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I’ve got this creepy guy e-mailing me every day or other day. Some days, he’s more condescending than others, but there is always this creepy, demeaning tone to them. Often times, he just asks “What’s up?” He calls me “Patty.” He’s been at it for weeks now, or longer. He’s very stalkerish.

The first time this happens, it can be fairly jarring. But, the truth is, I’ve seen it enough where it doesn’t even register with me. I stopped responding to him a long, long time ago. I think I only responded to the first e-mail, confirming he was banned, then he sent some long, disrespectful, crazy rant e-mail about how stupid I was. I’ve documented every single one of his e-mails in our private staff member documentation area, but that’s the only action I take.

When you hold a position of authority where you make decisions about someone’s ability to participate in something, this is just a part of life, unfortunately. So, how do you deal with it?

First, know when to stop responding. When we ban someone, we ban someone. We give people chances, often times many chances. When it’s time to ban, it’s time for them to go. I respond to every message from a member who is not banned, but once someone is banned, I only respond when there is a valid reason for doing so. I don’t repeat myself, I don’t argue with them. Usually this is confirming that, yes, they are banned and, no, it isn’t going to be lifted.

Once in a while, someone who is banned will apologize in a manner that allows me to consider unbanning them. But, that’s pretty rare. Once I have confirmed that they are banned, and that it is not going to be lifted, approximately four different things can generally happen.

1. I don’t hear from them again.

2. They accept it.

3. They let me know how stupid I am and then I don’t hear from them again.

4. They let me know how stupid I am and they continue to e-mail me over an extended period, usually with random insults or annoying statements.

1 and 3 are much, much more prevalent than 4. But, 4 happens (as does 2). And, once you tell them what is going on and they don’t have any legitimate questions, it’s time to stop responding. You only have so much time in the day and you can’t waste it.

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I returned from South by Southwest Interactive (recap coming soon – suffice to say, it was great, and my talk went well, too!) and, eventually, proceeded to visit my communities and process my usual responsibilities and tasks. When I came to SportsForums.net, I found that a post had been removed that featured a link to the website of a weekly print newspaper.

The author of the post was one of the paper’s staff writers and she had linked to a sports article she had written that was published on their site (as part of their blogs). We knew it was her because her name was part of her username and the e-mail address provided was her e-mail address on the paper’s domain.

The post was her first, one and only and it was basically your typical self promotion advertisement. A link with a quick description of it. It was an obvious violation of our User Guidelines, where we generally do not allow people to create threads to bring attention to links that they are in some way affiliated with. Pretty typical, open and shut case of spam. Not that big a deal, in and of itself. People make mistakes. The post was removed and she was politely notified by one of my moderators.

Instead of apologizing or simply not responding, however, she decided to send a reply that was troubling on a few levels.

First, she claimed that she did not receive any credit for the article, even though her name was credited as the author who wrote it. She followed this up by calling the moderator “uptight,” and by slamming our community as a whole, saying that her link was “more valuable than 95 percent of random thoughts/opinions that make up the bulk of the forum.” Her link with a 30 odd word description was more valuable than virtually all of our community throughout it’s 8 plus years of existence. Ouch.

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There’s nothing wrong with being the best, wanting to be the best and striving for it. However, sometimes I think that people get caught up with the idea that you have to be the best to be worth anything. While that may be the case in some fields, that is most certainly not the case when it comes to online communities.

Online communities are about people and different people have different needs. What someone may not get from one community, perhaps the largest community in the niche, they may be able to get from another, smaller community.

You can be number 2, 3, 4 or… whatever and still be important to the people who utilize you. It’s about knowing your niche and pursuing it. It should be about your goals and ideas and about who you are as a community, not about having the most posts or traffic at any cost because if you have to sell out who you are to get there, it’ll be a hollow “victory.”

Update: Embedded the saved stream below. Warning: it’s rough!

Today, March 14, at 1:30 PM ET, I will be speaking at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) 2009. I will be giving a presentation called “The Art of Responding to Feedback from Your Community.”

For those that were unable to make it to Austin for the conference, I wanted to try to stream the presentation on Ustream. The video stream is embedded below. If you’re free, please check back at or a little before 1:30 PM ET today. The presentation will last for no longer than 20 minutes.

It may not work because we are at the mercy of wifi and bandwidth, but I will try my best. The camera angle may also be awkward. Even if it doesn’t work or isn’t ideal, a friend will be taking video for me of the entire presentation that I will post online at some point, as well.

During the presentation, or after, please feel free to provide feedback on Twitter @patrickokeefe. Thank you for watching!

Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

I’ll be attending the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) 2009 conference in Austin, Texas, from March 13 through March 17. So, things will be a little quiet around here at this time. I appreciate your patience.

On Saturday, March 14 at 12:30 PM, I’ll be speaking, giving a presentation called, “The Art of Responding to Feedback From Your Community.” After the presentation, at 12:55 PM, I’ll be doing a book signing for 20 minutes at the SXSW Bookstore. I’ll probably sign whatever stock they have, so if you miss the signing and still would like a signed copy, please stop by the bookstore!

But, even if you can’t make it to my session and would like to meet up, just let me know. Probably the best way, after March 11,  is to send me an @ reply on Twitter. My Twitter name is patrickokeefe. I look forward to seeing you there!

I did some testing today and I am hoping to stream my SXSW Interactive 2009 talk, “The Art of Responding to Feedback from Your Community,” live online via Ustream.tv. The presentation starts at 1:30 PM ET, but I’ll probably try to start the stream a little earlier. You will hopefully be able it on the ManagingCommunities.com Show channel.

Please keep it in mind that it may not be possible. It will depend on the wifi connectivity as well as the available bandwidth. Fingers crossed, we’ll make it happen! Even if I am not able to pull it off, I will still be taking video that will be posted online at some point.

I am thinking that I would like to start an interview series with various community administrators – people who are in the field, working every day and tackling the challenges that we all face.

For these folks, I figure that it would be a good idea to have a basically set list of questions that they will all get asked. Informative, interesting or simply funny – I’d like to hear your thoughts. What should they be asked?