When Staff Members Reply, It’s Bigger Than Them

Posted by Patrick on February 27th, 2008 in Managing Staff

You will have members on your forums (sometimes crazy people) who will speak in a way that will frustrate you or a member of your staff. Whether it’s the way they express themselves or what they are saying,  Maybe they’re just annoying, in some sort of way. However, they are still following your guidelines, so their posts remain and they must be treated with respect.

What I try to always keep in mind (and what I tell my staff members to keep in mind) is that when I reply to someone, I’m not just replying to them – I’m showing our members how to reply to them. As the administrator, or as a staff member, I must set an example for members to follow. So, even though I think BeeBooBop23 may be the biggest idiot on two feet, I’m not going to allow that to cause me to speak to him in a manner that could be perceived by members as disrespectful.

Why? Because my responsibility and the community are bigger. They are bigger than this moment, bigger than BeeBooBop23 and bigger than me. As a leader, or as a staff member, you must always consider how you words will be perceived and whether or not you are setting a suitable example that your members can follow.

SXSW Presentation: Creating a Positive Environment on Your Forums

Posted by Patrick on February 23rd, 2008 in Managing Online Forums (Book), Press

After listening to feedback (and feedback that was offered on a one to one basis, I have decided to go with the idea that was most popular: Creating a Positive Environment on Your Forums.

Thanks for the feedback.

Video: How To Behave On An Internet Forum

Posted by Patrick on February 20th, 2008 in Humor

VideoJug has come up with a tongue-in-cheek guide to behaving on online forums. Worth a watch and good for some laughs. Warning: some inappropriate language and content. Watch below.

How To Behave On An Internet Forum

Via Brad Linder via Mark Fraunenfelder.

SXSW Book Presentation Ideas

Posted by Patrick on February 17th, 2008 in Managing Online Forums (Book), Press

I will be doing a book reading in March at South by Southwest Interactive. Instead of a “reading”, it will actually be a presentation around an idea or series of ideas that I discuss in the book, most likely backed by slides of some sort. It’s the first time that I’ve done something of this nature. But, I am looking forward to it.

What should I do the presentation on? That’s the stage I’m at now. I’d like your feedback. I’ve given it some thought and have come up with half a dozen ideas. Please give them a look and let me know what your favorites are or what your favorite is. If you like none of them or have a better idea, feel free to look at the table of contents and suggest something entirely different. Keep in mind one key limitation: I have only 20 minutes of stage time. So, I want a presentation that I can fit into 15 minutes, in case it goes long or so that I can take a couple questions.

Here are the ideas I’ve come up with:

Are You Ready to Manage Online Forums?
This discussion would cover the fundamental things to consider before you decide to start a community. What do you want the forums to cover, who do you want to attract, are you ready for the time commitment, can you support the community financially, etc.

Training Forum Moderators
I would focus on the training of community staff members through staff member guidelines, a violation documentation system that they can learn from and by  encouraging staff members to ask questions.

Developing User Guidelines for Forums
Talking, in a general sense, of the creation of community guidelines. The time limit prevents me from covering all of the things that can be covered in guidelines, so I’ll need to, as I said, speak generally, as far as the guidelines influence over the community and what they can do.

The Process of Community Forum Moderation
I will discuss the process of content moderation that I use on my forums. Basically, it goes in four general steps: recognition of the violation, removal of the violation, documentation of the violation and the action taken and notification of the member, if needed.

When Community Staff Members Leave
Covering the four most common scenarios that staff members leave under and how you should handle them. They are: inactivity, resignation in good standing, resignation after disagreement and when the person turns into a lunatic.

Creating a Positive Environment on Your Forums
Discussion of some of some common ways to create a positive, friendly atmosphere on your forums. This would include requiring that members treat each other with respect, welcoming new users, staff member involvement, how you answer questions, how you can make members feel involved, how to deal with problems, not allowing political, religious or other controversial discussions (unless that’s what your community is about) and more.

So, what do you think? I appreciate any thoughts.

Know Who You Want to Be

Posted by Patrick on February 15th, 2008 in Managing the Community

Martin Reed talked today about adding value to your community through articles, being responsive to your members and by developing your community’s personality. It’s a good article. I wanted to take one sentence from the final of those three ideas and expand on it in my own way. He writes:

Just make sure you pick the right personality from the start as it can be extremely difficult to change the character of your community once a personality has been established.

And he’s dead on. Every community has a certain type of personality. This personality is developed over time by allowing it to shine on your site. Your community guidelines are really a personality statement all and of themselves. For example, my guidelines say things like… we don’t allow vulgarities, we require that all members treat each other with respect and that people should have fun.

So, our personality is one that is family and/or work friendly, treats others with respect and has fun. Your guidelines (and subsequent enforcement) help you to become who you want to be – what you created the community to be. Sure, a community is filled with different people and that’s a good thing, in general, but there tend to be common traits that your best community members exemplify.

