Elizabeth Edwards on Online Communities, ConvergeSouth Notes, Part 1

Please pardon any typos or grammatical errors. I am focusing my energies elsewhere, but wanted to get this out. Thanks. -Mike

ConvergeSouth 2006 began Friday night with a barbeque in Greensboro’s historic Aycock district. The barbeque was tons of fun and I got to eat with the North Carolina U.S. Representative Brad Miller. ConvergeSouth is an annual semi-unconference on blogging, podcasting, and videocasting. I say semi-unconference because the schedule was pre-determined and each session had a scheduled moderator, but was discussion oriented.

I first heard about it last year while I was taking a class titled “Blogging, We the Media, and Virtual Communities“. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it then and have been waiting ever since.

The conference attracted a wide variety of people involved in blogging. Among others, the participants included community organizers, hobbyists, consultants, politicians, and journalists. There were political bloggers from both ends of the spectrum; which proved interesting for the first session led by Elizabeth Edwards. Mrs. Edwards, who was speaking on building online communties, kept her politics out of the discussion completely. She told of how she has participated in online communities for nearly as long as the internet itself. Some of her favorite communities have included music lyric contribution sites and grammar usage newsgroups. She joked about how there were newsgroups titled both alt.usage.grammar and alt.grammar.usage. She used this as an example of how the web has helped her see that there are lots of ways to see things. It sounded as if this is one of the major ideas in her mind as she approaches the web. She has also turned to online support groups for more serious issues such as the loss of her son and her recent cancer.

Mrs. Edwards then spoke about her experiences building online communities related to political campaigns and community initiatives. One of her key points was the importance of being able to translate online community into community activism. While this could mean simply donating money through the website, it more properly refers to community members acting locally through face-to-face meetings with one another and their communities.

At one point Mike Krempasky, co-founder of Redstate.com, was invited up to the front so that leaders from both ends of the political spectrum could discuss how they deal with online community building. One of the topics brought to their attention, was whether they find posting a topic that is provocative to community members is better or worse than posting something that is agreed upon by all. It seemed that a lot of that had to do with what the particular point of the community was. In general it seemed that a post too provocative often causes more problems within the community even though it increases discussion. It sounded as though Redstate has found that topics everyone agrees upon are usually best for helping the community stay focused on its goals. This was funny in a way as Mr. Krempasky later took the opportunity to say that he “thought Brad Miller ought to be re-elected” thus provoking major online discussions. I actually went to a dinner hosted by Mike and everyone seemed to find it amusing how quickly the comments built up on the Daily Kos. It was new to me to meet political bloggers from either side and see how they use blogs. For the most part, everyone got along well and kept the discussions to the shared interests of blogging and online community.

Elizabeth Edwards mentioned that she grew up in a military community where the shared interests of cummunity members brought everyone together. She said that she is trying to re-create this feeling of community in all of the connections she makes online and off. Throughout the discussion she stressed that one of the best parts of online community is that it brings people together around a shared interest while leaving out the conflict that can arise from peripheral conflicting interests.

To a question about net neutrality, Elizabeth Edwards said that net neutrality was “enormously” important and was the, “Last town square we’ve got.”

Mrs. Edwards pointed out the importance of local bloggers and how politicians need to pay close attention to their voices. She gave an example of how her husband, John Edwards, has added an endorsement the other night because local bloggers pointed the importance of the candidate out to his staff.

While many other topics were discussed, I want to point out two discussions particularly relevant to this blog. When asked about the future of online community, Mrs. Edwards, highlighted the importance of driving dialogue to small, local, communities such as “libraries” and some other places I can’t remember.

Ed Cone told a story about how he once posted a message to a Tar Heel Basketball fan listserv asking whether they should make an exception and support Coach K in his role as coach of the U.S. team. One minute later, Elizabeth had responded, no they had to support the U.S. team despite the fact that Coach K was their coach.

In part two of my notes, I will share why the Scobles (Robert and Mary)am gave me a t-shirt during their talk.

Technorati tags: convergesouth convergesouth2006 elizabethedwards onlinecommunties virtualcommunities

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Last modified: February 23, 2013

2 Responses to “Elizabeth Edwards on Online Communities, ConvergeSouth Notes, Part 1”


  • i want to email elizabeth with some prolonging life vitami mixtures i found in prevention . i would like to send a copy to her. please email me at katescleaning@hotmail.com with an address that she will be sure to get. my name is katie hopkins i know these vitamins are not toxic and they have prolonged life in patiants done in studies at johns hopkins. please reply to me. i will continue my search for her address .i know there is one on here somewhere.

  • I would like to suggest to Elizabeth Edwards that she try an alkaline diet. I have MS and have found that when I changed my system from acidic to alkaline it made a difference in how I felt. I have read that cancer cell can not live in an alkaline environment. I think it is worth a try. If nothing else the body would get strengthened.

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