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This is something I’ve noticed before, but it just happened on one of my sites in the last day or so, so I thought I write a post about it. Basically, we had a member sign up and mention a major television manufacturer in a post, in relation to college sports and what he was going to watch it on. Now, the topics seemed decent enough as the brand was just a small mention in the overall topic, which was related to college sports.

The first time I see it, it seems OK. I mean, afterall, he mentions his TV (and the company who made it) once… that’s fine. But, then he does it again. The second time I see it, where he mentions the same brand (something like the second time in six posts), I make a note of it in the staff forums and decide just to keep an eye on it because it looks like he’s trying to throw this brand into posts. Then he did it again, right after that, with a link to the television manufacturer’s website, this time! Nice try. Enough is enough.

If the company wasn’t paying him (not necessarily to “spam forums” but to “market their product online” and “bring brand awareness”), he was doing it on his own account. Which I really don’t see being the case. I mean, yes, people do that, but the way he was mentioning them and interjecting them into otherwise OK topics, in a sort of covert way – it just doesn’t seem to me to be the type of thing that someone does on their own, to make the company look bad or to promote their products, like a devious spammer, on their own time.

I’m not really surprised by this practice – it’s just that I expect it from smaller companies or individuals who don’t realize what they are doing or don’t care. This company has nationwide television campaigns talking about their widescreens and all that goodness. But, nonetheless, some guy comes and spams my forums in a decidedly clever way, trying to trick us into thinking it’s not spam.

As Managing Online Forums is now beginning to make it into the hands of readers, it’s time to launch the downloadable templates section of the book website.

Appendix B of Managing Online Forums features blank, general templates for your user guidelines, staff member guidelines and contact templates. In order to make it easier for people to use them, we’ve made available a downloadable archive of the templates in .txt format.

The user guidelines detail the types of behavior and participation that you allow or don’t on your forums. The staff member guidelines describe the responsibilities of the staff members on your community and how they should accomplish them. The contact templates are premade, ready to send messages for you to use when a member of your community has to be contacted in regard to a violation of your user guidelines. This helps to ensure consistent communication from staff member to staff member.

Ideally, you will want to come up with your own and, perhaps, use these as a basis. That said, you are welcome to use them as they are on your community. I hope that they prove to be useful.

I’m a community administrator, but I’m also a content creator. Everyone who posts on forums is a content creator, as well. I am also a writer. I maintain a number of blogs, I’ve written a ton of articles and I have a book out soon. I want others to respect my ownership of my content and my member’s ownership of their content, so I do whatever I can to show them the same level of respect.

The best examples of this are when people are a bit too overzealous with their quoting of articles or they use your forums as a means to distribute audio or video clips (through a free file host, most likely). You don’t want your forums to be a cesspool of piracy.

When it comes to quoting from sources, I abide by what I have found to be generally acceptable online quoting practice. That means that I quote no more than one fifth or one sixth of the work and I link directly to the source of the work. If it is a small article – three paragraphs, let’s say – then it’s OK to quote one paragraph. If the article is only one line or one short paragraph, then it’s OK to quote the whole thing. But, in both cases, you must have a direct link to the source.

Quote much more or don’t feature a link directly to the source (no matter how little you quote) and it’s simply not cool. That includes saying “From SiteName” without the actual link to SiteName. It’s not unusual on forums (frequency varies by subject) for members to simply copy and paste an entire article into a thread. Often times, it is very easy to pick this out. When you have a member who rarely can string a sentence together and then all of a sudden, they put together a quality piece of journalism… well, something is up! Take a line from the article and Google it to see where else it pops up. You’ll likely have your answer there.

Similarly, it’s pretty easy to tell that someone is distributing an illegal audio or video clip. No, Madonna, Diddy, Snoop Dogg and Britney Spears did not give crazypirate72bf7s permission to distribute their work and nor did their labels. No, Will Smith’s new movie did not green light a marketing campaign where hotgurl108 could make the movie available to everyone for free.

If ever in doubt, we remove their post and mention that, if we are mistaken, please provide us a way to verify this fact and we’ll be glad to add the post back. Once in a while, that may happen, but most of the time, it doesn’t and it’s better to play it safe here, in order to properly respect the rights of others.

