Creative Commons License photo credit: SmithGreg

I recently had a member on one of my communities start a thread to review a book, which he criticized. Most of his review was fair, but there were some parts that I felt were a little harsh. Still, it was appropriate for our community.

As an author, I do sympathize with other authors because when you really invest of yourself to write a book that means something to you, there is a vulnerability in that. I also don’t want our community to be known for unfairly harsh reviews so while the review itself was OK, I went ahead and replied to steer the topic toward productive discussion.

The next thing I did was to invite the author of the book to the community. I told him about the discussion that was occurring on the community and made clear what was being said. I explained what our community was about – that it is a friendly, respectful community – and encouraged him to join to offer his thoughts.

I did this for a few reasons. First, I’d appreciate someone inviting me in this manner, if it was my book. Next, I think it’s a good opportunity to bring someone new into our community, for meaningful discussion. Finally, I have no desire to create an atmosphere at our community where any member thinks that it is inherently a one sided place and that it is a space where words don’t carry weight. If everyone understands that their words affect real people and have greater meaning, beyond our community, that will lead to better contributions – generally speaking.

I have yet to hear back from the author and he has not joined the community, yet. But, I hope out hope that he will.

Time after time, we see communities pounce on a particular company, organization, product or individual in a constant whipping fest. While it can be easier to simply allow your members to beat on someone in a one sided way, and jump on that bandwagon, I think it sometimes, though not always, more meaningful to encourage respectful sharing from both sides. At the end of the day, you usually want both groups to feel comfortable on your community and that starts with you developing and defending that mentality.

I’m not saying I do a great job at this. I’m not saying I contact everyone who is criticized on my communities. But, once in a while, where I see a good opportunity, I do so and that effort is far better than no effort at all.