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At my communities, we are proactive when it comes to defending the rights of others, in fairly clear cut matters. There are people out there who are tickled to allow hotlinking, mass copying and pasting of copyrighted articles and blog posts and unbelievable piracy, just as long as no one calls them on it. When they are called on it, they act. But, until then, they are happy to have the traffic. Not me.

One good example of this is our handling of hotlinked or direct linked images. I use hotlinking as an umbrella for when someone embeds or directly links (such as posting the link http://www.ifroggy.com/image.jpg) without permission from the person who is hosting the photo.

We make a reasonable effort to ensure that the person is using a free file host that allows it, a website that has permitted it or their own web space. One site that pops up, from time to time, is Flickr. Flickr’s community guidelines are clear. You can link or embed an image on their server, but you must link to the actual image page on Flickr, as well. So, for example, if you post a link to or embed http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3126/2588974860_9e53e85043.jpg, you must link to http://www.flickr.com/photos/65547304@N00/2588974860/. A common and acceptable way to do this is like this:

As you can see, I have embedded the image here from Flickr’s servers. When you click it, it goes to their photo page. Another way to do this is simply to provide a “photo source” link below the photo. Either way, you are accomplishing the objective and respecting Flickr’s wishes and requirements.

We had a person sign up for one of my sites just the other day and start posting multiple links to images on Flickr’s servers, apparently to photos on his account. Not embedding them, but linking directly to the .jpgs. No big deal, we’ve seen it before, many times. Post removed, documented in our staff area and a kind and polite private message (PM), explaining the problem, is dispatched.

The next day, the guy does it again and adds a question, why was his other thread deleted? (Which, of course, violates our guidelines as referencing administrative decisions). So, again, it was removed and a kind and polite PM was sent, explaining the situation once again.

Now, my moderator – the moderator who handled all of this – did a wonderful job and is a super nice person (as all of my moderators are). With that in mind, here is what the member sends back (note: this isn’t the exact PM, but it is basically a rephrasing of what he said, except with better grammar):

Look,

I linked to Flickr. http://www.flickr.com. Flickr is a FREE host of pictures and videos that allows you to upload your pictures and videos for their blogs and websites. Again, FREE. So you know, Flickr is very large and tons of people use it for direct linking of pictures on their blogs. There’s nothing illegal about it. [Editor’s note: no one told him it was illegal]. Furthermore, the pictures are MINE. I downloaded from them Google and I uploaded them to Flickr MYSELF. You got it now? If not, go to Flickr. http://www.flickr.com. Actually, here are their guidelines: http://www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne.

Thanks for your NICE message. PERIOD.

So, basically, he was a jerk to my moderator. But, this message is pretty funny and the actual one killed me. He probably violated Flickr’s TOS by downloading images from Google and uploading them to their server. That’s nothing to be bragging about.

But, the real gold is in the fact that he linked to Flickr’s guidelines. If you go to the page, you will see that they clearly state:

Do link back to Flickr when you post your Flickr content elsewhere.
The Flickr service makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to outside web sites. However, pages on other web sites that display content hosted on flickr.com must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr.

My moderator sent him back a very nice message, showing him this excerpt and I ended up banning the fellow. But, that message was just too good not to share. There’s a certain hilarity when someone like this links to the page that shows that he is, in fact, mistaken.

Recently, on one of my communities, there was a member who had a post removed. He didn’t care for this and in his next reply, on the very same thread, he talked about how someone had “snitched” on him. His aim, of course, was to speak poorly of the person who supposedly reported him to a staff member and to devalue the action itself, in general.

Of course, this post was removed as well, for a couple of different reasons, with one of them being that it is inappropriate to attempt to intimidate or belittle members who report posts on my forums. We encourage people to do so, proactively, through our guidelines, through messages displayed on our site and directly to members, when they reply to a painfully obvious violation of our guidelines.

I told the person, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior was unacceptable. Members who report potential violations to us are to be thanked and appreciated, not ridiculed. This is why we never say whether or not something was actually reported and, even in a case where it might be relevant, we’d never say by who. We’d never put someone out like that. You have to protect the people who are helping you and your staff, who are helping you to maintain the atmosphere of the community.

Oh, yeah. By the way, the post that was removed, where the person said someone “snitched” on him? No one reported the post. I saw it myself and I removed it, myself. But, I didn’t correct him because it is irrelevant, whether or not someone reported it. The important thing is that he not be allowed to treat post reporting as something that is dirty, or wrong.