Unfortunately, not all administrators see it this way. For example, at Bad Boy Blog, we do a lot of original reporting. So, we get ripped off a fair amount. There is a community that I know of where the same freaking guy posts our articles up without any link. The owner of the community is just pleased as can be to allow it and receive the benefits from it until I report it, at which case he takes care of it. That’s not being proactive, that’s being reactive and covering your butt when the content creator comes knocking at your door. That’s frustrating and not how it should be. One day, I’m going to get fed up and just start filing DMCA notices instead of contacting the administrator.

You should want these reports to come to you. I try to always, always first content the forums staff because, being an administrator, I want people to come to me, first. Me and my staff will take care of any copyright complaint that appears legitimate. We don’t want people using our community to illegally infringe upon the work of others. So, make sure it’s in your guidelines and make sure that you have contact links on your site where people can contact you without having to register. Deal with violations and ban repeat violators.

Make your forums public so that search engines spider them and content creators can find where your members are using their content. If you have a legitimate reason for having a private forum (staff forums), that’s cool, but don’t do it as some sort of backhanded way to keep people from finding the illegal activities that your members are perpetuating.

At the end of the day, treat people like you want to be treated. Do you want someone ripping all of the posts your members made and putting them on their forums? So, then why would you let your members rip other people off? It doesn’t make any sense. Well run, professional communities respect the rights of others because they want people to respect theirs.

I’m looking for some feedback on an idea that I am kicking around. It was inspired by Darren Rowse’s improptu live chat sessions on Ustream.tv. He appears through streaming video while people in the room chat and ask him questions. I was thinking that I could do something like that here, periodically.

I could have a channel on Ustream.tv and then, at a set time, could host an event on the site where I was on camera (I just bought myself a nice, new webcam) and then anyone in the room could ask their community/forums management related questions and I’d do my best to answer them. Would you be interested in it?

I appreciate any feedback.

On March 11 at 11:00 AM on the Adobe Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center, I did a book reading for “Managing Online Forums”, as part of South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. Back in February, I had asked for your feedback in deciding what I would do a presentation about. I ended up with “Creating a Positive Environment on Your Forums”. I recapped the conference after I returned.

My friend Chris had agreed to take my camcorder and record the presentation, so that I could have it and, hopefully, upload it online. He did a good job and I’m glad that I was able to get it on tape.

It represents an interesting moment for me in that it was my first time ever speaking on stage. Really, it as my first time ever speaking to an assembled group of people that I didn’t know. So, I was a little nervous. But, I prepared and did the best that I could – once I got going, I knew what I had to say and my focus was really on getting the words out, speaking slowly, breathing and looking people in the eyes. I’m happy with how it went and I appreciate the support that I received from the crowd. It was a friendly crowd and that made it easier.

The footage is now available online and can be seen below (through Yahoo! Video) and also on YouTube (parts 1 and 2) in the ManagingCommunities.com channels on each (Yahoo! Video and YouTube channels). I am hoping to post more community management related videos in the future, so please subscribe if you have any interest.

I am going to include the slides I used for the presentation below the videos, as long as the point in time where the slide was supposed to be triggered, so that you can follow along with the slide sequence, as well. Thanks to Jake and everyone who gave me slide related advice.

Thank you for checking it out and please feel free to share any comments you might have, in the comments.

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Amazon.com has made their search inside feature available on my book’s page. So, you can search for something that interests you and get a look at the contents.

AMACOM has issued a press release for the book. Here it is:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MANAGING ONLINE FORUMS
New AMACOM Book Shows How to Create a Fun, Informative, and Harmonious Internet Community

Every day, millions of users log on to their favorite Internet forums and interact with others to get advice and discuss everything from the latest news and trends to their hobbies to their professions to whatever else strikes their fancy. Administrators have to lead these communities, deal with difficult users, and choose moderators. Legal constraints, spammers, and technical issues can turn the excitement of running an online community into chaos. With the right guidance, however, running forums can be a pleasure.

