We have a lot of fans here at The Next Web. They’re a passionate bunch, and love sharing their excitement, sadness, anger and outright frustration with the news we report on.
It’s one of the many, many reasons I love working here. Another reason is the team are also a passionate bunch and regularly talk to our audiences on Facebook and elsewhere.
I believe writing on the Web is a two-way street, and as journalists, we have to be prepared to take direct criticism from our readers. Sometimes those comments cross a line, and I have written about media platforms like ours being used as a soap box for bigotry previously. Other times our readers get the bit between their teeth and won’t let go until they feel satisfied.
One such reader – who has been one of our most engaged readers and our writers have happily chatted to him on many occasions – chose tonight as one such occasion.
It all started out fairly harmlessly. A post about Google Calendar going down upset a minority of our readers as they didn’t feel the story was accurate.
Natt, the story’s author tried to explain that it has affected a lot of people and that despite some users still having access to Google Calendars, the veracity of the story stood-up. Like any polarizing internet story, it escalated quickly.
Soon others joined in, creating a good ol’ fashioned Facebook comments free-for-all.
Then I was asked to come in and ensure that Natt was “sached” for her gross misconduct on Facebook comments, at least in his eyes.
I choose to disagree and so I received a private message asking to speak to my CEO, Boris. If you’ve ever known Boris while lurking on the Web, he enjoys a good trolling more than anybody. And he duly responded.
Things turned a shade nasty after that and we had to put a stop to it.
Now, we’re not out to bully people, nor are we here to make examples of those who might disagree with us on Facebook. The social team at The Next Web works tirelessly to engage with our audience rather than simply ignore, or kick them out. Again here, I need to stress there is a difference between opinions on the news and people saying terrible things about other human beings – the latter of which we will not tolerate.
In this instance I was blown away by the humour and light touch that the people who I work with employed when talking to one of our readers. We are proud to work for The Next Web and because of our size and the pedigree of the competition we’re up against we must go beyond the pale when it comes to supporting each other.
This troll brought our team closer together as we rallied round to protect our own. Since writing my original piece on xenophobic internet comments I was inundated with emails from other sites telling me it’s a problem they experience too. There are many dark corners of the Web and no person or publication will ever change that.
But my response to the more enthusiastic members of our community is this: you are welcome here, but be prepared to receive what you give. We are not a faceless company who hides behind moderators preening our comments. We are a mixed bag of journalists, social media lovers and editors who understand that the internet can be a tough place to be sometimes.
But we will not go quietly into this digital night. I am fiercely proud of how much we talk to our audience, I think it makes The Next Web one of the most interactive sources of tech news on the Web. My advice to others would be to do the same. Blocking or ignoring commentators only creates a vacuum in which they can thrive. Plus, it’s a lot of fucking fun for our team.
So be prepared. When you attack one of us, you attack all of us, and we only grow stronger as a result.
Image credit: FUCKYEAHREACTIONFACE.TUMBLR.COM