I have managed KarateForums.com since it was launched on May 21, 2001. I’m not a martial artist, and I’ve always been very open about that, but the site was my idea, I’ve been running it for more than 12 years and I’m very proud of it.
Something funny happens occasionally with new members. Because I’m not a martial artist, they appear to think I am dumb. For example, I recently had a member who chose not to believe a veteran member’s description of their experience in the arts. Which is cool and not uncommon. They asked some questions, which is also fine.
But when they didn’t get the answers they wanted, they grew rude and disrespectful and even started to become a roadblock on the thread, preventing the discussion from progressing in line with its actual purpose.
So, of course, I cleaned that up and had a brief, respectful word with the member to essentially explain the above and the member told me something along these lines:
“I know you aren’t a martial artist, but if you were one, you would understand why rank is so important. Sometimes, on the internet, people claim that they are a rank when they are not. It’s a big problem!”
Let’s change this around a bit:
“You don’t seem to understand that accomplishments hold value. Sometimes, on the internet, people say things that aren’t true.”
Not to say that I was offended or that the member was trying to deliberately be disrespectful, but it’s pretty clear that you’d have to be a certain kind of naive (to put it kindly) to think that every claim people make online is true. More so, it also implies that because I am not a martial artist, I don’t know anything about martial artists.
I didn’t start KarateForums.com 12 days ago. Or 12 weeks ago. Or 12 months ago. 12 years ago. Not just any martial arts community, but one that is among the most prominent. I don’t care who you are, if you’ve done that for 12 years, you’ve picked up a bit about the martial arts.
Of course, you also don’t need to be a martial artist (or even particularly sharp) to understand that not everyone who says they are a 10th dan, or a 7 time world champion, actually is.
The cherry on top was when the member implied that by not allowing him to abuse people at his discretion, I was not being careful and was, instead, not concerned about false claims that people may have posted. The ironic part about this is that the member just showed up in February. Somehow, someway, the community has managed to exist at a high level, under my watch, for 11 years and 9 months before he showed up to save us.
At any rate, the lesson I want to pass along to people using online communities is this: just because the manager of the community may not be a subject matter expert, that doesn’t mean they are ignorant or dumb. In fact, if they’ve been doing it for a long time, chances are they know a great deal about people who are passionate about that topic and how those people interact.