web 2.0 and social media | October 22, 2012

The Power of Community: Ta-Nehisi Coates Embraces Online Commenting

Ta-Nehisi Coates recently spoke about online commenting communities at MIT's Media Lab—something he is more than qualified to discuss. Coates' blog at The Atlantic was recently named by TIME as one of the 25 Best in the World, and it's not hard to see why: He's prolific, provocative, and timely, and every day he draws an impassioned community of commenters to the site. Coates, ever the able host, can often be found weaving in and out of the threads, adding his thoughts, clarifying ideas, and debating with posters. It is this dedication to community (coupled, of course, with his perceptive and thought-provoking writing) that has helped to make his blog so popular.

A good blog post is like a dinner party, Coates says. You should feel comfortable speaking your mind, but there are unspoken rules about what should and should not be said—and the host is responsible for ensuring those lines aren't crossed, and doing damage control when they are. There's a lot of "rubbish" on the Internet, and a lot of people who will comment and post with the elicit intention of spewing hatred or bigotry. However, when you nurture and moderate that online community, as Coates has, you can cultivate a group of people who want to discuss issues civilly and expand their own knowledge. Coates admits he was hesitant at first to allow comments on his blog, but once he struck the right balance he says he has been exposed to "new information and helpful insights," that he would not have been privy to otherwise. His contributions to the community aren't restricted to cyberspace, either, as Coates is just as comfortable in front of a live audience as he is interacting with a virtual one.

When he's not blogging he's busy writing print classics. His memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, was both touching and hard-hitting and his premiere novel, which he is in the process of penning now, will undoubtedly deliver the same thought-stirring quality that has come to be expected of the writer.

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religion | October 21, 2012