Newsvine is about to open the floodgates and the initial rush of new seeds, posts and members will mean that a lot of people are going to be completely adrift in a sea of confusion. Newsvine is a great tool, but I can certainly understand why some of you might decide that it's too difficult to really settle in and make yourselves at home. Information overload is an understandable side-effect of Newsvine. With this in mind, I've decided to write the introduction that I wish someone had written before I was invited:
Take a deep breath and jump right in.
It really isn't that scary, once you get over the sheer amount of upfront information that you're assaulted with. The bulk of the front page is AP stories that are automatically seeded to Newsvine. The rest of the content is a mixture of seeds and posts (Stories linked by Newsvine members and stories written by Newsvine members, respectively.)
Read the FAQ and the Code of Honor before you do anything else.
1. Newsvine FAQ
It doesn't really matter how you contribute, but Newsvine will be at it's best when it's members do their part as well. Reading is certainly one way to contribute (and I'll certainly appreciate it if you read my content) but seeding, posting and commenting are better than merely browsing. More content from a wider variety of members is a good thing. (And vital to Newsvine's success.) It's also important that you vote for posts, seeds and comments if you think they add something of value to Newsvine. (This is clearly a personal decision on your part but I suggest that you think before you vote.) In the same vein; report posts, seeds and comments if they don't seem to add value, are inflammatory or if they're advertising. Both of these simple tasks will help moderate quality on Newsvine.
Read the Code of Honor again!
In fact, you might want to write it down and/or memorize it. Knowing it forwards and backwards will help you moderate your own writing and the comments that you have to deal with when you eventually post or seed an article. I won't mention it again but just assume that I want you to have it in mind at all times.
Set up a watchlist and some regions.
Newsvine is still in it's infancy and you can bet that there are more customization features on the way. In the meantime, take advantage of the ability to watch certain regions, tags and members. I currently watch the following:
This is certainly a personal choice for every member to make, but I would at the very least suggest watching the official Newsvine blog. It's a good resource if you want to keep up with new features as they are unveiled. (Sometimes before they're unveiled. It happens to the best of us.) I suppose you could get away without a watchlist but as I mentioned with my first point; you'll just feel less intimidated if you have one. It's also a great way to make sure you don't miss any content that you know you'll enjoy. (It's like tivo!) I'm adding new people as I find them and new tags as I think of them, but am fairly conservative with who and what makes my list. (Actually, there are some people that I really need to add but haven't gotten around to doing so.)
Do not feel as though you won't get noticed.
Write good content and seed good articles and exposure will follow. (This will be achieved by writing on topics that you're passionate about. Don't write on a whim, and focus on quality over quantity. My posts about entertainment topics are usually better than my political posts.) I would also note that I did not start with Newsvine right from the beginning and have managed to post articles that have generated great discussions by a diverse group of people. It isn't necessary to write sensationalist headlines and posts in order to drive discussion and earn page hits. In fact, I have found that the best discussions have been on the posts that were the least sensational. I've also found that commenting is a great way to get noticed. The more people see your name, the more likely they will be to read your articles and seeds. The first thing I do when I see an interesting comment is look to see if that person has posted interesting articles. I have at least one person on my watchlist that earned their spot in this manner.
Build up a dialogue and familiarity with other Newsvine members.
It's much easier to take criticism from people you like. (And if you don't like them, you can at least respect them.) At the same time, it's easier to "give" criticism if you can do it constructively and not feel that you're going to hurt someone's feelings. I've written at least one article that turned out to be something of a learning experience in dealing with negative comments. I'm still not sure I handled it wrong per se, but I think I certainly could have handled it better. Having familiar faces sprinkled throughout the comments kept me grounded, and it's nice when people have your back. The best way to earn familiarity is to comment as often as possible on original content. (Which is not to say that commenting on AP stories will not work as well.) I would also note that building up a dialog will be much easier if you post some information in your "about this author" section and include an avatar of some kind. I think people are more likely to make contact with users who include this information.
Ultimately, you own your column; don't abuse that power. (But don't be a pushover, either.)
Essentially, people are more likely to continue reading your content if they feel that you respect their positions. Be open-minded and allow discussion to happen. Do not try and dictate discussion unless it derails. (This will happen, so just learn to handle it as best you can. I have found that threatening trolls just makes things worse. I've adjusted my technique to a sarcastic "written" roll-of-the-eyes in response to negative comments and this tends to make them give up and move on.) I suppose it'll help if you've ever read The Prince by Machiavelli. (Or maybe the Art of War.)
Don't be an elitist or negative and think that this is original.
We already have those guys, so don't be that guy. (Or gal.) Just realize right off the bat that if you're here to cause trouble, your comments will be removed. There is a modicum of moderation from the Newsvine team (and even by Newsvine members) and they will exercise this right as a last resort. Call it censorship if you need to, but the fact of the matter is that no one else really cares that your negativity has been removed or that it offends you that you're being censored. For the rest of us, it's the lesser of two evils.
The Newsvine team will take them into account. Mykola Bilokonsky is a great example of a person who writes more about how to make Newsvine better than he does about anything else. His posts always get a great response and the newsvine team apparently jokes about hiring him as a result. (Yes, I'm jealous.) (I just added him to my watchlist as I've been meaning to do so for some time but keep forgetting.) As an aside, this is also a great way to get noticed. Fortunately, the Newsvine team have been very visible up to this point. (They're more like the Greek Gods of antiquity than the God of the New Testament. Though, if you want to make that comparison, I guess Calvin is a sort of a Jesus figure. He's everywhere and people seem to listen to him pretty well; he sort of throws himself to the wolves on a lot of occasions.) I'm hoping that this visibility remains constant because their presence certainly motivates (and moderates) quality discussion.
If you're not sure, ask!
I can't stress this enough. You're going to be confused about something. Write a post about it or simply contact the Newsvine team. I've done so on several occasions and always receive a timely and informative reply. (Usually from more than one person.) If you choose to write a post, the response is usually just as timely and just as informative.
I think that's about it. I would mention that something that we haven't seen a lot of yet is actual news reporting. There tends to be a lot of editorializing and while this is a good thing (in my opinion) the first person who makes their name by writing investigative journalism will be very popular on Newsvine.