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|What do you do about your annoying members?|
The ones that never break any rules but annoy everyone nonetheless
Every forum has them - an "Annoying John" or "Annoying Jane". Those members that make you inwardly groan everytime you see another post. Whether they are high and mighty, or just need to contribute two cents - or worse, a "me too" - they seem to be everywhere without really contributing much of value in the grand scheme of things
You have checked with others to make sure John just doesn't rub you the wrong way, but the sentiment seems to run among other members too. The problem is, Annoying John never seems to (or very rarely) break any rules.... they are just darn annoying.
Unfortunately, any action taken can be a double edged sword for moderators or administrators.
If you kick John or Jane out, you could face a possible backlash that this "poor member" was kicked out for "no reason" - because in actuality, there were no real violations of any of the rules. They were just too darn annoying ;) But then other members could begin to worry that they too will be kicked out for "no reason".
On the flip side, John or Jane could annoy some of your much valued and contributing members enough that they finally up and leave - which results in Annoying John or Jane sticking around while all your good members go and find another forum to call home. Particularly if your good members have complained privately to you about John or Jane's actions on the forums, non-action on the admin/mod part can look bad.
Whenever I have been faced with this kind of situation I usually go on consensus - either all the admins agree if it is a small scale member, or if the member has a definite presence on the forums, I will open it to all of the main moderators to get their opinions and see if everyone is feeling the same way. Even then, I tend to hold off and see if the situation improves or ends up self-resolving with the member losing interest.
What does everyone else do when faced with Annoying Jane or Annoying John? Maybe there is a fabulous solution I haven't thought of ;)
Leave them be.
Sometimes that 1 annoying person, who everyone dislikes, indirectly generates a lot of conversation (vast long threads about how annoying the person is).
The person in question usually drifts away, eventually. And if they don't, so what? It's part of the social dynamic we're all used to in day-to-day life. We've all worked with that minorly irksome-but-not-fireable person in the office, and there's one (at LEAST one) in every extended social circle (the guy who never gets invited to the parties but somehow ends up at them anyway)...
To me, in many ways, this kind of person is a part of what makes forums "real", in the sense that the forums better reflect the real world when this type of person is there.
without really contributing much of value in the grand scheme of things
This could really be subjective, yes? From their perspective they may have just helped save the world.
If the forum is thier only social outlet - - I agree they may eventually drift away. try dropping hints?
I usually go on consensus
I've seen consensus work well, and this could be a good case. Consensus does not mean the agreement of a few, but of everyone. This might be difficult in a forum where several members are perhaps more prominent than most.
What I didn't see you trying was to directly contact "Annoying John" or "Annoying Jane". There are certainly annoying people in this world...I live next door to one. Talking (or writing) to them might be revealing.
[PS] WW will be a grandpa free zone for 5 days, beginning Wednesday. To anyone who may groan, enjoy :)[/PS]
|Sometimes that 1 annoying person, who everyone dislikes, indirectly generates a lot of conversation (vast long threads about how annoying the person is). |
Guilty as charged :P
I find that almost always that happens. A wall of shame recently appeared in the private VIP forum where my VIPs and Mods openly bash any members they find annoying. It may sound cruel but these annoying members that you can't really justify banning can (as Jenstar mentioned) scare other members away so I do listen to senior members, VIPs and mods and I will take action if they want me to. That doesn't necessarily mean banning the user. A friendly warning PM in some cases helps.
|Sometimes that 1 annoying person, who everyone dislikes, indirectly generates a lot of conversation (vast long threads about how annoying the person is). |
Addtionally, I find that putting John/Jane on the "Tacky goes to Coventry" list is very effective. The result is only me and John/Jane can see the post, they get fed-up of talking to themselves and leave on their own. Using user reputations (karma) could help too. It gives all active forum members a say and the annoying person sometimes gets the message when they see that most members have given them negative reputation.
>>Mods openly bash any members they find annoying.
