November 1st, 2007


internet forum drama!

the forum still has about 80 active members, but it's not what it used to be, so a month ago I re-organized. I got rid of the forums that people weren't posting much in, that's the big thing. I HATE sites that have 30 forum topics, and you have to shuffle through the dead ones to figure out where the discussion in. I mean, let's say you've got a Music forum that hasn't had a new thread in two weeks, and PollySue wants to post a thread about her new favorite album. If she posts it in the Miscellaneous topic, people will ask her why she couldn't figure out it should be in Music. If she posts it in Music, it'll get no replies because people aren't looking in music. So what happens? more often than not, she just doesn't post it.

this is a public service announcement, people. if you run a forum, slim down the topics. They only get in your way.

So anyway my re-organizing meant I had to re-organize the moderators, and that's always fun. A few years ago we just had one GROUP of moderators, they were a roving band that controlled everything, and it created this major us vs. them thing between the mods and the non-mods (of course, moderators didn't see a problem with this). So I changed things up: each moderator got one forum. Each forum had 2-3 moderators. This has worked out pretty well.

When I got rid of forums, I only kept the moderators who were actually posting, and this set up even more fabulous anger. The ones who lost their jobs were mad that I didn't warn them beforehand. Most acted shocked to learn that I expected moderators to post. I mean granted, there are lots of other things I have moderators on the forum do... approve guestbook entries, activate new members, discuss new ideas in the mod forum. But I don't see those things as the #1 priority.

I also think they should post. Not much... the minimum requirements are 2% of your forum's post (that's 5-10 per month) and 20 overall posts in a given month. Minimum. People knew I looked at statistics, but I think they assumed that I only used those as an indicator of logging in, so when I asked people to post more they all said, "It's fine! I'm still logging in!"

So now about half of them are mad at me, saying I'm doing horrible things to the forum, because I want to give some new people a chance to moderate and refuse to keep the inactive members around just because they've, well, stuck around. I mean, isn't the purpose of a forum to discuss things? I've been a member of forums where the moderators don't post, they keep their jobs because they're "insiders". It makes new members feel like they'll never belong. Or, if you do promote people, it just looks like your forum has 100 moderators and non-moderators are freaks nobody likes.

The funny thing... I have the same philosophy at work: no free jobs. I'm in charge of this women's group, and once a month we shuffle all the members into small breakout groups. If you're on my planning committee, you're the organizer for your small group (if there's no planning committee rep, the organizer is assigned at random). I've had people complain about this, saying that if they go to meetings, they shouldn't have to organize the small groups. Or they've asked to participate, but only if they NEVER have to organize. But so far the system has worked great. It helped slim my planning committee down to the enthusiastic people, and gave them a sense of leadership in the group since they're actually involved. It's forced people to step up.

this'll sound insane, but I think managing a forum with 1,500 members has totally helped me manage people outside of the internet. it teaches you to make decisions. delegate. understand people's quirks. the moderators are all pissed off now, but you know what's funny? They're posting again. I'm not saying I'm perfect. But I don't think we would have made it this far if I wasn't at least good.