How Not to Run a Forum

Want to start a forum? Currently an admin? Allow me to give you a few suggestions on things you may want to avoid.

  • Being a robot. Each rule has its exceptions.
    • “Necro” posting is sometimes okay. For example, if User A posts a thread asking for a solution to a technical problem, and the thread has died (fallen off the first page some time ago) without anyone giving a solution, it should okay for User B to post if they really do have a correct and helpful solution to this user’s problem. User B most likely found the thread via a search on Google, and by posting a solution, it allows anyone in the future who encounters this problem to find the solution on this thread they found via a similar or identical search. If the user doing the “necroing” is actually the first to post a correct and helpful solution, don’t reprimand them for helping people. (Do warn them if they’re posting something useless, though.)
  • Making tons of subforums. Unless there’s tons of users.
    • If you divide the general discussion forum into a bunch of different topic-related subforums before your userbase is large enough, what little discussion there was before will just dry up entirely. That is, unless they complain and you do change it back. And some will complain, regardless of if there is enough posting to justify segregating threads. Take a look at what threads are discussed in great volume, if any, and carefully consider whether it’s big enough to warrant its own forum. If not now, maybe later, so keep this in mind.
  • Leaving a rule or policy unwritten. They won’t know it’s there.
    • I once joined a forum to discuss the latest page of a webcomic. I went to the comic discussion forum, and noticed there were threads for all the recent pages but the newest. So after reading the rules, I created one, only to have my thread deleted and recreated by a moderator. Apparently, only moderators can create comic discussion threads in that forum. (Seriously, this shouldn’t even need to be a rule. Pretty much every message board system should have the capability to restrict topic posting to moderators and admins in any particular forum(s).)
  • Rule list of length longer than WPToS. Lots of tl;dr.
    • Keep it simple. This is a forum, not Scientology. My guideline: more than 40 words, less than 400. I know people don’t often actually read the rules, but if it’s too long, nobody will.
  • You act like a douche. I mean, suppose you do. Don’t do that.

(Have any other ideas? Post them in the comments! Thanks.)

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One Comment on “How Not to Run a Forum”

  1. Dave Says:

    I hear ya, man. I think the biggest pieces of advice I could give would be (1) be patient, (2) be involved, (3) don’t be afraid to bring down the hammer.

    (1) People on forums all want to be heard. Some more than others and some won’t get along. There will ALWAYS be forum drama. Most people aren’t intentionally jerks. If they are, see rule #3. If they are not, 9 out of 10 times being reasonable and patient usually alleviates the situation.

    2) If you do nothing more than sit on high and make pronouncements or judgments people will not respect you or care about what you have to say. You have to be a member of the community to help it grow.

    3) Remember that guy who was being a jerk on purpose? Don’t be afraid to point to your rules and say, “Hey, jerk! Take a day or two off!” Having rules and not enforcing them is the best way to having a board populated by nobody other than trolls and those who feed on drama. This makes for great theater for lurkers, but stops most people from signing up.

    Trust me on these. I learned most of them the hard way!

    -Dave


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