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21

Sometimes you have to ignore your forum members

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Yep, you read that correctly. Being a forum administrator means that sometimes you need to ignore the suggestions or advice of your forum members in order to be successful.

This might seem to be a strange piece of advice, but its true for one real simple reason. Your goals and needs for the site are sometimes different then the goals and needs of a particular or even a group of your members. They want what makes sense for them at that moment, your interests lie in the long term health and growth of the community. For example, a member tell you publically, that they want you to have less individual forum catagories. However, while that might look good at the moment, you need to think of the long term health of your community and realize that a new member might not post about a particular topic if there is no forum catagory for it.

This is something I am facing right now on Chicago Velocity. I am preparing to add and remove some forum catagories to that site soon. One of the forums I intend to add is a politics forum. I have posted on Chicago Velocity about doing this to see the kind of response I get from the membership, and some if it has been of the "dont do it" attitude.

Now, a politics forum can be heated and intense, but I have learned over time that if they are moderated correctly, they have a great ability to bring members back to your site frequently and to keep members posting about a particular topic. Even if your forum is not generally about politics, they are very helpful because your forum topic might not be a topic that commands members to return often.

A good example is a car forum. Some members only return to your site when they have to ask a repair question. Since cars (hopefully) dont break down every day, you cant expect much activity from that member. Having a forum for topics such as politics will get members talking to one another about other things and help create and make a feeling of a "community" — This brings them back over and over again, helping you keep activity up. And active forums are more attractive for new members and advertisers.

I have also had occasions where members made a suggestion that I do something, which, while looking good on paper, I know from experience just doesnt work well. A good example of this is vBulletin’s reputation system. I never enable that on my forums because it only leads to bad feelings. Moreover, those bad feelings are not toward another member but toward the site and community in general. This is because the reputation is given anonomously, so there isnt a single person to blame. Additionally, friends tend to give other friends positive rep just because of friendship. So the reputation score really isnt a good indicator of much. As such, it has no real upside to the growth and health of the site, but easily can chase members away.

In fact, my motivation for this blog post comes from a recent email I received from a member of a forum I used to own (but sold). This member has now started his own forum and made the comment in his email that he is starting to realize all that is invilved with owning a forum community.  In his email he made the statement:

I didnt want to see some of the changes you wanted, and now that I have my own forum, god I understand where you were coming from. I apologize on behalf of the members at DSMP(the only good ones from T2G)     —    (T2G was my old site, DSMP is his new forum)

So, think things through before you do them. Don’t just do something or not do something because your members agree or disagree. Try to get them on board, but ultimately it’s your site and the decisions you make will affect the success or failure of the site in the long term. That is my advice.

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