I had been involved in the world of online community engagement for literally days when I was extracted for a month to re-emerge intensively aware of the how, what, where and the when.
Buffed, spick and span, my head full of knowledge and senses tingling with a combination of trepidation and excitement, I thrust myself into the world of EngagementHQ savvy clients. “You’ll be fine” echoed the reassuring words from above “say hello, get to know them, look after them and review their online forums.”
Filled with preconceptions populated with images from the arcane corridors of community meetings and the traditional aloofness of governments to community engagement, my first flick through my allotted online engagements was interesting to say the least.
“What a strange place I have come to,” were my initial thoughts, “there is nothing like it anywhere.” I have to admit I was completely and utterly bemused. I kept flicking from online forum to online forum, reading comments, going back to topics, studying usernames.
What’s this! A comment by ‘notinmyspace’ agreeing to a development proposal and being shot down in flames by ‘bigbloke’ who seems to be green, can’t spell and owns a business likely to affected by the development. In comes ‘nefertiti’ from a different angle suggesting ‘notinmybackyard’ be true to their username and say no, while at the same time sideswiping ‘bigbloke’ for not appreciating the wider ramifications of the issue, suggesting he get his head out of own business and tackle the issue from a broader community perspective. Up pops ‘radox’ whose comments just as quickly disappear to be replaced by a note from the moderator, which suggest perhaps that ‘radox’ needs to wash his mouth out with soap or words to that effect.
As I cruise across the forums, I’m drawn back to follow the debate between notinmybackyard, bigbloke, nefertiti and radox who appears to have had his mouth cleansed. I imagine their enjoyment, the thrust and parry as they engage one another adding fertile information to the client’s coffers with their succinct if sometime perverse comments.
Like a bolt out of the blue I’m struck by the transparency of it all and begin to appreciate the resolve of the government client to actually engage their community. Far from the arcane corridors of public meetings and further still from the old age aloofness, I sense a refreshing and evolving approach to community engagement. “Brilliant!” I decide, but hey let me tell you, I just love the sometime eccentric, occasionally confronting, always energetic, colourful, clever and succinct comments of my new friends ‘notinmybackyard’, ‘bigbloke’, ‘nefertiti’ and ‘radox’.
Photo Credits: Rod Waddington
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