I love my community. I love BlogPaws.
Just last week there was a discussion on Facebook that could have gone wrong. It was between some of the BlogPaws community and me. Mostly.
Let’s just set the scene.
When you create a community, when you’re responsible for a good bit of how that community works and engages, when your goal within the community is to foster discussion, and open discourse, the community has certain expectations from you. First and foremost they expect you to understand them. Generally, that’s easy…because you are part of them.
Ok, let’s get serious. You is me. And them is the community. Our community. BlogPaws. Full of of amazing, passionate people who love animals. We love all animals, but especially those companion animals we share our homes with. Whatever those may be.
Last week in a private Facebook group comprised of BlogPaws people, a discussion opened with this question: “I have a question that it’s kind of hard to ask nicely. But since most of us have Feedly or other feed readers, we have probably seen the blog post that BlogPaws seems to have withdrawn.” (Just to be open and honest… it hadn’t been withdrawn; I was hasty in my save when I wrote it and accidentally clicked PUBLISH instead of “save draft”…and it went out on Feedly. Sigh)
The writer then went on to ask her real question and so it began.
There was push back on a particular post and a particular image with a provocative caption that I created. Me. This is all on me. The folks in the group were concerned that (a) it gave a bad impression of BlogPaws (we thank them for that!), and (b) that it did not represent cats well. It could have been hamsters, but…in this case it was cats. Understand that the issue wasn’t as much about pet involved as it was about the impression created by the post and the image. Effectively, as one commenter said (and this is a paraphrase), “Cats get second-hand treatment all the time! It’s disappointing to see BlogPaws sharing something that promotes the viewpoint that cats are not good pets!”
Whew! You know that took me aback! I would NEVER… but, apparently, I had! Here’s how it worked, I made an image with the caption: Why Everyone Dislikes Cats.
My post debunked that idea, given how much we LOVE our kitty, Molly, but… the image did not quote the post! Plus, the idea of everyone disliking cats left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. After all we do for cats, this particular image (which is all most people could see because I had set the post back to draft) gave folks a shock. BlogPaws…even implying people don’t like cats…well! That could have been done better!
We talked. Well, we typed. I defended myself because I truly had meant to show the positive aspects of being a cat parent, but when I saw a comment that said, “It seems clear to me that it’s tongue-in-cheek. I’m not offended, but were the subject hamsters, I’m sure my reaction would be different,” I got it. I got it big time.
As the conversation on Facebook continued, I saw some fantastic suggestions of how I could have made the same point, using positive, inspiring language. For instance, “10 Reasons Some People Dislike Cats”… or “Do People Hate Cats”.
A few folks agreed that my attempt at reverse psychology is rather popular online these days, but in this case, it didn’t work. It didn’t work because this community (we’re talking cats…because it’s true cats get a bad rap too often, in our opinion!) that battles negativity over so many pet problems and issues, and none more than our meows, that having a BlogPaws writer sharing that kind of provocative content was more of an insult than a support.
The conversation went on for a long time. Maggie Marton, our blog editor joined in saying she was certain I love cats as I do all animals, and she’s right, but even she could see that our community was sharing open, honest reactions and we, as executives of that community, needed to listen to these passionate people who were asking us to understand their point of view. I was so happy that the discussion continued with suggestions, support, and the recognition that hey, they understood I was trying something new, but I had worded it in a way that wasn’t going to achieve the results I wanted – for people to share. Words are power, folks. This proves it!
I did change the image because as I read comments and shared stories and told people what I meant, I realized that I was going to not only support my community by heeding what they were telling me, I was going to make the post I’d written stronger and more successful! Who doesn’t want that?
Deciding to share all of this here was a decision I made to demonstrate the way we, at BlogPaws, solve problems. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. But our community steps up and asks us why…and then they let us explain. And then, they help us do better.
It doesn’t get better than that. If you’re part of a community, it’s your responsibility to be the voice for right and for wrong. It’s your responsibility to be open and honest and accept both criticism and constructive feedback, as long as it doesn’t resort to name calling. Oh, we’ve seen places where name calling can get pretty heated!
I love my community. I love that I can be part of their discussions and that so many of our people will do exactly what the first brave woman did…ask the hard questions and then be open to hearing the answers. I am in awe of how she joined the conversation to help…not to harm. In fact, so so many of the voices that participated just wanted to convey why they were upset with the image, in particular, that I had to sit back in my chair and recognize I was learning more in that group than I might learn in a week of study online.
Are you in a community that fosters open, honest discussion? Are you able to voice a strong opinion, knowing you will not be misunderstood or that if anyone does misunderstand, that the opportunity to talk it over exists?
I am. It’s called BlogPaws. It’s full of passionate people who want to be heard. I hope they know I heard them, last week.
Here are some of them… they deserve to be noted … I am sharing them and their blogs, because the voices of our members are what the wind beneath our wings (so to speak). If you participated and are not included, please leave a comment. I tried to get everyone but, life being what it is, some folks did not get back to me and I did not feel comfortable sharing without permission.
Thank you: Debbie Glovatsy of GloGirly fame. Jessica Rhae Williams hiker extraordinaire at You Did What with Your Wiener . Erin Amanda of Fuzzy Love (who was kind enough to join in and say she got it, she understood what I was going for). Our own Ambassador Deb Barnes of Zee and Zoey. Thanks go to Connie Smith of Kittyblog – love her foster pics! and Janiss Garza of the celebrity Sparkle Cat. Julie McAlee, whose question got all of this started, of Sometimes Cats Herd You, GREAT blog title! Paula Gregg of the awesome blog Sweet Purrfections and Emmy Scammahorn who keeps us connected to our smaller pets. And, from the great state of Texas, Alva Logsdon Cranford with Pawsitively Texas; followed by our friend Carleen Pruess Coulter from Some Pets.
Thank you BlogPawsers! Now, come to the conference… I will be there!
Yvonne DiVita is a Co-Founder of BlogPaws. She is dedicated to storytelling and the human-animal bond. When not working on BlogPaws, she writes at Scratchings and Sniffings and The Lipsticking Society. You may contact her at Yvonne@blogpaws.com.