Online Groups are little microcosms with their own energy and hierarchies. The longer they exist the more entrenched these power positions become. They are no different from the outside world in that way. So what happens when a new person is introduced?
It all depends on the new person.
Fitting in – Web Groups
I guess this is a bit of a “how to” blog post to try to guide certain people to have an easier time fitting into closed groups on the web. I am sure all of you who belong to a group or groups know what happens when a new person comes along and just generally “does everything wrong” – he/she rubs everyone up the wrong way.
Remember, in many ways the way people act in online situations is similar to the ways that they act in any other group situation. There are people who always want to talk and share their ideas, there people who only watch and listen, there are people who are respectful of others points of view and there are people who are disrespectful of others.
Now when a new person joins a membership only group and starts posting and making a noise, at first one or two kind souls take pity on this boor who isn’t respecting the “code”. This just seems to be fuel on the fire – he picks up speed.
Often his posts are irrelevant and intrusive and group members cringe when they see yet another post from the newbie. That is when even the most free-spirited group member wishes they had an admin that could disappear the newbie so that the members could get back into their comfortable reassuring rhythm.
Rules for New Group Members
So if you are a new group member, remember you are joining an established group of people – introduce yourself and hang around for a week or two and watch what goes on. Read the posts and get a feeling of who is who.
Here are some more tips:
- When you are feeling a bit more comfortable, contribute now and then to the strings.
- Don’t make yourself too visible yet.
- Don’t start a post yet. Just let the others get to know you.
- If you can help someone, do so. Don’t show off or be a smarty pants – you are in their playground and you’re the new kid.
You’ll notice when they start including you or chatting to you that you have been accepted – that is when you can start posting and fully participating.
The main take-away is don’t rush in and start demanding or broadcasting. You will face rejection. Just take your time and settle in with the group. When you are comfortable; you can participate.
Do you have any tips about joining online groups – or any interesting anecdotes about them? If so, please feel free to share in a comment below!
The Amazon Forums are a completely different jungle – a whole separate set of rules should be developed for them.
I think my only addition is that it needs to go two ways. Absolutely a newbie needs to learn the rules and rhythms of a group, but groups also need to be welcoming places. Someone who’s new certainly shouldn’t have to wait for people to start answering their comments.
I’d also say that groups thrive on different models. Some groups have a very specific focus, and thrive by adhering to that focus – these behave a lot more like traditional “real life” groups. Others thrive by continually adapting. Especially in the internet age where so many open source groups make incredible strides through this model and create such vibrant environments in which to problem solve, I think it is essential for a group to make clear to a newcomer how it operates – and to be aware of how it operates. Most conflicts I have witnessed (and I’ve witnessed a lot) have come from misunderstandings over what a group does – either because someone wants a more horizontal collaborative approach and can’t understand why the group has admins or codes of behaviour, or because someone wants a more vertical structure and can’t understand why the noisesome sidekicks aren’t silenced. If a group hasn’t made its nature clear (and often it won’t be clear to the group itself what that is in the early days) then there needs to be understandning rather than reproach on all sides
The Alli groups are quite friendly as groups go – I’ve been on groups where nobody talked to me or responded to me for months 🙂 I agree Pete about misinformation.
There are quite a few writer groups on LinkedIn where WRONG INFORMATION is frequently offered. Wrong information on copyright law, defamation, titles, about everything you can think of.
Do not offer information just because you’ve heard it somewhere else. Unless you have studied original source material, don’t try to come across as “the expert.” If you read it somewhere else, then say, “I read in a blog somewhere that…”
And here’s a good one:
NEVER post three comments in a row! (Semi-serious on that one.)
Good points, Pete, thanks. Re the first one – it’s too easy to end up with “Chinese whispers” if you’re not careful i.e. “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” turning into “Send three-and-fourpence, we’ve going to a dance” – the exmaple my elderly uncle always likes to give!
Like that comment about attribution, something all good journalists and historians follow. Excellent idea for bloggers, too.Would like to comment on other comments here, but in observance of the above wisdom, will throttle my impulsivity!
Haha! I’m sure no-one would mind if people commented on comments – this site is all about driving conversation between writers. But I think the post is probably something worth re-reading now and again just to keep oneself in check! (Not known for holding back, myself!) 🙂
Haha, yes, I think I jumped in too quickly in the FB ALLi group. But l seem to have been accepted well! Thank you to all of you who have made me feel welcome!
It wouldn’t be the same without you, Jess! 😉 Maybe we can put up a link to this post every now and again if anyone gets out of hand, as a gentle hint!