The problem, Snow, is that a derisive attitude is contagious and can have a tendency to work its way out into public. And don't think people can't spot a haughty attitude - they can.
Posters who are really chronically annoying tend to annoy many and will chase many away; so it's a balancing act to weigh offending or possibly losing one bad member who contributes nothing against the loss of untold many current and in future that do have value. There's also a possibility of losing a few good members who could attract more good ones because of many bad ones - simply because of the contagion factor and how "badness" spreads. A rotten apple in the barrel starts to rot the others around it.
I really don't like beating around the bush or deception of any kind, at its worst it's way too close to flat out lying and ends up hurting innocent people who don't deserve it. It's something that eventually comes back to bite. To me the best thing is to just confront with the honest approach. That's how adults conduct themselves, and that way there's a chance of turning something around productively.
>>Maybe there is a fabulous solution I haven't thought of
Plain old-fashioned honesty. It's sadly lacking out in the corporate world with all the brown-nosing and back-slapping that goes on, but what's taught in the parenting books about "active listening" doesn't just stop with children. Corporate executives are often sent for sensitivity training for the very reason of problems with communications, which isn't all that different when you think about it.
Bad listening skills = bad management. Plain and simple. It's all about honesty and communication.
Very true, but the VIPs and mods weren't really mocking the couple of members who made it on to the 'wall of shame' (I didn't start that thread by the way, it showed up after a very frustrated VIP had had enough of a particular member). The comments were/are sensible and the member that started it clearly defined what he didn't like about that member, e.g. he posts short silly posts, he keeps asking the same questions etc. etc. I found it useful to hear what others (the most valued members) felt about certain members because in these situations it is tricky deciding what to do. I agree with you Marcia that you should always be honest with the person, but sometimes a friendly chat doesn't work and you have to resort to using other methods in order to deal with that person.
|The problem, Snow, is that a derisive attitude is contagious and can have a tendency to work its way out into public. And don't think people can't spot a haughty attitude - they can. |
Maybe inserting "Guidelines Reminder" type messages similar to what Brett, et. al do here would help?
Using specifics such as ["Please, no 'me too' messages"] might improve the situation.
|you inwardly groan everytime you see another post. |
To me, the above quote is the core of the issue. It indicates that this is an ongoing matter that should have been dealt with much earlier.
The tone and character of a forum can change pretty dramatically if these issues are not dealt with in a timely manner.
Firstly, if the mods and admins don't deal with the issue, other members may take it upon themselves to do so. I've seldom seen that come to a good end.
Respected members who contribute valuable content might simply leave rather than participate in a forum that becomes increasing less valuable in their opinions.
Prospective new members might see these posts as an indication that the forum is not worth adding their own, possibly quite worthy, posts to.
Those two are the better possibilities. It goes down hill fast from there.
Members in general might decide to start commenting on the quality of the problem members posts. That's bad enough, but the other members might also start making their own negative comments, not about the problem posters posts, but about the poster themselves.
Then you've got a real problem.
Better to nip the whole issue in the beginning. PM the problem poster and remind them gently of the posting guidelines to begin with.
Do a TOS reminder in the thread if anyone comments on the post negatively.
Be very firm about publicly stating that the moderating should be left to the mods.
Remember that everyone has bad days, so an occasional slip isn't grounds for getting booted, but occasional doesn't mean every other day either.
And since the concept of "more valuable" members has come up, it's worth mentioning that the rules and guidelines should apply to them also. Valuable members can become less valuable in the big picture pretty quickly.
Lastly do something promptly. Delay leads to chaos. Chaos diminishes the whole forum.
In the cases where I would have booted a person, they have been on AOL, so there is no way of stopping the person from signing up again (which they would, lol) and I would rather be able to track them under their username than try and figure out if every new AOL person is Annoying John in disguise.
I don't allow members to comment publicly on other members in a negative way, so it has never been a problem of becoming a public issue of members complaining in threads about Annoying John's annoyingness ;) And everyone does follow the rules (except for an occassional driveby spammer).
