When KarateForums.com hit 500,000 posts, one of the things that we did to celebrate was to conduct a series of interviews with the most influential members in the history of the community. They were taken from various eras. It included members who have been with us for more than 10 years, for 5 years, for 2 years – all different time spans. Some members are still active, some come and go, some left a while ago.
In all, it was 26 different members and these 26 are members who have contributed a lot. They are the ideal members. People who are kind and post great content. They are the members we can never have enough of.
One of the questions that we asked them was: after you found the community, why did you stay? For community managers, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the answers they provided, as it provides an understanding of why people continue to come back and contribute to a community. I am going to include the answers in full, without editing them and identify some of the common themes. Any emphasis is mine.
Friendly, Respectful Discourse
tallgeese: “The high level of discourse kept me here for sure. Again, there was just a high level of interaction between members. Not to mention the people here really know their stuff, they’re from all around the world, and everyone has a slightly different viewpoint. It’s an excellent learning environment. The other thing that is immediately apparent to anyone that hangs out any time at all is the high level of civility that Patrick maintains. This makes KF unique among martial arts sites on the web.”
MasterPain: “This is the only MA forum I’ve seen where people are respectful.”
SBN Doug: “KF was the only online community where the moderators made you feel safe from flaming ridicule for simply having a different opinion, or not being as informed as others.”
ninjanurse: “KF is the only martial arts forum out there (at least that I have found) that stands by its guidelines of good character and proper social etiquette. The contributors are knowledgeable and supportive – and Patrick is an excellent administrator, teacher and friend.”
bushido_man96: “I stayed because the atmosphere at KF is great for discussion, and there is no chest thumping or nasty tirades over what is legit, what isn’t, what is the best, what isn’t. If someone thinks something isn’t quite right, or could be done better, things are discussed in a positive manner, and I think everyone learns from that.”
JohnASE: “I found people here to be more cooperative and interested in sharing than in another forum I found. The other forum had some great info, too, but it was interspersed with a lot more hostility and immaturity than here. Here, people seem to know how to disagree without it degenerating into personal attacks and name calling.”
pittbullJudoka: “I stayed because everyone seems to have a wanting to discuss martial arts instead of running each other into the ground and calling each other a liar on every statement made.”
DWx: “I was just generally impressed with the level of discussion and the fact that every topic didn’t degenerate into personal attacks.”
gheinisch: “An abundance of knowledgeable members without the in-fighting seen on other sites. Great advice given without being critical of one style over another.”
Wastelander: “Not only did I find what I was looking for, but it was a friendly and open environment with lots of knowledgeable people exchanging information.”
Overwhelmingly, the most consistent aspect of the community mentioned by members was the level of discourse that we enjoy on the community. That’s very meaningful to me because that is what I work most for and what I am most proud of. What one member might complain about, many or most members might appreciate.
We have guidelines in place that speak to our expectations when it comes to how members treat one another and those guidelines are fairly and consistently applied. That allows us to cultivate an audience that appreciates our environment. There are more active martial arts forums, but I believe that when it comes to quality of discourse, we can match any of them.
Growth in Knowledge
sensei8: “To exchange ideologies and/or methodologies and the like with other martial artists. KF has a wide plethora of martial artists; the fruit was, and still is, literally seeping off the vine. No matter one’s rank, a martial artist’s opinion is very valuable in one way or another, and in that, their advice shouldn’t be discarded just because they’re a kyu ranked martial artist.
I stay with KF for the same reason as why I stay with Shindokan, and the martial arts… WHAT’S NEXT? What’s going to increase my martial arts betterment just over that next hill and/or mountain that I’m fortunate enough to discover. What’s next?!?! Don’t want to miss it!”
CredoTe: “The exchange of ideas, opinions, facts, history, etc. in great discussions/threads keeps me here. The depth of the knowledge base and keeping the past/history of the arts alive for future generations is paramount. As the MA evolves and goes into the future, its storied and illustrious past will play a key part in its survival. Just as important to me is that I’ve learned as much or more from the folks here at KF as I’ve given. I always want to learn more, so I’ll be around for a while, I think.”
mal103: “The general attitude of the forum is very good. I think I have a good grasp of MA and the humility, etc, but I am in some member’s shadows as there are some extremely good MAs on here.”
Members join our community to grow their own knowledge. They can share what they know and they can benefit from what others know, because we have created an environment where people don’t have to be afraid to not know everything or to feel that is a vulnerability or a weakness. In fact, I work hard to promote the idea that truly smart people understand their limitations and recognize when others can aide them. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Harkon72: “I found the conversation mature, well administrated and informative. I feel we are a mixed bunch with a rich and varied knowledge base. It’s fun to see what people do in martial arts, to share and enjoy good banter and community friendship.”
yamesu: “I stayed because of the diversity of members from around the world and from a variety of styles (which makes for good conversation), as well as the interesting topics that are discussed.”
This ties in to the growth of knowledge, but is worth mentioning on its own. Several members mentioned the diversity of our member base. The community features people who take many different martial arts, are at different experience levels in those arts, from various locations, of all ages, male and female. The diversity of viewpoints adds value to our community and our members recognize that as a primary benefit.
monkeygirl: “I stayed because the conversations were always fresh and engaging, and it was a place where I could ask questions I didn’t feel comfortable posing in my dojo.”
While this also could be placed under the idea of respectful, friendly discourse, I wanted to highlight it separately because a few members did reference the level of engagement that exists within the community. People enjoy talking with one another because of the level of respect and the diversity. That all of these members can participate on a level playing field creates conversations that are interesting and engaging.
Lupin1: “You guys help keep me motivated. I may be on the verge of quitting or just giving up on practicing and coasting and I’ll come here and see all the passionate people and see how much work you all are putting into your training. It makes me want to work harder, and be more involved, and pushes me forward. Thanks, guys.”
Our community definitely helps to keep one another motivated in the pursuit of various goals. Just sharing what one has accomplished helps others to aspire. I mentioned this in my recent article about forum post quality, but we have a thread where people share their physical fitness activities from that day. To some, it may not look like much, but I have heard members say that it helps keep them motivated because if they skip a day, they feel like they missed something. The thread helps keep them accountable.
We also have a forum that is for the discussion of testing, grading and promotion, which naturally motivates people. A member of my staff shared the build up and experience of making his amateur MMA fighting debut. That was fun and it can definitely motivate others interested in a similar path.
SaiFightsMS: “The atmosphere and the genuine sharing of the participants was the best.”
ps1: “I’ve stuck around because there’s a really great and positive community on this forum. It got me through a really difficult time in life.”
DoctorQui: “I love this forum! Connection problems in recent months and my concentration on finding a job and training for Shodan has meant that I have been a bit scarce recently but I always dip in and try to keep up with discussion.”
ShoriKid: “I’ve gotten to know, as much as one can, some of the other members here. The maturity, depth of knowledge and lack of teenaged ego have a lot to do with why I’ve stayed.”
PunchPressQueen75: “The people.”
It’s true that all of the benefits lead to a community that features those characteristics and, as such, they all tie into the people. But it is worth repeating that a like-minded audience attracts other like-minds. People who are interested in respectful discussion, in diversity, in growing their knowledge, in engaging conversation and in motivating each other are the people we will attract, because those are the people that we already have.