No 1 - brown
Creative Commons License photo credit: kirstyhall

I tell people that numbers don’t matter to me. That sounds like a nice thing to say – quality over quantity and all that. Pretty words. People like to hear it. It’s easy to say, but can I really walk the walk? When it comes time to prove it, do I follow through?

One of the most important and obvious proving grounds for this belief is when you reach the point when you realize that you must ban a long time member, one of your most active posters or one of your top posters all-time.

You’ve given them every opportunity, but they try to walk all over you. They treat the community guidelines as though they are an option. They treat you and your staff disrespectfully. And it becomes apparent: you’re not banning them. They’re banning themselves. And so, you do it and you deal with the fallout.

One of the best examples that I can give of this is when I banned the member of my forums that had more posts than anyone.

He was on the site for a little over year and he made an absurd amount of posts. He wasn’t the highest quality contributor, but he made a very high number of posts and was often helpful. He contributed many works to our community, at least half a dozen of which other authors had claimed he had stolen from them. I treated all parties fairly in those disputes, listened and did what I thought was right, even defending him at times when I felt justified.

I never invited him to join the staff, however, because he lacked that polish, that attention to detail and that kindness that I valued highly. I believe that bothered him. Being the number one poster and not even being asked. In his mind, having the most posts may have equated with being deserving of a role on staff.

Things took a turn when I banned a buddy of his, who had done some terrible things. When that happened, he ramped up promotion of his website, which just happened to cater to the same audience as mine.

He associated with several people who I had banned or who would later end up banned. They were just a bad bunch. They told so many lies about me and my site, trying so hard to damage us and to harm us however they could, publicly and privately, where they would send me intimidating e-mails, threaten me and speak to me in an extremely disrespectful manner. We’re talking dozens of messages.

They created many, many accounts, they spammed my forums and they tried to convince some contributors to join their “side.” They succeeded with a few – some of which have later returned to my community, years later, which creates an interesting level of awkwardness. At least one of them apologized to me.

At the time, I knew I was right and was convinced of it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t stressful or that it didn’t take up a bunch of my time to deal with.

If I had to do it again, I would without hesitation. They were bad, unethical, mean people – the type of people I don’t want on my communities and I cleared them out, one by one. It wasn’t easy, but that’s what running a community is all about.

It’s easy to say that your community isn’t about numbers or that you believe in quality over quantity. It’s harder to actually prove it.