The main problem is that annoying members seem to rarely break the rules, at least in my experience. And banning "me too" posts seems to just make posters more creative in how they say it.
|banning "me too" posts seems to just make posters more creative in how they say it. |
Isn't that kinda the idea? I mean, I've read an endless number of posts on many forums (including here) that are essentially agreement with, or mirrors of, other posts further up the thread. If they at least say it in a somewhat thought out manner, agreeing with another post is a valid post. It gives a sense of how many people are on the same side of the issue.
Or maybe I'm missing the point altogether. It seems that, on most forums I've participated in, the "Annoying John/Jane" has been just that, annoying but not worth losing much sleep on. In places I've modded or admined(sp?) there have been other, larger concerns to occupy our time, and even in the periods where there was nothing significant to work on, the minor annoyances didn't seem worth the effort. At worst, they were worthy of a quick StickyMail to gently advise the person they were ticking people off.
But it's not so much the "me too" posts in my forum. I'm not very good at describing things so I'll use the latest annoying John from my forum as an example. He posted in the education section of the forum "what is the acropolis?" (during the olympics recently). A number of members intepreted this as a school kid who needed help with his homework so they helped him out. After a couple of days he posts, "well done now tell me where is takhtjamshid?!" which resulted in some harsh responses from members who answered his first post. So far he's posted about 50 something posts, the majority (I would say about 95% of them) are questions like this in forums that are intended for help/support. Other members are annoyed because they think he's taking the mickey and because he doesn't get involved in the discussions, he just asks random questions in forums intended for serious discussions.
How can you include guidelines to stop annoying John/Janes from doing this and how can you justify banning a user who asked what the acropolis is? I've sent him a couple of friendly PMs but he ignored me. A few days ago I temporarily put him on the "tacky goes to Coventry" list. He's now off the list but I haven't seen him since. I didn't feel good about driving him away, but there were so many senior and VIP members that were really annoyed. I couldn't risk loosing them to avoid hurting this one member.
|...don't allow members to comment publicly on other members in a negative way... |
The problem is that others members perception of what is negative can be quite different than the mods perception. We may not like it, but perceptions, right or wrong, matter.
|The main problem is that annoying members seem to rarely break the rules, at least in my experience. |
These folks are frequently experts at staying just inside the guidelines while still being way outside the desired tone of the forum.
It's the old "spirit vs letter of the law" thing.
It's much easier to deal with those who break the letter of the law.
Dealing with those who violate the spirit of the law is more problematic. But not dealing with them is worse.
Your members will quickly come to realize whether it is a spirit or letter oriented forum.
The forum pays the price in the long run, and it may be a hefty price.
Make the annoying member a mod for a month of a new thread/section. Maybe their skill set will improve when looking at the world from the other side. Maybe they will shine and become the best addition to your BBS ever.
If this fails miserably you should know that my real nic on WW is Martinibuster. This Webwork ID is just an alter ego cover for making annoying posts.
Just delete his post and send a subtle sticky mail explaining why something on the lines of
"We are all getting sick of your moaning and groan and your last post has been deleted, PS by the way you need to get out of the office more often because you have become a boring b*****d"
or you could be a little more diplomatic
"Due to our term or service of posting we have had no choice but to delete you last post please see the link below"
and get Brett to add an extra one which covers moaning groaning and boring people
Hopefully I won't be the one to receive the sticky though :)
I don't know what's crueler, my mods and vips bashing the user in private or telling the user to his face, "no one likes you, get lost".
Reining in an annoying member is a lot like other interpersonal situations, IMO. If you focus on the behavior (rather than the person), you have a better chance at correcting it.
Try to identify the behaviors that others find annoying. Then, contact the member to attempt to change behavior.
One category of annoying behavior that I've seen is the "biased poster" syndrome. This member may be relatively well informed and articulate, but has an axe to grind or some innate bias. So, if someone asks a question about changing Chevy sparkplugs, this member may give a semi-useful answer. Woven into the post, however, will be an implied criticism of Chevy's design choices, quality of products, etc., along with the suggestion that the equivalent Ford vehicle wouldn't have this problem.
