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What are ideal online Host qualities?

Working as the Director of Conferencing at the WELL has sure brought this question to the surface many times. Here's my evolving list:

Having been online, and expressing oneself for a while... a year or more is best. The reason is that this medium is sometimes quite transformative, and it's good to settle in and also to observe others for a while. Some people plunge right in and do just fine hosting from the beginning, but if possible, I like to pair hosts without much online experience with cohosts who are seasoned and know the local cast of characters.

A long fuse in arguments... but not avoidance of conflict situations, nor of expressing an opinion. Passionate but respectful counterpoint enlivens a scene.

A willingness to shift from 'center stage' to a supportive, active listening role, and back.

A body of knowlege and broad enthusiastic interest in the subject matter. Helps to have something to say, and to enjoy encouraging neophites in your field.

Willingness to learn and teach the use of the software or protocol you are communicating with, and the local online customs, in an easy manner online as we go along.

The WELL's Host Manual has interesting suggestions on cultivating "moderating" skills, and I've addressed this further at panels, informal gatherings and in posts on The WELL.

- Gail Williams,
Page started while Director of Conferencing at The WELL

Fall, 1995

Updated Summer, 1998, while Executive Director of The WELL