“Best” here is relative – when I say it, I mean the community members that most fit within the personality that you had in mind when you started your site. The “best” members are the ones that you’ll consider for your staff. Set the example for people by demonstrating the personality yourself and by promoting people to your staff who naturally handle themselves similarly.

Lack of guidelines and/or of consistent enforcement can lead to you waking up one day and realizing that your community has become someone that you don’t care for.

And, then, if you want to fight to get it back to where it needs to be, it’ll be difficult, as Mr. Reed noted. Creating, developing and maintaining the environment (the personality) of your community can be time consuming, but it’s a good part of what community management is all about.

SXSW Time Slot Assigned

Posted by Patrick on February 12th, 2008 in Managing Online Forums (Book), Press

The time slot for my presentation at SXSW has been assigned. It’s from 11:00 AM to 11:20 AM on March 11 on the day stage. I’ll post some presentation ideas up soon to get some feedback.

Coming Up with Ideas for Communities

Posted by Patrick on February 11th, 2008 in Thinking

Several times, I’ve been asked, how do I come up with the ideas for the communities that I launch? The answer for this can also apply to coming up with ideas for websites or just ideas in general, even.

It can be something that I have a personal interest in and, as such, want to start a community around it. This is the case with I’m a sports fan, so I started a community about sports. is another one.

I can see a domain, sense a need or, at least, feel that I could do something well. is an example of this. I thought a martial arts community was a great idea and, back when we launched, there were far fewer than there are now. It’s my largest communities as far as posts is concerned.

I can need something myself. I started using phpBB back with the 1.2.x string. Back then, there was no dedicated site for phpBB hacks. I wanted one, so I created one in

There’s always the old random idea, as well. I can get ideas for sites at any time. I’ve had a few right before I wanted to close my eyes and sleep. For this reason, I keep a pad and pen next to my bed. I’ve had ideas in the shower, while eating out (I’m sure, can’t think of a specific one) – anywhere, really! You should always be ready for the idea and be ready to embrace it.

Book Website Launches

Posted by Patrick on February 10th, 2008 in Managing Online Forums (Book)

The book website has launched. It includes all kinds of book related content including the table of contents, upcoming appearances, the book’s acknowledgments and more.

I’m really happy with the whole site, but I am truly thrilled, honored and humbled by the advance praise (along with the foreword – not online – by Chris). A group of brilliant people that I respect – greatly – came together for me and offered praise of me and the book that really means a lot to me, because of who they are and what they have accomplished.

So, if you have a moment, please give the book site a look and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Upcoming Podcast Appearances

Posted by Patrick on February 7th, 2008 in Managing Online Forums (Book), Press

I have a couple of live podcast appearances coming up. I will be on phpBB Weekly on February 9 at 12:00 PM ET and System Showdown on February 12 at 7:30 PM ET. On both shows, there is some level of listener participation, so if you are around and want to listen, I’d love for you to do so. Thanks.

Staff Members Aren’t Here to Be Anybody’s Buddy

Posted by Patrick on February 4th, 2008 in Managing Staff

It’s natural to want to be liked. Hey, I want to liked. :) That said, when it comes to managing my community, I’m not here just to be liked, I’m here to make sure that the community is running smoothly. Don’t get me wrong – I treat everyone kindly and with respect and I expect that in return. And, if you aren’t disrupting my community and you aren’t treating us disrespectfully, we won’t have any issues.

But, the moment you do, then we have something to address. I run my communities in a way that encourages people to hate me, if they are going to hate everyone. I try to shield and insulate my staff members from that sort of criticism by always taking responsibility for the decisions made. And that’s the truth, really, as my staff is, nearly always, doing what they believe I have asked them to do. So, I always deflect criticism onto myself.

At the same time, staff members need to understand that they aren’t here to be any body’s friend – they are here to assist me in the management of the community, to make sure that things run smoothly and to continue to contribute to the community, as they always have. And I try to stress this to them in our staff member documentation and in my own words and attitude. I try to set the example.

I’ve had staff members that could not grasp this. I’ve had staff members that were gun shy due to not wanting to hurt any one’s feelings. I’ve had staff members who went behind my back to members to try to get between me and them to prevent me from noticing their violations. These people get weeded out, they get kicked off, they resign… eventually, they leave, as they don’t have what it takes right now. That doesn’t mean they are bad people – not everyone can be a staff member on a community, like not everyone can be a manager at a restaurant or a shoe store or a cab company (Louie De Palma had what it takes! ;)) or whatever organization.

By spending time doing your due diligence before you invite someone onto your team, you can limit these occurrences, but it’ll always happen. You want staff members who understand that they will be put in a position where not everyone is going to like them and where they can’t be every one’s buddy.