Each post by this member would probably be fine on its own; after a few dozen posts, however, the bias becomes quite tiresome.
I've had to warn and ban members like this. A typical response is, "Everything I said is true." That may be the case, but supplying selective facts to support one's viewpoint in post after post ends up being promotional, and that's what I've explained to those members. I can't say that anything other than banning has been very effective, though.
|I don't know what's crueler, my mods and vips bashing the user in private or telling the user to his face, "no one likes you, get lost". |
Ever watch Simon Cowell on American Idol (or Pop Idol for you Brits)? Sometimes blunt honesty hurts, but I'll take that any day over candy-coated touchy feely crap. If someone doesn't like me, I would like them better if they had the guts to tell me to my face instead of disguising it with some whiney liberal "politically correct" phrasing. I bring up American Idol because it was such a "shock" to so many people to see someone actually call a spade a spade. You have to admit that in a way he's helping those kids who really DO suck because no one else ever told them they did.
Americans have lost touch with honesty because they're afraid of hurting someone's precious wittle feelings. If someone is annoying you, tell them. They might not realize they're doing it and straighten out. Or they might have been doing it deliberately, in which case if they do it again now they have violated a TOS because a mod asked them to stop.
|Americans have lost touch with honesty because they're afraid of hurting someone's precious wittle feelings. |
Oh, not all! For one thing, a lot of TV, which people who grew up in front of the tube learned a lot of their social behavior from, shows a disgraceful example and role model of lack of assertive behavior. Assertive - not aggressive. Another thing is the social climate in the corporate world, where it's politically correct to say nothing but that the boss is great and everything about the company is great. Anything else is taboo.
There really are regional differences, and it's a socialization thing that's picked up from peer behavior early on. When I first got to California I hated it (still do some); I thought everyone was phony. That's how the politeness struck me back then. Being raised in New York, where the social norm is generally "I tells it like I sees it" honest in communication is way high on the values list. These things get instilled in childhood. Sometimes outspoken people manage to do a good job of losing popularity contests, but if you guessed that they mostly don't care, you guessed right.
That's not to say that there isn't a place for diplomacy, but when diplomacy fails it has to go a step further.
|If someone is annoying you, tell them. They might not realize they're doing it and straighten out. |
There's still a place for "Mary Poppins Moderating" - that spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down. Probably the biggest challenge in moderating, exactly like it is in parenting, is to turn a bad kid around and make a good kid out of them. It's also the biggest sign of success when it's accomplished. But it will NOT happen without communication, and omission of the truth is not the truth. Plain and simple.
IMHO there's too much of a tendency online to treat people like "things" - like objects - and forget that there are real live human beings being dealt with.
This reminded me of the short story "Excepting Mrs. Pentherby" by Saki, aka H H Munro.
In short, Reggie Bruttle had a six month long house party. He had been warned that after the first few weeks it would be a disaster as "the women will quarrel." The women, surprisingly, got on quite well, except for one who was detested by the others.
It turns out that that Mrs. Pentherby was Reggie's "official quarreller," who's purpose was one of "concentrating the feuds and quarrelling that would otherwise have broken out in all directions."
Not quite sure quite how this can be used in an electronic forum, but let's face it, once you get rid of your most annoying member, the next most annoying member is now your most annoying member, etcetera.
Might it not be a bad idea just to keep one or two around as long as he or she are relatively harmless?
Yes, you should tell the person that what they are doing is annoying members. However, you have to be careful that you don't make them mad or hurt their feelings. Be an adult about it. The best suggestion is as rogerd said, "Try to identify the behaviors that others find annoying. Then, contact the member to attempt to change behavior."
If you make the member mad they could create a million different usernames and become even more of a nuisance. You also have to consider that the only contact they mayget with the outside world is through the forum and that if they are thrown out, they could go postal. Why spread more bad feelings and alienate them further from the world?
