I am the Editor of MeatballWiki, an rather strange title given that a wiki allows anyone to edit the content of the site. Also, I don't own the server space on which the site is hosted, nor do I control the software. My partner in crime, Clifford Adams, does all that technical stuff for MeatballWiki. Instead, I get to lead the community through wherever I can convince them to go. Also, I get to draw the @*#&!ing logo.
MeatballWiki, very briefly, is an online community that talks about online community and culture. e.g. This discussion would nicely fit there. Also, the goal--at least as I see it now--is to provide practical advice on how to form online communities as well as a kind of support group for disheveled community leaders. I guess it does more than that, but whatever. Get addicted to RecentChanges and see if you can figure it out.
Occasionally you will see me on kuro5hin railing against people for demonizing people or complaining about the lack of activism in geek culture. Other times, I will be boosting my "cause" of open communities. See, I don't think of online communities as strictly communities (even though they are city states). They are open-ended organizations. Old-style media like k5 can only at best advocate. I think you can go a lot further online, building organizations to get stuff done. For instance, I am working on Crystal Palace, a (would-be) community-supported system to track ownership. That way you can easily find out why buying Kraft Dinner funds cigarette companies.
In the online world, I'm kind of unique. I try my hardest to be fair and open and honest and trusting as I can. And I zealously push those ideals onto anyone who will listen. For instance, I believe in soft security over hard. My opinion is that if you want to crack a server, kick it over.
Anyway, onto the questions.
Are there generally accepted rules on the online communities you're involved in? If so, how do you react when someone breaks those rules?
On an open wiki, you're kind of stuck. You can't just kick someone off. Instead, you have to rally the community to respond to the problem. I think this is better because you aren't tempted to beat people over the head with a blunt stick (e.g. the /. bitchslap).
I prefer resolutions rather than mere solutions. I figure, if someone "breaks the rules", usually it's because of a mistake. In that case, the best response is to politely correct them and guide them to what is considered better. Moreover, in the case of real conflict, I am working on a set of strategies for conflict resolution. None of them involve violent means, except for voting. Voting is terrible.
We have a rallying cry on MeatballWiki: barn raising. Collaborate to get things working.
Does your life offline have anything to do with your life online?
I've met people in person after meeting them online before, but the two realms fairly distinct. For instance, I talk to Cliff through MeatballWiki and e-mail only. I've only phoned him once. I think he prefers that considering my sleeping schedule.
That being said, as I occasionally manage software teams in the real world, the leadership skills apply in both places.
Also, I maintain a diary on MeatballWiki. I tend to keep things there Meatballesque, but the diary is there so people knew what mood I am in, what my motivations are when making decisions. After all, we don't meet face to face, and it's so important not to be aloof. So, bits from my real life go in there, like the almost knife fight I was involved in last Friday. I guess this has lead MeatballWiki to be more informal than it could have been, but that's alright with me. That's my prefered style of running an online forum, having tried a variety of other means.
Where do you see yourself with respect to the online community you're involved with? How do you communicate with others in the community?
I am the leader, but I believe heavily in fair process, hence the diary. I communicate on the wiki itself, or by e-mail, or indirectly through my diary, or on their communities, or on other third-party communities. I've talked to one person by phone, another by ICQ. Whatever works.
What problems do you see within the community? Do others make comments you don't like?
Others make comments I don't like all the time, and vice versa. Conflict can be healthy. Actually, I'm a firm believer in acknowledging good work when I see it, even if it shows I was an idiot. Of course, those I've beat with the Flaming Clue Stick of Death (as Cliff calls it, being whacked more than once) may think otherwise. ;)
One problem with MeatballWiki is that the active community is small, but we're not even a year old so I'm not worried. Also, we're still trying to work out what the heck the place is for. It tends to change focus every so often, being rather young. Also, lately, most of the content has been soft as I've been interested in managerial issues and others have been talking about how technology affects their Real World lives. I'd like to move back to a more balanced diet of technical discussion and soft discussion. But that will have to wait until later.
The one problem I have with MeatballWiki is the amount of time it takes. And not just on MeatballWiki itself. I regularly help other sites, or I am catching up on the latest developments, or I am shamelessly advertising, or I'm reading down my deficit. Being Editor is tough, I tell you. And I still have to draw that @*#&!ing logo!
Anyway, I don't have anything clever to end off with. I sent you an e-mail. Feel free to ask me more in private.
"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r