In my last piece, I discussed Comic Book Resources and their decision to delete their 7+ year old, 12.9 million post forum. It’s a complex story and one that responsible minds will disagree on, as far as the handling of the situation.
I don’t want to rehash the story too deeply, but the crux of the issue was that the community had been allowed to go in a direction that the founder was not proud of. From what he said, it sounded like it was a very vocal, loud minority that was saying terrible things that were racist, misogynist or otherwise intolerant or hateful. Awful stuff. So they opted for a clean slate, which is a reasonable option.
They didn’t just decide to delete all posts. They decided to delete everything. All members. All profiles. All join dates. A member who joined today will have the same history as a member who joined 7 years ago. In my article, I argued for preserving member data, but they made the choice to delete it and start completely fresh – which is fine.
But if you do go that route, you can’t do this.
You can’t allow moderators and administrators to edit their join date, to back date it into the past so that they are a long-standing member. And then when regular members ask about it, allow them to be mocked by others, ending in a joking non-answer from one of the administrators.
As I write this, 3 out of 4 administrators have altered their join date. Everyone but the founder, Jonah Weiland. What sort of message do you think that sends?
You just can’t do that. It can’t ever happen. It encourages members to look at your staff as adversarial, as “them vs. us.”
You might say this is a small thing and it really doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things? Absolutely. A first world problem? Yes, perhaps. But in the context of this community, a small thing like this sends an important underlying message to the regular members: your history here is not as important as the history of our staff members.
That is a terrible message to send. It is small things like this that threaten or slow the success of a reboot effort like this.
If you are going to make your members start fresh, with absolutely no history – you should make everyone start that way. No exceptions.