Courtesy and respect will show them that you care about their presence on the forum and you would like them to participate in a more productive manner.
Whatever you do, try to be understanding. We don't need any more people going on shooting rampages because they do not feel wanted.
|Whatever you do, try to be understanding. We don't need any more people going on shooting rampages because they do not feel wanted. |
You're joking, right?
Your joking about
|whiney liberal "politically correct" |
Why does being considerate and respectful have to be considered "whiney," "liberal" and "politically correct"?
Who are the people that usually go postal? People who are rejected and riduculed outcasts or people who are accepted, respected, and surrounded by supportive friends?
To deal with these types of folks, we've added a catch-all to our list of guidelines along the lines of "Behavior that is generally obnoxious or threatening to our spirit of community is most likely off limits."
I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping intentionally obnoxious and disruptive users on a short leash. Why should anyone be allowed to poison your forum?
And no, i don't think it's your responsibility to worry about disgruntled users going postal.
Jimbeetle, that's a great analogy; you have to be careful what you wish for! (One of the better comments on the Olympics I read pointed out that the several "bad sport" whiners served a valuable purpose - they remind us all that good sportsmanship and grace after a loss are still qualities to be admired. Similarly, maybe your annoying members make the rest of the participants seem that much better...)
While I think forums can do fine with NO targets of derision, your point is well taken.
|Who are the people that usually go postal? People who are rejected and riduculed outcasts or people who are accepted, respected, and surrounded by supportive friends? |
The reason they're ridiculed outcasts is because of their behavior. Perhaps if their parents or someone else had told them they were being a jerk instead of being all nicey nice about it, they would have straightened out before it got to that point. I walk on egg shells for no one. :)
There's also the difference in "quantitative" perspective regarding the busyness of a forum with this problem. If it's a fairly slow, laid-back sort of board with a hundred posts a day, how is it a huge problem if one member is fairly annoying? Do what they tell us from grade 1 on: if you ignore the kid who's pulling your hair, he'll quit when he gets no reaction.
Alternatively, if it's a frantically busy board with thousands of posts a day, the situation really does need mitigating. The best way is still "shunning": don't reply to Annoying J's posts and assuming heesh is relatively bright, heesh will shortly get the point. Especially if the admin drops a couple of "pointed" reminders into AJ's sticky letterbox....
Might also have to sticky a few of the members who would be more inclined to reply for good or ill too....
The "Tachy Goes to Coventry" feature mentioned earlier is shunning enforced by technology. The member continues to be able to read and post; however his posts are invisible to all but himself.
|however his posts are invisible to all but himself |
That sounds like an excellent idea - presumably he'd notice if he ever "logged in" as a guest though, which might be a little dangerous.
Interestingly I just knocked together a quick article for an old site, about different personalities you find online and I came to the conclusion that people tend not to stick to one personality type throughout their posting career.
How many people here started out life online by visiting a dicussion forum to ask for advice? How many of those now regularly return to that forum (and others) as the one offering advice?
In the same respect how many folks didnt realise that posting your URL / business details can be considered bad etiquette? How many of those have since pointed this out to others! ;)
Personally, I've gone from newbie to perceived expert (that's where I post lots without actually saying anything) to actual expert (to an extent anyway) to a lurker (when I got bored posting) to a debater (where I would argue to hell and back) to a forum angel (where I would actively seek unanswered posts to answer) to a mod / admin (on other forums) and so on......
Im sure somewhere along the line Ive been the person people sigh at when they see me post! ;) (DONT tell me - I dont want to know the truth! :P)
My point is, I think it's possible for people to grow out of certain roles and I think as moderators, admin and even established and respected posters, it can be possible to help nuture problematic posters in to productive community members.
That guy who registered and spammed his URL on your forum. Yeh, he could be a spammer and you could label him as such. But perhaps if you had a quiet word with him, he would realise the error he made and eventually become a productive member of the community?
How many members here with 1k+ post counts arrived to WW and dropped their URL in the first week of being here? Come on.....admit it! ;)
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