Four years, four lessons: Thoughts on community

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Unique project delivery methods help USACE deliver Grafenwoehr community on time, on budgetWhile yesterday’s UC component of this series pointed to the importance of getting engaged in digital outposts, it didn’t really look at some of the ways to do that when you’re actually wanting to plug-in.

I’ve become an extremely huge fan of Tweetdeck. I’ll create columns looking for specific topics and issues. Recently the columns have been focused primarily on the issues of Birmingham and journalism. It’s also helped to have a second screen when I’m home that allows me to keep the streams visible (even if I’m really not looking at them and focused on writing or researching instead).

I shared a few thoughts over on my personal site about managing community earlier today; I figured I’d share a few rules I’ve started living by over here.

Lay out clear policies

This is a case of something I once held as extremely important; luckily I’ve realized that it needs to be again. I’d become horrible about getting back in touch with someone after they’d reached out to me with a question or comment. I’ve recently adopted an old policy that served me well – I must make some form of contact responding to their email or phone call within 48 hours of receipt. Recently it’s gotten to be within 24 hours. This doesn’t mean that they’ll get a response within seconds if they place a call. I think of the phone and the laptop are tools, not necessary attachments.

Don’t assume anything.

This gets to how you’re managing the digital outposts. I’ve realized even in doing these blog posts in recent days that most of the initial traffic comes from Facebook. It’s something for me to consider – most of the folks on Twitter in Birmingham seem to have an understanding about how to find the information they want. A post from The Terminal will not necessarily tell them something they haven’t already found – at least for those currently following the site. I still need to share information there though since not everyone checks Facebook every day (though many people may think that they do).

Respect the outpost you’re using.

Redundancy is a good friend of any online publisher. That said, we probably shouldn’t necessarily speak to everyone the same way across various platforms. Folks on Twitter want to know what’s going on in 140 characters or less (or at least have a link pointing them to a longer piece). One of the things that makes the Internet so rich is what Jay Rosen calls “The Ethic of the Link.” My suggestion is to consider the medium you’re using and tailor the message to fit the medium, but don’t forget that we can always direct them somewhere else for more information if necessary.

Respect the individuals and the process.

I’ve got a funny feeling that I don’t need to explain that one. I also realized if I’d put it up top where it belongs you probably wouldn’t have read the rest of this…

I’d love it if you felt like sharing some additional tips and suggestions below.

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