Some communities have moderators who only have power in individual forums. This post is not about these communities. This post is about communities who give their moderators power in most if not all forums. Some would call them “Super Moderators,” but I just call them moderators because, for the most part, the guidelines will be the same across your entire site, so they may as well have power in all forums, in case they spot something.

On forums like this, you want to make it clear to your moderators that if they see it, they deal with it. The report posts function is for regular members to help staff members. It is not for staff members to be lazy or, worse, condescending, by dumping violations onto other moderators.

I don’t care if they are “officially” the moderator of an individual section. If they have power in all forums, they should be expected to handle what they see and it should be a part of their responsibilities. I have seen moderators report something and leave it for days and days because they expected a certain moderator or group of moderators to handle it, full well knowing that it was a violation. This is unacceptable and this attitude would tend to betray a lack of understanding of what a moderator is actually supposed to do.

Moderators are there to support one another and the administrator. They are not there to bicker over which violation is whose responsibility.

Funny story. I had someone send me a message on AOL Instant Messenger and tell me that they were interested in affiliating with my site. They wanted to know what my traffic was. So, I thanked them for their interest and asked what their website was.

I took a look at it and while it looked OK, it was similar to what our site was (if different as far as what was/wasn’t allowed), but smaller. In considering the site, I didn’t see any reason to affiliate. So, I thanked him again for his interest, but said that I would have to decline, at this time.

Here’s where it gets good. His next message is basically “Yeah, same here. My members say your site is boring, anyway.” Heh. I didn’t send him another message and he didn’t send me one, either.

So, I visit my site and I see that, before contacting me directly, this person had posted a thread in our introductions forum. Basically, he gave a really quick introduction and asked about affiliating. Then, he closed his message with “This place looks great!” Heh.

Let’s recap. This guy went from “This place looks great!” to “I want to affiliate with you.” to “I didn’t want to affiliate with you, anyway. My members say your site is boring.” All in few minutes. Instant classic.

In September, I went to the Blog World & New Media Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada and spoke on a pair of panels (Blog World Expo 2008 recap). The final panel that I spoke on was called “Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media.” Here’s the panel description:

This panel will discuss how not to approach social media for people looking to promote themselves and/or their companies through blogs, forums, social networking sites and other types of communities online. We’ll highlight and discuss strategies and tactics that can damage you and your brand, such as introtisements and adverquestions (veiled advertisements), lying about your affiliations, never giving anything of value, being ignorant of your surroundings and much more. The end result will be a better understanding of how to utilize the social web to get the word out about yourself and/or your organization. We learn not only from best practices, but from poor practices. Who you want to be, directly relates to who you don’t want to be.

I was joined on the panel by Lee LeFever (Principal, Common Craft), Jason Falls (Social Media Explorer, Doe-Anderson and Blogger, SocialMediaExplorer.com) and Darren Rowse (Owner, ProBlogger.net; Co-Founder, Sixfigureblogging.com; Co-Founder and VP Training, b5media and Co-Author, “ProBlogger: The Book“).

The panel went really well and I was really proud of it and how it all came together, from organization to finish. The only thing that I regret is that I didn’t switch out the battery on my camcorder before going in the session, as my camera died and we lost probably 15 minutes of questions which kills me because the questions were the best part and there was a funny moment or two in there. Hopefully, the Blog World Expo folks taped the questions segment and will release it at some point.

Thank you to my friend Chrispian who did an excellent job manning the camera.

No further description needed, here is the video. After viewing, please let me know what you thought! Thank you for watching.


Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media Panel at Blog World Expo from ManagingCommunities.com on Vimeo.

In addition to Vimeo, the video is also on YouTube (parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5).

On last night’s episode of SuccessfoolTV, I came on to talk about online community, forums, social media, the book and more. I thought it went really well and that it was really informative, so I wanted to share it. You can check it out below.

Live TV by Ustream

Thank you to Alejandro for having me and to everyone who stopped in, helped to spread the word through Twitter and had kind words to say, during and after. I really appreciate it.

Tonight at 9 PM ET, I will be participating in an (approximately) hour long live video interviews with Alejandro Reyes of SuccessfoolTV. We’ll be talking about online community, how you can market yourself on forums, and more. It’ll be on the Successfool Ustream.TV channel and, if you are free, please stop by! Thanks.

