[Breaking cover from looking after a delightful 6.5 month old to share this comment that I originally left on Adam Tinworth’s blogpost about my colleague Joanna Geary’s recent talk in Brighton about community and media. Thought it was worth cross-posting here because it helps explain what it is I actually do for organisations.]
I joined the Guardian in 2007, as Head of Communities and User Experience, a role which hadn’t existed before. Although my background is in Social Anthropology, I’d actually been working in digital media for a decade by that point – notably for AOL UK (and later, AOL Europe), in editorial, then social product innovation & development, always drawing on my training and research, plus enduring curiosity about people (‘users’) and the way they create, play, identify and act in social spaces, which was the topic of my thesis back when we called the whole thing cyberspace.
So when I joined the Guardian in 2007, I’d been working broadly in the same social-digital-editorial area for a long time before that, as had others.
I also wanted to clarify that I wasn’t doing the community management/social media management job inside a news org a few years before anyone else, as the above seems to imply, although the Guardian has always been forward-thinking and bold in the place where social and news overlap. Emily Bell, who brought me on board, was particularly keen to explore this area.
But I am neither a community manager nor a social media editor/producer/manager/etc. There are others far more skilled at that front-of-house interaction, moderation-management and user-wrangling than I, and I’ve been delighted to have hired and worked with lots of them in my time.
My role at the Guardian (and before that, at AOL) has always been predominantly internally-focused on establishing community and social strategies within the organisation and creating a fertile medium for change to take hold organically. That means working at a senior level as well as throughout the organisation creating strategies, structures, policies, training, guidance, hiring people, establishing best practice, initiating experiments…
In fifteen years of working in this space, every role I’ve had has been about preparing organisations (and communities, technologies…) for the next thing. By the time that next thing comes along (or becomes a business as usual), I’m usually working on the *next* next thing.
[And now back to maternity leave!]