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This is a guest post from Heidi Cool, a web strategist and designer based in the Cleveland area. Heidi and I met on LinkedIn and discovered a Cleveland connection and shared habit of taking deep breaths and walking away from negative comments then coming back with a clear head in an effort to respond with dignity and grace. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Here’s more from Heidi on how she deals with negative comments:

The first thing I do is take a deep breath and walk away from the keyboard until I stop grumbling under my breath about the comment. Then I’ll re-read to see which points have merit, which do not, and which may be the result of a misunderstanding. I blog about Web development and don’t tend to stir up much in the way of controversy, but sometimes people will disagree.

I do not censor opposing opinions, I think they can sometimes make interesting discussions. What I do censor is spam. If I received a particularly offensive comment I might censor it for language or edit it–but leave a note in the comment that I had done so. I’ve not had to do that yet, but I think it’s the tactic I would take. In most cases I find it is helpful to leave a tactful response to the comment, so as to clear up any issues that may confuse other readers. The exception would be for someone that is deliberately trying to provoke a reaction.

As the saying goes, “Don’t feed the trolls.” If it looks as though someone is trying to start a flame war I will leave the comment there but ignore it. I recently had a particularly negative comment on a blog entry I wrote, “Is Flash evil? No, but Flash-based sites can be a marketing nightmare. ” I knew this would be a controversial topic, especially for the Flash designers, but I was also trying to point out the potential pitfalls that many designers don’t realize. One fellow referred to the entry as garbage and called it blatantly misleading. However he didn’t state which points he disagreed with, nor did he offer any examples. In this case there was a risk that he may have been just trying to stir up a fight, but I responded by clarifying what my intentions were with the post (which discusses SEO problems I regularly see on Flash-based sites) and asked if he had examples he could share which would demonstrate how these problems could be solved. He didn’t respond, so no flame-war ensued.

Another fellow pointed out a solution to one of the problems. That was a helpful response because it let’s Flash designers know that there is a good work-around for that issue. Overall though most responses, including emails and Twitter feedback, were positive and the entry received many reTweets. This was reassuring because while I knew I had done the proper research it’s always nice to know that others agree.

Sounds like Heidi is a class act. What about you? How do you deal with negative comments on your blog or elsewhere? Do tell.


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I’m pretty sure this post is the beginning of a new series called Troll Patrol. It is as much for my personal sanity as I work through some of these issues, as it is for your reading pleasure and hopefully your benefit.

I do understand that the word “troll” is quite subjective, particularly among community members. Some people consider anyone who disagrees with them a troll, (I disagree) and others think that anyone who happens to show up in the same blogs as them on a regular basis, are stalkers…aka “trolls.” And there are others who do seemingly have personal trolls, who live to make them, and others MISERABLE.

It is truly amazing how a few troublemakers in a community can make it unbearable for others and it is equally if not more amazing how adults can display such behavior that is beyond juvenile.

I have had two grown adult males in my community going after each other like three year-olds for weeks. And believe it or not, it all stems from one calling the other overweight. Believe me, I am not making this up.

I received an email from a member today illustrating how they completely ruined a heartfelt blog with their back and forth bickering when others were trying to have a decent conversation.

That exchange, coupled with this plea from a faithful member sent me over the edge and I sent them both threatening emails. The message was this: “Either it stops, or I end it. You choose.” I indicated that if I had to end it, it would not be pretty and neither of them would be able to come back. Period.

What a shame that community managers have to result to such antics. I have children at home, but apparently have several hundred at work as well. Good grief.

Now, I am not saying that either of these gentlemen are trolls, though the label certainly fits the guy who started all of this mess.

But nevertheless, this is a problem. It will not go away, but I’m ready to discuss it.

What are your issues with troublemakers and trolls, and how do you handle them? If you have any unique situations, please share them, and if you would like me to discuss a particular topic surrounding this terrible topic, please let me know.


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It’s been a great year for me. I fell in love with blogging my heart out and have met some amazing people through this blog and and various other social media platforms. Not to mention the fact that I just landed a publishing contract!

At any rate, if you’ve just found my blog in the last week or even the last month, here is a list of the blogs that garnered the most interest this year. Enjoy!

Here are some of my top posts from 2008:

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As community managers, we really do want everyone to peacefully co-exist. However, this can’t always be the case. In fact, it is is rarely the case. As in life, not everyone in a community, real or virtual will get along. That’s just the way it is.

As the leader, charged with growing the community and helping to cultivate relationships, you also have to know how to step in and take action. Sometimes that action means banning members from the community. It’s not something you want to do often by any means, but you do need to know when there is simply no other choice.

Here are seven situations that could lend themselves to banning visitors:

  1. They continually push the limits and ignore your guidelines or Terms of Service
  2. They are being openly defiant as a means of getting attention.
  3. They are harassing other members on a continual basis with no end in sight.
  4. They live to post inappropriate links and not much else.
  5. They are recruiting others to join a destructive cause within your community.
  6. Everything they post is hostile and an effort to create chaos
  7. They are disrespecting or attacking you publicly and making the issue personal.

I am not indicating that each of these situations should result in a banning. I’ve had every single instance occur in my community and I was sometimes able to communicate with the person and reverse the situation, which ultimately is ideal for both sides.

But I’ve also been in situations that were utterly hopeless, and banning was the only way.

What unique situations have occurred in your community that made “baning” the only option?

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I’ve always known on-the-job stress.

As an assignment manager, I worried about missing a big story or crucial interview, sending the news crew to the wrong location and various other scenarios that involved me ending up in the news directors office for singlehandedly destroying the ratings and making us look like losers on the air. It rarely happened, but the stress existed just the same. When Governor Lawton Chiles died on my watch when I worked at WFLA in Tampa, I stressed about getting it on the air first. It was a constant state of wanting to be first, and best. The sense of urgency was constant. No stress there, right?

As a news and special projects producer, I worried that my words weren’t powerful enough, my intro was too weak or I lacked the great video needed to keep the viewers interest. It was stressful to know that the exclusive interview it took two months to land could bail at the last minute leaving little if any time recover.

While managing media partnerships In the newspaper industry, the worries were also constant. Different, but constant: Will our news partners air our content, will we collaborate successfully, and will I ever get these print reporters to understand that multimedia reporting is not an option but a requirement?

Well, now I’m dealing with user-generated content and the game has changed tremendously. I’m managing content from people I cannot control in any capacity. They are nothing more than a screen name and an e-mail address. Some are even less. I don’t know their intentions or whether or not they’re who they say they are. Quite honestly, I’m not certain about much of anything in this particular space.

New stresses consists of relentless trollers intent on wreaking havoc on the community and calling me out in public blogs and making crude references to my ability (or inability, in their anonymous eyes) to do my job by faceless names who really have no real idea what my job entails.

I recently found a kindred spirit in a post by blogger Jeremiah Owyang: Social Punishment: The Bozo Feature .

In the comments area, I found Marc Meyer who wrote that he’d actually received a death threat from a user. There is a level of insanity in that but it is real. Someone took his role as a community manager seriously enough to wish him dead. Sad, but true.

A member of my community indicated in an e-mail to my boss recently that my moderating policies have caused her “undue emotional stress.” Someone else warned that he would continue to bring a flurry of problems through his posts and purposely disrupt and even attempt to ruin the community if I did not completely remove another member from the community. And just yesterday someone commented that I must be “sexually repressed” because their blog posts riddled with sexual innuendo and inappropriate content had been removed.

I am not making this up.

Are these things worthy of stress? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s important to note that this kind of thing can really get to a person. So, if you’re a community manager dealing with any of these issues and wish to start a support group, I’m in!

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.


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