MANAGING ONLINE FORUMS: Everything You Need To Know To Create And Run Successful Community Discussion Boards (AMACOM; April 28, 2008; $24.00 Paperback) is the first comprehensive book to cover everything administrators need to know to launch and run a successful community forum. Patrick O’Keefe goes beyond the technical aspects of forum software and reveals how to develop a safe, engaging environment for people to come and share their thoughts. He has spent years building and managing online communities, so he understands the many challenges of running them firsthand. He explains: “As the administrator, you are the person who has to lead the community, take it to the next level, make the tough decisions, take the heat, deal with the people, manage the staff, and keep the community running smoothly on all fronts. This book targets those who are trying to maintain a professional, well-run operation.”

From creating a brand-new stand-alone community to taking over an existing community, administrators will learn how to:

• choose a name and domain name
• pick the right software
• decide on user options like avatars and private messaging
• set guidelines and deal with violators
• ensure that posts stay on topic
• settle online disputes among users
• involve their users and keep the site interesting
• choose and manage staff members
• generate revenue

Complete with a helpful section on online resources as well as a series of general templates for user guidelines, staff member guidelines, and contacting users, MANAGING ONLINE FORUMS is the one book that shows site owners and administrators how to create a safe and entertaining community that users will return to again and again.

“Online forums make up the very foundation of the social web. Unfortunately, there are few resources for the growing number of people who work behind the scenes to make them successful.  In this comprehensive book, Patrick O’Keefe brings his real world experiences to bear in the form of strategies, tactics and ideas that fill a knowledge gap that has begged to be filled for too long.” —Lee LeFever, Common Craft

About the Author:

Patrick O’Keefe is the founder and owner of the iFroggy Network (ifroggy.com), an Internet network featuring content, community and e-commerce sites. He manages seven communities, including phpBBHacks.com, SportsForums.net, KarateForums.com, CommunityAdmins.com and PhotoshopForums.com. He lives in Harbinger, NC.

Check out the book’s website at: http://www.managingonlineforums.com.

Title:   MANAGING ONLINE FORUMS:
  Everything You Need To Know To Create And Run
  Successful Community Discussion Boards
Author:         Patrick O’Keefe
ISBN:   978-0-8144-0197-2
Pub. Date: April 28, 2008
Price:  $24.00
Pages:  304

For review copies, call 212-903-7951 or fax 212-903-8083.
To purchase copies, call 1-800-714-6395.
Visit AMACOM online at www.amacombooks.org

I just got back from SXSW Interactive 2008. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. It was great to hang out with friends and meet new people. That was really the main part of the conference for me. I arrived in Austin on Thursday evening, March 6 and left Wednesday morning, March 12. So, I was in town for about a week. It was my first time at the conference and my first time in Austin, in addition to the most west I’ve ever been in my life. What follows is a community minded recap of my participation at the conference. However, if you’d like to read about everything else I did, please check out my personal blog.

The first and only panel that I attended was Edit Me! How Gamers are Adopting the Wiki Way on March 7. I wanted to hit this panel because, besides being community related, my good friends April Burba (of NCsoft) and Jake McKee were on it. I attended and it was a solid panel. I spoke with Jake briefly before and after (he was focused and busy) and April a bit afterward.

She invited me to a drink at Champions later that day. While there, I met other people from NCsoft (the company April works for) and also the other panelists that were on the Edit Me! panel – Angie Shelton of Wikia Gaming and George Pribul of WoWiki. Doug Kennedy, Marketing Manager for Wikia Gaming was also there. And I’m forgetting the names of the other people, unfortunately. But, it was cool to hang out with some community minded people and, especially, to get a chance to talk more with April.

March 8 was my brother Sean’s 19th birthday and it was the first time I’ve ever missed his birthday, so that was a little odd. I had wanted to attend the Managing Communities That Work panel – another one with Jake – but I got there late and it was packed. So, that wasn’t in the cards.

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Back From SXSW

Posted by Patrick on March 13th, 2008 in ManagingCommunities.com

I’m back from SXSW. I’ll have a community related recap of my time there (as well as a more detailed recap) soon. Suffice to say, it went well and I had a lot of fun. Good to be back, though!

Through March 14, posting figures to be light (perhaps, there will not be any posts) as I will be attending South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas. As I posted about earlier, I have a book reading for my upcoming book, “Managing Online Forums” on the Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 11 at 11:00 AM. So, if you happen to be attending – please stop by.

I’ll be around, but I am guessing that I will not find much time to post. I apologize, in advance, for this slow time.

Thank you for visiting ManagingCommunities.com.