We’ve just started sending the last Helium News members will receive for quite a while. We’re reevaluating how best to communicate with our members.

As we look at Helium.com, we realize we have lots of ways to let you know what’s up, and maybe an old-fashioned e-newsletter isn’t the most efficient anymore.
So, for our Helium News swan song, we want to remind you of all the places to look for up-to-date messages from us:

  1. Helium Inbox. With the introduction of the Helium Inbox, you can get all your messages in one place. Be sure to use the settings function to personalize things like email notifications and your signature.
  2. Announcements box at the top of your My Helium page. Your My Helium page is where to look for your latest stats too.
  3. Community forums. Look for the News from Helium forum for the latest or in Marketplace News and Questions for info on our latest publishing partners.
  4. Helium’s official blog will have more frequent updates too.
  5. You can also check on us through Facebook and Twitter.

As always, if you want to get in touch with us, write to Help@Helium.com with technical questions and to Content@Helium.com with questions about articles.

I’m a big fan of Paul Lines – usually when he chimes in on a subject it’s well thought out, concise, and yet insightful.  He chose to weigh in on an interesting thread I’ve been following.  I’ve reposted the current version below.  You can find the current version and the rest of the thread here.

The format from the blog and the one from the boards are slightly different – so any reformatting is mine simply for readability’s sake.

This has been an interesting thread and, as my name has been mentioned by Khalid, I thought I would add my ‘two cents’ to Kat and the others here. Three issues have been raised that I would like to comment on.

Quote from: Khalid Humayun on July 16, 2009, 01:52:22 AM
“Powers that be are we the writers (Paul Lines).”

I agree with Khalid that this is a democratic site and that, to me, is one of its main attractions. We are ‘the powers that be’ to the extent that it is the content contributions we have made to this site that has helped build its success. The better the quality of that content, the more success will be gained by Helium and, as suppliers, by us the writers as well. The democratic style of this site, such as these discussion boards, helps the ‘supply’ content of writers as a whole to improve, which continues to drive the success that all of us share in.

‘Volunteers’ – I have to say that I dislike the word ‘volunteer’ simply because of the fact that in recent years it has, to a certain extent, become tainted with the belief that ‘volunteers’ have an ulterior motive, which is clearly not the case with the overwhelming majority.

I have to agree that the scenarios outlined by CV yesterday could occur and no doubt some will from time to time. However, at Helium any of these situations are balanced by the depth and breadth of the numbers and people who are volunteering. As Carol suggested the democratic ‘team based’ approach at Helium provides adequate counter-balancing measures to any particular issue. For example, there are always those who will take over if another volunteer has time or other constraints. The team environment lifts, helps and supports the volunteers and makes it stronger and more relevant and reduces issues related to such things as bias and quality.

One other issue on volunteering that I would like to comment on is the discussion related to whether ‘volunteer and should’ are contradictory. I also disagree with the comment that ‘we should all volunteer’ for two reasons. Firstly, I do not believe that I have the right to impose a value standard upon someone else. Secondly the demand context of the word ‘should’ within that statement suggests that a person who does not ‘volunteer’ has a lesser worth than someone who does, almost creating a class distinction. Volunteering is a personal choice not a social demand in my view. I do not think that anyone has the right to judge another using this as a criteria.

Furthermore, I think it has to be remembered that there is a lot of ‘volunteer’ work that goes unnoticed. For example, and I know that I am not alone in this experience, I get a lot of direct messages from Helium writers asking for help. Like all those in this position I do not seek recognition, reward or acclaim for this. I give because it is a two way process. I learn and gain value from the experience and so, I hope, does the person who has asked.

Reward/Pay – many have also commented upon the reward and pay side of volunteering. Personally, although I can understand the comments of those who agree with rewards in this respect and have nothing against payments being made, any payment for volunteering is irrelvant and not sought. As I said, the reward for me is the value I gain from the experience. In addition, by giving I am also helping to improve the quality of the site and this effort is rewarded by increased earnings here, sale of stock and marketplace articles and, perhaps most important, the extra showcase value that it attaches to my work, which has in the past led to a range of other paid freelance opportunities.

Well I see that this was 5 cents rather than 2, but these are just my thoughts and opinions.

Paul

There was an interesting case study on the boards this past week in which a member brought up an issue which was near and dear to their heart in the wrong way.  We all have hot button issues that are important to us.  Sometimes we feel we have a strong grievance against how we were treated.  Using a public forum can be useful for these if used productively.

The right way to do this is to state your side, how it made you feel, and why you feel it’s wrong.  The wrong way is to rage against the machine, citing injustice, how the system is flawed because of this one (usually relatively small) thing, and demanding restitution immediately or the one that caused harm will face dire consequences.

Why?  Simple – think of a message board thread like a game of follow the leader.  By posting the first thread you’re setting the path for the rest of the responses.  If you start off belligerent and threatening there’s little reason for people to placate you.  While there is no tone on the internet it can be implied by phrasing.  It’s common sense that someone is more likely to be willing to help you if you don’t immediately hurl out insults, be belligerent, or worse – insult / incite those that come to help you out anyways.

By simply stating what has irritated you in a civil manner and asking for guidance and/or clarity on why this state has been reached you’re must more likely to receive civility in return.

I’ll borrow from Rex‘s love of analogies.  Say you buy something from a store.  And that something is broken.  So you go to the customer service desk to return it.  If you walk up, explain calmly that what you purchased is broken, and that you’d like to return / exchange it it’s likely the transaction will be handled swiftly and easily.

