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The news here for most people is probably that the Museum of Modern Art has launched a free iPhone app, giving users access to it’s huge collection of modern and contemporary art and a slew of other tools. After all, that’s the headline of the organization’s press release and it is big news, especially considering all that it allows users to do. Smart.

But what I find awesome about it is how it encourages user-generated content, and then turns around and rewards the user for their efforts with something tangible, useful and that they will probably find quite intriguing.  Here is the excerpt from the release that I found most exciting:

As a useful companion for visits to the Museum, the MoMA App offers users a chance to snap photos inside the Museum and send them as postcards

I think that’s pretty neat. I do wonder though if there were any internal discussions about that feature potentially stealing revenue from the gift shop where I’m sure they actually *sell* postcards. But it’s good to see that it didn’t hinder this cool feature if it did surface as an issue. We are all using our mobile devices as content generating machines. It’s good to see someone leverage that in a way that’s helpful.

Good job Museum of Modern Art.

Here’s the complete release:

MoMA Launches Free iPhone App on App Store

Access The Museum’s Renowned Collection, Exhibitions, Events, and More Through iPhone and iPod touch

NEW YORK, Aug. 12 /PRNewswire/ — The Museum of Modern Art today announces that the MoMA App is now available on the App Store. The new application for the iPhone and iPod touch provides users with instant access to 32,000 works of art in the Museum’s vast collection of modern and contemporary art; a dictionary of art terms and a database of artist bios; calendar information for exhibitions, film screenings, and events; and a variety of audio tours, including special tours for children, teens, and the visually impaired. As a useful companion for visits to the Museum, the MoMA App offers users a chance to snap photos inside the Museum and send them as postcards, and allows visitors to select tracks from their own music libraries to listen to while touring the Museum. The application’s highly engaging visual interface was designed in-house, and when used with the new iPhone 4G and its high resolution and retina display, artworks can be viewed in the highest possible quality. The MoMA App is available as a free download from the App Store, and follows the spring 2010 release of the Museum’s first e-book app Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night.

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obamaThis is a question I don’t want to ponder, and unfortunately I believe I know the answer. I wish I didn’t but I do. I’ve seen it in full effect since the election of Sen. Barack Obama two days ago and it is truly disheartening.

While we as a county have certainly opted for change and the racial lines seem to be blurring, this change is clearly an atrocity to some who will likely use the web and the “cloak of anonymity” I’ve mentioned many times before, to share their anger and spread their hate.

Among some of the content I’ve dealt with today were comments about black criminals getting off easy now because they will have backing “straight from the top,” watermelon seeds being planted at the White House, appointing “Reverend Ike” as Secretary of the Treasury, and Richard Pryor, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to other positions in his Cabinet. Not to mention all of the other stereotypical madness that is so easy to deliver via keyboard.

Am I writing this blog while emotional? Yes, and that could be good or bad. You decide. But as the Managing Editor of User-Generated Content at WRAL.com and GOLO.com, it is my job to develop guidelines for how we manage UGC and I deal with a great deal of it. So this is affecting my job. It’s affecting something I believe in.

So yes, I’m emotional but this is my blog and this is where I chose to vent today. So thank you for hearing me out.

Now, I will go home, reapply my thick skin before bed and come in tomorrow to live and work another day. There is no alternative, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I recently wrote a post about the fact that community management comes with a new kind of stress.

It’s a different type of stress that many of us have not experienced in previous positions. There were quite a few interesting comments on that post and all were empathetic.

Emersondirect wrote: “The problem is, that your users have no such accountability and if they did, would not behave that way.”

Mark O. wrote: “I’ve been the Community Manager for Buzznet for a while now and I can’t even begin to list or explain the abuse I’ve gotten from people. Harassment, hundreds of angry emails, death threats, homophobic rants…”

And in reference to the various types of stress described in the post, Steph wrote: “I think you just described my life at the end there…”

That brings me to this. Today I received an e-mail from a user who called me the “n-word.” But it wasn’t just the n-word. After that, came the “b-word.” I guess she was trying to kill two birds with one stone. I am not blogging about this for sympathy because I don’t need it. I don’t need it because I give her words no power.

I’m blogging about this because it further indicates how far people will go under the cloak of anonymity. It also gives me the fuel to keep building my community because there are people out there, like this woman (who is masquerading as a man in the e-mail) who desperately want to see it fail and live to wreak havoc on the members who make it a good place.

Am I a little miffed? Somewhat. But, I’m more annoyed than anything. That isn’t something you expect to have to deal with or see, particularly in the workplace. But, life goes on, and I’ll continue to do what I do, and do it well.

Flickr community manager Heather Champ got it right when she said this: Being a community manager is like being a pinata. People beat you with sticks and you still have to give them candy.

I couldn’t agree more.

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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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Let’s face it, everyone likes a good trinket. I’ve made a habit of waiting for the final day of the numerous journalism conventions I attend, to swoop in like a vulture and confiscate every little rubber ball, musical dice, crooked pen and furry pencil I can find. Heck, I sometimes start sooner, depending on the quality of the trinket and the chances that they’ll be gone before the last day.
I’m looking at three purple Yahoo! notepads sitting on my desk right now. Those were high-quality trinkets, so I needed more than one. I picked those up on the first day of an NABJ convention.

