Old media often see Internet as a cesspool. While we can find that stuff if we want to, Coates tells us that the Internet can offer amazing opportunities to find and curate positive community. He tells us the story of one of his commenters who would write amazing, beautifully-written posts with lots of hyperlinks and sources. The community played guessing games to find out who this was: was it James Fallows? Or Obama? It turned out to be a Babson professor. Coates told his editor that this guy should write for the site. And now he does.
Here’s a tantalizing look at how Ta-Nehisi Coates fosters a positive commenting culture (he’s currently senior editor and blogger at The Atlantic). But I wish they’d posted the whole talk; I suspect there’s a lot more concrete advice to be had here.
That said, “take out the rubbish and clear away the weeds” is a good start for animating a community. And I was especially struck by this passage:
The Washington Post posts notices say “5,000 comments. Join the conversation.” When Coates sees that, he thinks it’s a bar he doesn’t want to join.
It’s easy to confuse volume with success. But I’ll take five people actually having a conversation than 50 (or 500) talking past each other any day.