When local entrepreneurs Karilyn Kempton and Simon Wex first launched their online classifieds site, The Stoke List (http://list.thestoke.ca/) in August of 2009, they had no idea what they were unleashing on Revelstoke. Initially they identified a need for a “Craigslist” type-site that would help people find accommodation, as people would have to put feet on the ground in order to find a place.
However, the site quickly blossomed beyond their wildest dreams and has taken on a life of its own. Some may say it is solely responsible for spreading vitriol and hate, but others can understand how it is bringing people together and healing a fractured community identity.
Oftentimes highly entertaining, the Stoke List’s greatest hits of negativity are legend. Who can forget the classic “locals vs. new people” debate, or the more recent Occupy Revelstoke and Employment Insurance disputes? Do we really need to rehash the sign in front of the old PT Farm Market or whether or not the Aussie’s supposedly take advantage of the local food bank (which they definitely do not)? Of course not, at over 2000 visitors per day the Stoke List is projected to hit 1 million visits in January. Therefore odds are quite good that you are very familiar with this. A few, uninformed people with terrible spelling skills have usually started these arguments, which has led to further refinements to the management of the site.
Karilyn was happy to share the changes her and Simon are bringing to the site. As the Stoke List “mom” she often feels personally responsible for what is posted to the site, whether negative, or hopefully more often, positive. With that in mind her and Simon have begun flagging IP addresses to cut down on the strange parrot and puppy ads from Cameroon. She has gotten heavier handed in the past 6 months, personally deleting overly negative posts and creating the “Stoke List Commandments”. In the near future Karilyn and Simon will be launching a new flagging system that will help self-police the posts. Users will be able to give thumbs up or thumbs down to posts. Enough thumbs down from the community, and a post will be deleted.
Recently, this online community gave a big thumbs up to a positive story on the Stoke List. Was it the holiday magic that provoked this? For those of you who may have missed it, a user named “Stefan” wrote a romantic appeal to a lovely young lady he accompanied home one night. Hoping to reconnect with her, “Stefan” warmed the hearts of many in Revelstoke and received an outpouring of support in his quest. It was an excellent example of the positives the Stoke List brings to Revelstoke that are sometimes overwhelmed by a louder minority.
Pets have been lost and found by Stoke List users. Cell phones, skis, snowboards, gloves, wallets and more find their way home via the neighbourly love of the Stoke community. Does anyone else remember the rash of vehicle break-ins on 6th street? The Stoke List was responsible for warning everyone to be vigilant, providing the first line of defense in community policing. The overall contribution of the Stoke List to community building and culture in Revelstoke is a huge net positive. Those who believe the list is good for nothing but Internet trolls spewing hateful and divisive speech are overlooking the benefits brought to Revelstoke. Karilyn gave a huge grin as she recalled the time she lost an earring and a kind soul let her know through an anonymous Stoke List post that it had been found and turned in at a local business. It’s this story that proves that the Stoke List is not responsible for all of Revelstoke’s ills. In fact, it is a labour of love for its creators’ that allows the sharing of kindness, thereby developing a sense of community within our splintered “home.”
At this time of year, many of us will gather with those close to us to reflect on a year of love and friendship. As “Stefan” demonstrated last week with an uplifting message, it is much more fulfilling to reach out and connect than it is to divide and vilify. As we approach 2012 let’s all remember to smile and laugh a little more, it’s contagious.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.