Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

When Jerks Take Over Your Online Community

Angry people looking for fights will inevitably try to poison successful Internet communities. Columnist Cory Doctorow looks at ways to remove the poison without killing the discussion too. – InformationWeek, May 14, 2007

Having been involved in running more than one online community, my only addendum to the above assertion made by the co-editor of the popular Boing Boing blog is that it’s not all who try to take over an online community come off like “Hostile Jerks.”

There is an even more more insidious breed of “pharisee” that are the manically manipulative if not outright spiritually abusive, usually couching the co-dependent dysfunction that drives them in comments and behind-the-scenes email campaigns whose subject line is “I’m concerned” or “I only want to help you.”
I’ve have on file more than one example of the ‘rough end of the pineapple‘ … more recent examples of such divisiveness recorded either while helping Chuck Holton help run the operational aspects of HomeSteadingToday.com and/or while running the first iteration of blogs4God.com.

And like the cited InformationWeek article, I can attest that any of you providing a church or lay-ministry oriented online community may also soon find yourself also saddled with the following symptoms of such tares among the wheat:

  • It can be distressing
  • Can occur w/out warning
  • It’s toxic, in extreme cases resulting in a notorious mess
  • Sometimes, you rebound. More often, you tumble
  • The consume huge amounts of your time and emontional energy

And like the aforementioned article, you will need to take action, which Cory Doctorow enumerates as follows:

  • divide and conquer – make the group smaller by separations by topic
  • load balance – distribute the moderation load across more bodies
  • provision indulgences – provide mechanisms for upset individuals to retract posts
  • rise above it – resist the temptation to roll in the gutter w/the troller
  • have fun with it – build tools to mangle their manifestations

I might also add these advisements as well:

  • keep focused on what God has called you to do with your online presence;
  • don’t measure success in earthly terms (e.g. hits, pageviews, etc …), we measure success in changed lives and encouraged individuals;
  • be aware of when the joy goes out of the process, it means something is amiss;
  • ignore the critics whom “only want to help you” – they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, tares among the wheat, a brood of vipers if you will.

Yes, I know I’m coming on a bit strong here – but if worldly communities are suffering this problem – just imagine what happens so those whose goal is already hated by the world.

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