Thursday, 7 August 2008

Farewell, troll magnet

One of my first posts was about my bemusement at one of our commenters becoming a target on our messageboards. I said then I thought it was because she stuck up for authority.

Since then, we invited her to blog, and I've changed my mind about what really annoyed people about her (while still thinking the scale of the response was unjustified).

It was, I think, also because she posted too much about the mundanities of her own life, relating every story to her own personal experience. I think this was in the back of my mind when I invited her to blog - the hope she would use that platform to talk about personal stuff, so diffusing the annoyance on the messageboards.

Unfortunately, this spectacularly backfired.

Firstly, she began alluding to the fact we were taking down abusive comments about her, which was like a red rag to a bull. We are now regularly accused of taking our orders from her. The fact she's blogging for us adds ammunition to the claim. (It's not true, of course - but it's got so bad I feel I have to make that clear.)

Secondly, she started upping the personal content of her messages on stories - which really inflamed the situation. So yesterday, she finally threw in the towel. I don't blame her. But I have to admit I am also a bit relieved.

In retrospect, I think inviting her to blog was one of the worst calls I've made at the Advertiser - as much for her as for the site. But that's what a learning curve is all about.

Meanwhile, and still on the subject of looking after your communities, digital journalism blogger Andy Dickinson is promising rambling posts about community, audience and journalism.

He's struck a chord. Before he's even started, Guardian chief blogger Kevin Anderson has pitched in, talking about how mainstream journalists are sometimes guilty of arrogance, and exploiting the communities they're writing for.

I'm bristling, as I think here at the Advertiser we look after our best community contacts - but also because I recognise what they - well, at this point, Kevin - are talking about. I won't pitch in yet, but I'm going to be interested to follow the conversation.

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