I came cross this yesterday. It’s a short interview by Jeremiah Owyang with community manager Connie Bensen during which Connie provides some tips on handling online criticism. Though the interview is from 2007, her advice is entirely applicable today.
I’ve been thinking more about online criticism lately after helping a client deal with some recently and after reading yesterday’s post by David Brauer about the vitriol in comments on startribune.com stories and how they are now affecting coverage by intimidating sources.
YouTube and a lot of newspaper sites tend to be a hotbed for name calling, bullying, profanity, vulgarity and racism.
The problem is accountability. Neither YouTube nor the Strib require the use of real names. Photos that accompany comments would also help to temper the vitriol because it will make it feel more like you are criticizing someone directly to their face, which is harder for people to do.
I also think that social networking features like Facebook has can help raise the level of discussion by further enforcing accountability. When your activity is broadcast to your own personal network, you’re not very likely to want to look like an ass in front of them.
The presence of and participation by someone connected with the forum, be it the reporter who wrote the story or the owner of a Facebook Page, will tend to make people behave simply by virtue of a person in a position of “authority” being there.