As I have previously mentioned I began a community blog recently, but with little success. I had come face-to-face with the reader:lurker:contribution ratio. So it was with interest that I listened to Adam Tinworth’s views on the subject.
My own experience of community blogging has been as a regular reader (rather than contributor to) Feministing and Short Sharp Science. Two very different subject areas (!) and two different interpretations of the meaning of ‘community blog’.
Short Sharp Science started off as a series of specialist blogs on the New Scientist website, but recently became one ‘super-blog’. Its contributors are the same people who contribute to the magazine including its editors and reporters. Rather than being the place to report the harder science that the magazine takes care of it contains a lot of more human interest and political approaches to the subject matter. Short Sharp Science is a community, but it is a professional community and one of science journalists and not enthusiasts.
On the other hand, to contribute to Feministing all that is needed is to sign up and post. This could be considered a fairly dangerous approach to blogging but the site is extremely successful and its proprietor Jessica Valenti a successful journalist in her own right who works with her team of editors to moderate the blog. So how do they do it? Social networking of course! The site has branched out with a Facebook group, a YouTube page and a Meetup Alliance.
A good example of an open community blog that embraces a geographical rather than a subject area is Dublin Community Blog. All that is needed to contribute is a quick email to the administrator to put you on the list of authors. The blog contains what’s-on information and has also embraced traffic-driving sites such as Flickr.
So is the answer to a successful community blog an increase in traffic rather than enthusiasm? It would make sense looking at the reader and contributor ratios. Unless there is an RL equivalent, like with New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science, it is unlikely to attract traffic alone. However, it is important to question how the use of these UGC sites would be differ from straight news sites.