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Thought on Online Hosting
from Barbara Steinberg,
co-founder of Radio Free Monterey

Nancy's note: I recorded an interview with Barbara over a year ago, but never got around to transcribing and editing it. Barbara posted a brilliant response to a question posed on the Online Facilitation list serv on July 25. It was strong enough to stand on it's own... as follows! July 2000

NW: What do community managers look for when they are hiring online hosts and facilitators?

Barbara: I would look for someone who is not afraid to try things, who is not afraid that if they put an idea out there, it could be rejected by the group. If you want to be a community manager, you have to learn how to take differing opinions that win over yours with grace.

Another skill is to "let go." You give away power. People come to value their stake in the community and layer their visions on top of yours. They give you back respect. It is with this respect, or consent, or reflection of power that you lead.

To create a community, you have to have a social vision. What part of humanity do you want to reach? What do you want to do with it when you get there?

To manage a community, there is a lot of secretarial work. This one wants that picture put up on the web page. The other one has technical problems. This work must be done with joy because it means something to you. The others must feel that taking care of them means something to you.

Then there is learning the ins and outs of online psychology, which is done just as much with your failures as with your successes. You learn just how far the dark side goes, both in yourself and in others. You also learn how beautiful people can be. Remember your lessons. The community members, who are more important than you, are giving their precious time to teach you.

Being able to do these things takes time, love, and passion. Being a member of an online community is in itself its own reward because the emotional warmth, when it's real, is certainly one of the most beautiful presents life has ever given me.

Doing it professionally should come from the residue that you built up from doing it in your heart. I think a person has to find a certain, balanced point inside themselves to enable them to manage a community well. I have found that when a manger loses this balance, the group figures it out pretty fast and throws them out.

To keep this balance over the long term and manage communities that last is a very interesting philosophical puzzle. I solved it by building my own network. I wonder how others have solved it.

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