While it’s very easy to sit at our computers in the dingy basement flats of our parents’ houses (as Andrew Marr would have it anyway) and pontificate on the way to create and manage the perfect community, we occasionally have to look beyond the screen and face up to the fact that, behind these, there are actual people. Yes, living, breathing, walking, talking, people. In the, dare I say it, real world.
Last Friday, I attended a meet-up organised by the guys behind (I am now cautious of referring to them simply by their online collective name) Wannabe Hacks, a site for up and coming journalists ran by up and coming journalists. The Hacks, known in the real world as Ben Whitelaw, Nick Petrie, Alice Vincent, Matthew Caines, and our very own Tom Clarke, invited their sites users to come and meet them and other members of their community face-to-face, to chat over a beer, whether this be about journalism or not. I know a couple of the guys were quite anxious about the event, seeing one hundred people confirming their intended attendance online but with no real idea how many would turn out in actuality.
The event was a big success, and throughout the evening around 60 people passed through chatting among other people who were interested in the same field as them. With the help of a bit of the old social lubricant, people could share experiences and give advice to others, reinforcing the sense of community that had already been developed online. On the website there are frequent names appearing over again in guest posts and comments, and at such a meet-up you begin to think of those names as actual people. Indeed, it was the first time I had met three of the Hacks, thinking of them previously in terms of online avatars.
On a recent guest post on Wannabe Hacks by Blog Preston‘s Ed Walker he discussed the merit of meeting people in person and developing an already-formed community in face-to-face encounters. Especially when it comes to community management in journalism, we must remember the core principles behind journalism and the old-school days of patch reporting.
It’s all very well sitting behind a computer screen and trawling though blogs and twitter feeds to find the news, but unless we get out there and become actively involved in the community, perhaps Andrew Marr’s comments will start to become more of a reality than we’d like to think.