Almost every community has a dedicated rules post, and most tend to be pretty similar. This is partly because some rules (such as "be nice to each other!" "Don’t spam the forum!") are pretty obvious, but it’s also because many community managers don’t spend the time to tailor their rules to the individual needs of the community. Depending on the community in question, this is something that it’s possible to get away with. Many communities don’t need anything particularly unusual or specific in their rules. I do, however, have a few rarely-seen rules that I keep in my back pocket which most communities could benefit from adopting.
One of the defining aspects of any forum is its moderators. The first thing people will say about a great community is how good its mods are. Likewise, responsibility for a failing or toxic community is often laid at their feet. This is a little unfair, as moderators are almost always volunteers, and the job of caring for the regular users of your forum is often thankless and stressful. Keeping your moderators happy, stress-free and well-informed will go a long way to keeping your forum running smoothly.
(Note: This is not being written by a lawyer and does not constitute legal advice. Seeking professional advice on legal matters is always advised)
“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer” “I’ll sue you!” “I think you should be consulting your lawyer about now!” Have you heard any of these yet? You will. It’s the battle cry of the losing party in disputes all over the internet. Legal threats are a common weapon used in an attempt to intimidate and bully people into doing what the threatener demands.
The reason this is so popular is simple: it often works. Most of us have no real knowledge of the law and have no idea what does or does not constitute a breach of it. When someone else seems confident of their knowledge, it’s easy to assume that they know what they’re talking about when we don’t. Depending on the situation, capitulation can simply seem like a simple solution to a stressful situation.
How was your weekend? Good, I hope. I had a pretty good one too, until a snag in my operating system left me unable to play any of my purchased videos. Since a weekend without Star Wars is unacceptable, I turned to the internet for help.
The ultimate nightmare scenario unfolded: a question with no answer online aside from “contact our customer support line. It took 3 representatives a total of four hours to tell me that my problem was unsolvable and to give me a second number to call for a refund. As yet, I’ve not had the mental fortitude to try it.
Community managers work towards a variety of goals. One of the most common is the occasionally nebulous task of “increasing engagement”. Engaged members will contribute more, generate more discussion, give better feedback and are more likely to spread the good news about your community (and brand). There are as many suggestions on methods for this as there are community managers. I’m not going to pretend that I have The One Simple Trick You Need For Huge Engagement. What I do have is suggestions on how to ensure you’re not immediately shooting your community in the foot.
I recently uncovered a particularly frustrating moment in one of my own communities. A member who was excited about an expansion to one of his favourite games attempted to link to some official screenshots from the publisher’s forum. They were surprised to find that they were all dead links. A little investigation on my part determined that their software was configured to restrict linking. I was curious about the game, so attempted to follow the images through to the source. I found that the discussion containing the images was also inaccessible to non-members. Clicking on the registration link then took me to a login screen with around ten required fields. I gave up at that point. If I didn’t have a professional interest, I doubt I would have lasted as long as I did.