I’m happy to say that I am now co-hosting a pair of podcasts (when it rains, it pours). First, the Copyright 2.0 Show with my friend Jonathan Bailey of PlagiarismToday, who I recently met in person for the first time at ConvergeSouth. It’s a weekly podcast dedicated to copyright related issues. As a content creator, I have a definite interest in the subject and have had to deal with people infringing upon my rights on many an occasion. As a community administrator, it is definitely a worthwhile listen as these are challenges that we all face.

The show itself is already 83 episodes in and my first episode, number 84, is online now. Ironically, we will now be taking a 2-3 week break, as Jonathan and myself will both have a little away time.

The second is the SitePoint Podcast, where we soft launched episode 1. This one is co-hosted with Brad Williams, Stephan Segraves and Kevin Yank. Out of the bunch, I’m the only non programmer, so I’m the non techical one, mainly just trying to keep it light and adding insight wherever I can. The SitePoint Podcast is in a sort of alpha beta phase, but hopefully, everything that needs to happen (on all ends) will happen, and we’ll keep it going!

Having been a guest on approximately 30 or more podcasts, these two shows represent my second and third forays into podcast hosting, following my old community management themed podcast, The Community Admin Show.

During the “Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media” panel at Blog World Expo, Ricardo Bueno asked about outreach, specifically tied to promoting a blog, and how aggressive you can be, with that outreach. Check out the video below of the question and answer, care of Lynn Terry.

My answer was, basically, that I feel that where outreach crosses a line is when you use a space that is not yours to use. As an example, I mentioned a blog or a forum where you post a comment or create a new thread and you mention your website.

My friend Jason Falls, the panel’s moderator, deferred to me because I had reached out to him when I was promoting my book, to ask him if he’d like a review copy. I didn’t go to Jason’s blog and post a comment. I contacted him directly. I introduced myself in a respectful, professional manner and I asked him if he’d be willing to allow me to send a copy of the book. And that’s it, really. He could have said no, and he never would have heard from me again. But, he said yes and I sent him one and we got to know each other through that, through me taking the initiative to contact him.

Outreach is fine, but outreach can turn into spamming real fast if you don’t respect who you are speaking to and who the owners of a given space – whether that be a social networking site, a forum, a blog or something else. Outreach should be delicate and considered. You have to be aware of what your surroundings are and who holds the keys.

If someone doesn’t want you, they don’t want you. If they say no, accept it and move on. If you don’t ask and they don’t want it, they’ll shut you down, anyway, and you can gain a poor reputation. At least, if you ask, you’ll be showing them respect, which they’ll appreciate and, you never know, they might actually help you, where they might not have, had you just attempted to abuse their community.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to a pair of conferences in Greensboro, North Carolina. I have now made some headway into my to do pile, so I wanted to take some time to write up a recap while it was still relatively fresh in my mind. What follows is my personal recap of ConvergeSouth 2008 (October 17) and the Independent Blogging Conference at Greensboro (October 18).

Thursday

I drove from my home in Harbinger, North Carolina to Greensboro and it took me about five hours and fifteen minutes, with two stops along the way. My friend Jared Smith, driving in from Charleston, South Carolina, arrived just 10 minutes after I did.

There were two big things that hooked me into coming to these conferences in the first place. The first one was that my friend Jonathan Bailey of PlagiarismTodaywas speaking at ConvergeSouth. But, the other reason was Jared. When I was thinking about the conference, knowing he was within striking range travel wise, I reached out to see if he would be interested in going. Undecided, I kind of helped push him to attend, I guess you could say.

I’ve known Jared for about eight years now. We met through phpBBHacks.com, when he came to the site and became a member of my staff, from very early on in the site’s history. He saw a lot of the … fun challenges that working in the phpBB community afforded us, helping me to tackle them. He was always by my side and we developed a close friendship from that point forward. But, we’d never met in person. It was awesome to be able to do so and a ton of fun to hang out with him for a few days.

ConvergeSouth had official dinners starting at 7 on Thursday, one of which I was scheduled to attend. With Jared headed to one and me to another, we didn’t really have much time to chat before we had to get ready and separate. I went to the one at Table 16. Anil Dash was supposed to be hosting it, but he had a flight change and ended up being unable to do so (he actually ended up coming to the dinner that Jared was at, in a strange twist).

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