manner. We are constantly reviewing discussions and urging participation from our membership base.
(Greg Stallkamp is an entrepreneur. He attended Georgetown University, the University of Oxford and earned an MBA in management and entrepreneurship from Northwestern University. Before founding Holos Fitness, he worked as a business analyst in the banking industry.)
Collaboration on the Web