In managing online communities for the past eight years or so, one of the many, many things I’ve come to realize, accept and understand is the fact that people will hate me. Not all people, not most people – not even a noteworthy number of people. But, assorted people will hate me. That’s the burden of leading a community and being the person “in charge.” You make decisions, you accept blame and you take criticism.

One of the primary responsibilities of community leadership is, essentially, telling people what they cannot do on your community. People don’t like to be told they can’t do something. But, you have to defend your community, you have to deal with violations and manage the atmosphere. You have goals and everything that you do needs to be in pursuit of those goals.

So, you have members who you have to contact regarding a violation. You send them a polite, respectful message making them aware of the violation and asking them to keep it in mind for the future, to prevent further violations. And they don’t like it. Some people deal with this respectfully and some people are literally out of their mind crazy. I’ve been called all sorts of names. It’s fairly normal to have your sexual preference questioned, too. There was even one fellow who described all of my many character flaws and then decided it must be because my parents had sexually abused me. You get used to it. And, of course, the old stand by: I’ve been called Hitler, Stalin and/or Gestapo on any number of occasions. One was just recently.

We had a fellow come in our forums and start a post with the F word in it, with an asterisk (our word censor will not allow it to be posted without an asterisk). As this word is not permitted on my forums, in line with our user guidelines, the post was removed and the member was politely contacted and made aware as to why, to prevent it from happening again.

His response was to go on rant that, personally, was hilarious because of what he said, which was just nuts. I won’t get into that, beyond saying that he compared me to Stalin.

The thing about these Hitler, Stalin, and Gestapo type comments is they are so disrespectful. Those people and/or groups did awful, unspeakable things. Let’s be real: I removed a single post you made from an Internet forum, from my family and work friendly community, that had the F word in it. That’s what I did. As I joked to a friend, “Stalin must not have been such a bad guy if all he did was stop you from saying the F word.” In other words, to invoke the images of those people or groups in such a manner is to show an extreme lack of respect for the people and the families affected by the things that they actually did.

Here is what I’ve found to be true, though. If no one was saying these things to me or about me, if no one was making these comments and attacking me, I must not be doing my job to the best of my ability. Either that or my communities are private and for a select group of people, not large enough yet or not moderated in any meaningful way (i.e., anything that isn’t blatant spam is allowed). Real, hands on community management requires the ruffling of feathers. Not on purpose, not intentionally – but naturally. It’s just a fact of life. With the exceptions above (and probably a few others), if no one hates you, you aren’t doing everything you can.

(Note, I’m not saying that this is the only way I know I’m doing my job, that I want people to say these things or that it makes me happy. None of these things is true. It’s awful that these things are said. But, it’s a natural by product, unfortunately. So, we have to embrace it for what it is).