Meanwhile, if you instead go up, slam the thing down on the counter and start cursing out the person manning the desk about the store’s poor quality and insulting their intelligence you’ve set a much different starting tone.  They are not going to handle the situation the same way.  The squeaky wheel does not always get the grease.  Some companies will kick you out for mistreating their employees.  The customer is not always right.

More importantly – put yourself in their shoes – how would you prefer to be treated?  I have been in the above situations and know I prefer the first one.  In the second I have little inclination to help at all and, if I do, to only do the bare minimum.

There are many sites that are very similar to Helium.  We only have a few things that set us apart.  One of them is our sense of community.  We try our best to help you out – we, being Helium employees.  We empower users – stewards – to help you out further since we can’t handle it all ourselves.  These are members who volunteer their time to help you.  Even non stewards hop in and help simply out of the goodness of their hearts.  As a result, we have a community where anyone can make suggestions, all are considered, and many are enacted.

You can be an employee, a steward, someone with thousands of articles, or someone with one – all can have input.  You can act however you want – that’s the freedom of the internet.  I’m asking you to behave with civility.  To respect others opinions and feelings.  To be a productive member of our community.  And, more importantly, to hold others – including myself – to those same standards.  It’s hard sometimes to not lose ones cool – I speak from experience.  When you feel that coming on, take a breath, step away, and come back in a little while.

A closing note – I’m not saying to not speak against the system.  I’m not asking you to not speak up when there is a grievance, or when something doesn’t make sense or isn’t fair.  Quite the opposite – we’re only going to find out by you telling us.  The fact that we have such a close relationship and open communication with our user community is one of the things that allows us to separate us from others by providing users with the tools and fixes they need.  All I’m asking is you think before you “speak.”

Treat others as you would want to be treated.

I think that’s a fair enough request.  Don’t you?

I hope that helps.

Today begins the first in what I hope to be a semi-regular series of “guest blogs.”  I asked several higher profile and/or personal favorites of the Helium community if they wouldn’t mind contributing.  The contributor is none other than Piper Wilson.  Piper is one of our more… quirky helpers in the community and, from what I’ve seen, very well liked as a result by the community as a whole.  If you like her contribution, you should check out her articles on Helium.

And now, for the main event:

Many of you know me from the Helium Discussion Boards here at Helium.  I am a volunteer moderator for them, and I also run the Writer’s Critique Forum.  I answer questions, provide suggestions and help folks find the answers they need.  What that really means is that I spend an inordinate amount of time running around the Helium Discussion Boards sticking my nose in here and there.

We interrupt this blog to bring you the following announcement.

Come one, come all to the Featured Daily Peer Critique forum and post urls to the Feature My Article for Critique thread! And now a word from the Writing Critiques Forum:

I invite you to come over to the Featured Daily Peer Critiques in the Writing Critiques Forum.  You can submit the url of any article for suggestions to help you improve your articles.  Specifically, I need folks willing to submit to the Featured Daily Peer Critiques if you’d be willing to do that.  If you don’t feel comfortable submitting any of your articles, please come by anyway and throw your two cents in to help out other members.

We now return you to your blog already in progress.

So sorry for that rude interruption, folks!  Where was I?  Oh, yes.

This afternoon, I received the following email from a new member.

“I am new here.  I see your name often in the community.  I know I am supposed to know this, but what exactly does a post mean?”

I remember what it was like when I couldn’t figure my way around the boards.  It feels remarkably similar to what I feel like when I go to Betaville, but that is a topic for another blog entry.

I came up with a visual analogy to illustrate my answer to her.  I became enamored of the analogy, and asked Eric to let me blog it.  First, I’ll explain the overall “geography” of the Helium Discussion Boards with my analogy.  In a later blog, I’ll describe the tools that I use to navigate around them.

Geography – The Helium Discussion Board has the following “places” in it.

  • Index
  • Sections
    • All Things Helium
    • All Things Not Helium
    • Channel Forums
    • Helium Archives
    • Helium Discussion Board Info Center
  • Boards
  • Child Boards
  • Walls
    • Sticky Threads
    • Threads
      • Posts

Now the analogy.

Imagine that the Helium Discussion Forum is a building.  When you walk inside, the first thing you see is the Index; directions that tells you how to get where you want to go. This is like the foyer or entryway.  There are five hallways leading away from the foyer/Index.  These are the sections.  As you proceed down each hallway, you find smaller corridors branching out from the hallway.  These are the Boards.  Some of the corridors have sets of stairs you can follow. These are the Child Boards.  Lining the corridors (Boards) or the stairs (Child Boards) are walls that have threads hanging from them.  The threads closest to the top are more prominent than the threads a bit farther along.  The prominent threads are “Sticky” and the rest are regular threads.

This is where the posts that our new member asked me about come in.  Posts are the messages that appear in threads.

Imagine that someone hangs a piece of thread on the Wall, and posts a piece of paper with whatever they want to say on it.  Then someone else comes along, reads the original post and wants to answer the first.  They post a piece of paper with their statement on it under the original post.   When you click on the thread, it will open and you will see the posts that people have made.

Review

The foyer (Index) looks like this.

foyer_index

The first hallway (Section) looks like this.

first-hallway

The first corridor (Board) and sets of stairs (Child Boards) look like this.

corridor-and-stairs

The first Wall (Sticky threads and regular threads) look like this.

walls

TO BE CONTINUED…                 (no, that’s not a threat)