This is a little long but I need to be clear.
”The site was founded by Gary Day-Ellison in 2010 for the benefit of all. It is only moderated to avoid the abusive or devisive. No anonymous posts and comments!” This was the opening statement of intent on the blog four long years ago. Since that time there have been 428 individual posts and 372 comments.
Initially I put posts up for people and we used a simple, free software called Posterous. Many were reticent to start with, as is often the way with something new – but it was fun. As site administrator I only had to refuse a handful of posts. They were mostly airing personal squabbles, in the heat of a moment, and the suggestion to sleep on it and reconsider was always accepted. A soft touch in a small community and nothing more authoritarian than considered informality.
Posterous was lost to us as an option. It was bought up by a rival and disbanded. I switched to WordPress. It has the functionality of a fully-fledged website and as I type has over 77 million users world-wide. It has excellent potential for expansion – such as a photographic archive of North Bovey perhaps . . . These days website and blog facilities have effectively merged as businesses, groups and publications generally welcome feedback from their communities. Such feedback options are to be found at the foot of most articles whether The Daily Telegraph, BBC, The Guardian or Daily Mail. Even the Government of this country . . .
There are different roles for site users.
Subscribers. To keep out spam and bad-hats as much as possible a user has to subscriber (free) in order to be able to leave a comment. Anyone without a Parish address or no known direct connection is rejected. Users are requested to show a small avatar (photo) to keep it human and help new-comers to put a face to a name.
Authors. Any subscriber who wishes to post an announcement, discussion topic or entertainment piece to the website. They simply ask, I advise guidelines and I switch their status. Authors post directly and these are not vetted – but I would close down anyone who abused this. It has not happened to date. Sometimes I may clean up typos but I do not interfere with the content. This might change in face of a complaint but no one has actually put a complaint to me yet. Authors who post on behalf of group or body are asked to additionally subscribe with the name of the group or body. This is to clearly differentiate between the representation of a group and personal comment.
Administrator/Editor. I have done this since founding. The site is nested on my server space and this saves annual fees to a parish where there are many competing calls for limited funds. I take care of the software in the best interests of the website and to prevent conflict or direct access to my own professional site.
In the rare event of something contentious I send an email for input to Authors. This acts as an informal editorial board. Subscribers have the option to comment as long as they put their name to their views and are respectful of their neighbours and different points of view. I honestly believe that open discussion is healthy, especially when funds are being asked for. Another example would be this letter where some clarification on something that affects us all is needed. Clear posts and announcements can counter rumour which is so potentially destructive to any community.
Current Authors are: Mandy Hart who mostly posts on behalf of the Village Fair in a colourful way that is a good example of how to use the site. Mike Rego posts his terrific photographs. Bovey Castle are able to post events of interest to Parishioners and advise Firework Displays etc. Wendy Spiegel posts on behalf of Friends of St Johns. Jennifer Jones posts about concerts and other things of interest. John Clark has posted about the Environment Group. Lionel Homes has posted on behalf of church events. Paul Smith regularly posted as Clerk to the Parish Council and retains his author status. Richard Edelman posts on Ring of Bells events and hopes to use it more often so we can all know when a special evening is on without having to visit the website every week. Rob Irving has expressed interest in using the site to further the use and facility of the Parish Hall and will hopefully nominate a representative author shortly.
All groups and bodies are (often) invited to take responsibility for their own area and post under that name. If I post on people’s behalf my name appears next to it! I set it up for the community. That’s a personal contribution but I don’t need my name all over it. I add my name to my own, personal views but do not claim to represent everyone. I do not wish to be the focus of every parish disagreement. Or any, ideally!
I also recommend each group or body speaks to me about having a static page, using the top menu bar, for standing information about their purpose, constituency, membership etc. Then posts can mostly be new and current mostly.
I appreciate that some parishioners are unfamiliar with the terminology and software. I am setting up a short workshop to help anyone who wishes to attend. Date and venue to be advised. But soon!
Meanwhile I repeat that the site will work best if people step up to the plate and let me devolve responsibility to respective bodies in the community. I am thinking of other options make the site work better for the benefit of all.
The original blog was never intended or used as a personal pulpit. And I certainly do not wish to be a self-appointed policeman! On my watch the Norman Rockwell on this post, which bears repeating, best expresses the intended characteristic for Village Voices.