LBRuT has been sending out emails to borough residents inviting them to join its new “innovative online community”, Talk Richmond. The closed community is open to anyone who lives, works, studies or volunteers in the borough.
The proposed deal is that members can use the live online platform to have “open discussions” with the council and contribute to the development of LBRuT’s services, campaigns and communications.
If you get on board (and El Brute accepts you as a member – aye, there’s the rub, of which more below) you will be able to get involved by taking part in polls, posting photos and creating videos as well as sharing your views about council matters. Members will be expected to sign in to the website for 5-15 minutes a week on average and take part in up to two weekly activities.
“The community is a platform for members to influence council campaigns, such as isolation and loneliness among older people, improvement to roads and pavements, the development of schools, community safety and Village Planning,” LBRuT says.
But Talk Richmond will not be a free for all where members will be able to post their feelings, vent their frustrations and shout loud about any local issue they fancy. While LBRuT says that members will be able to “suggest their own topics for discussion”, it makes clear that it will be in charge of leading activities within the community and therefore controlling what does and does not get aired in the live forums. If the example LBRuT gives – “discussing the design of a new poster or brochure” – is anything to go by, things will be kept on a fairly safe and genteel level.
LBRuT is setting up the Talk Richmond community with the help of customer relations specialist Cspace – wonder what that is costing? It is LBRuT, not Cspace, however, that will be managing the online community which means it will be responsible for moderating the live discussions for illegal or offensive content.
So how will LBRuT tackle that challenge? Even if it avoids having to deal with some abusive comments by not allowing discussions on uber-contentious issues in the first place (a la Gloriana boathouse, for example), it will still need to monitor the site in case members suddenly turn troll-like on seemingly innocuous topics. As anyone involved in websites that invite live comment knows, such moderating activity costs time and, therefore, money.
LBRuT’s biggest barrier against trolls, however, will be its vetting of member applications. To register as a potential member, you have to divulge personal information including age, sex, marital status and ethnic origin. You also have to agree to a raft of legal terms and conditions and a community code of conduct which includes LBRuT’s right to suspend or terminate membership of anyone who breaks it.
LBRuT will then keep all applications, “in an online holding area whilst being reviewed”. This ‘reviewing’ process is aimed at setting up a community of members that is “demographically and geographically representative of the borough”. Presumably, it will also give LBRuT the chance to reject any likely troublemakers. Once 100 members have been selected and approved, Talk Richmond will be launched.
So, are you now in the mood to Talk Richmond?