This afternoon, I issued a summons to our bloggers and most prolific commenters, asking for their help in drawing up a Commenters' Charter. Tomorrow, I also want to put up a promo box asking people if they want to join in too.
The time is right, as helping out with community management will definitely one of the key roles our new web bod will have. We do our best at the moment, but too many dodgy comments are slipping through the net. And with Googleisation, we've lots of people coming to us for the first time, and we really don't want to scare them off.
While the guidelines and advice in the charter will ultimately be up to us, I think it's important our burgeoning online community we have has some input into it. Firstly, this should make them more likely to abide by what's agreed, and possibly help police it too. But I also want to increase our users' feeling they have a stake in the site, which of course they do.
So how am I getting them together? Commenting on one of our stories? Tweeting through a hashtagged stream? Inviting them to join a Facebook group? No, I'm going right back to basics and inviting them to Advertiser Towers.
Is this going against the whole ethos of a local paper's online community? I don't think so. After all, what defines our community is geography - so it's important to know those taking part do live in and around Croydon.
Also, our anonymous messageboards can be a bit hostile at the moment, so I want to diffuse any viciousness right from the start by making the discussion face to face. I'm hoping this may also help stop some of the bullying we've been seeing directed towards one commenter in particular too.
Of course, none of them may even want to turn up. Not sure where that would leave me. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
If I do get a decent turnout though, I may see if we can cover the debate on the web in some way. Hmmm, that's one to think about.
As ever, any ideas gratefully received.