Yes, most times they’re donned with TV station call letters or the names of newspapers, but who cares? I’ve always needed a handy-dandy triangle-shaped multi-color highlighter thing, and I wasn’t going to pass it up just because of that. You never know when you might need quality highlighters, and thanks to the Times-Union, I’ll always be prepared.

So what’s this all about? I’m suggesting that you spread some trinket-love to your community members? Just think of a reason. Any reason will do. Identify the top posters of the month or the people with the most pictures in their image galleries and tell them they’ve won a prize.
Just make something up.
It’s easy to get caught up in development or managing and growing the community and then suddenly realize that you haven’t been very engaging, or that your core audience hasn’t heard from you in a while.
This happened to me just yesterday. So, I delved into some stats, identified twenty people who met a certain criteria and sent them e-mails requesting their addresses.
This morning, I sent out 20 GOLO mousepads.
A small chore, but the result will be a grateful group of people who feel valued and know that their participation isn’t taken for granted.

So, if you don’t have any trinkets lying around, get some.

Community managers walk a fine line when it comes to dealing with problem users, and that fine line can often feel like a tightrope.

On one hand, you want to grow the community, and on the other hand, you have to uphold your standards for the community so that others will find it attractive and want to spend time there.

During GOLO’s first year, I was very accomodating. I rarely marked content as abuse and gave second and third chances. It was only the most egregious offenders whom I banned outright and I sometimes worried that if I was too heavy handed, everyone would leave.

Well, what a difference a year makes. Experience is undoubtedly the best teacher and I am now officially over that fear. If you’re still holding on to it, I challenge you to let it go. It’s really quite liberating.

If you’re having problems laying down the gauntlet in certain situations and keeping people in line when it absolutely needs to be done, try these tactics first:

  • Reach out to the member via e-mail and inform them of the offense. Make sure your tone is pretty neutral, and let them know you will give them a pass this once.
  • If it’s a well-known member who contributes often, remind them how much you value their participation and gently let them know that you were a bit miffed at their recent post, image or other content in question.

If they challenge you in any way, engage. This is often the time when a breakthrough may occur and it also gives you an opportunity to share information about guidelines and why you have them. It starts a dialog that could really turn into a positive. But be careful about how long you let it go on. If they are questioning you just for the sake of ruffling your feathers, shut it down.

Now, if those don’t work or if you come across content that is completely unacceptable and that you could possibly be held accountable for, you have no choice. Those are the times you cannot think twice and you have to act. You can’t get caught up in the fact that this user was your top poster last month or that they are the leader of the most popular clique in the community.

If you do, you will lose control. Some will argue that the goal of the community manager is not to control. I agree to some extent. You do not want to control a community, you want to nurture it.

But keep in mind that boundaries have to be set, and know that certain members will push you until you literally fall off the cliff.

So before you fall off of that cliff, do something. Engage your community, but set the standards and make sure they are respected and upheld. Will you sometimes fall short? Yes. Absolutely yes.

But if you have to choose between falling short from time to time, and falling off a cliff after walking on a tightrope for weeks or even months…I’m pretty sure you’d choose the former.

You’ll feel it in your gut and your heart may even skip a beat.

I know this sounds dramatic but it’s true, and if you manage an online community you know exactly what I’m talking about. .

It’s no secret that I am passionate about user comments on news stories. I am an advocate for user-generated content and building online communities. I take every opportunity I find to comment on blogs about comments.

I believe I will continue to do that for quite some time. At least five years. Well, maybe two. We’ll just have to see what happens after that. In an ideal world, most news organizations will have realized that they need to embrace comments and hire the staff to manage them by then. If that happens, I will have to find another soap box, but that’s okay. I’m sure I will.

Providing the community with a platform is the ultimate community service, in my opinion, and it’s an important and highly valuable service. It just has to be managed. Set your expectations ans uphold them. Create a community standard! It’s not that hard.

So if you see a post about comments, or you write a post about comments within the next two years, send me the URL so I can add my two-cents. Or, just leave it in the comments area below.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get your community members talking, write a quick blog complaining about an issue in your life and they will quickly commiserate. It’s human nature. Throw out a topic and let them run with it. Keep in mind though, that it It has to be something they can relate to, so don’t go on and on about something that matters only to you and expect people to care enough to jump on board.

Were you stuck in traffic this morning? If so, you weren’t the only one. Complain about that, and stories of individual traffic woes will follow. Trust me. l did it just today in my editor’s blog.

My complaint of choice? Gas prices. Who doesn’t want to complain about that?

Try it. Everyone can stand a little free commiseration. And do come back and share your success story.

My name is Angela Connor. I live and breathe online communities. I am currently nurturing the online community, GOLO which I have managed since it’s launch on July 2, 2007. I am a journalist and I am intrigued by the changes that my industry is undergoing. It has been evolving since I entered it, and that’s what makes it fun.  Join me as I chronicle this journey and do my best to help others along the way. There is nothing traditional about traditional media.

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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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