|Forum out of Control|
Help! I'm frustrated and ready to shut down my forum.
Hello, I'm a regular lurker on WW and this is my first post in this forum.
I run a very large website which has a separate forum section for discussions about the site's content, plus an off-topic forum. All of the site's content is user-built and everyone has a strong sense of pride in the site we've built. But since the beginning the forum has been unmoderated. And I have not participated much except in the forums related to the technical aspects of the site.
Now over the past few years things have gotten worse and worse in the forums. The off-topic forum is heavy on flamewars and trolling which many times spreads into the main forums (for customer support).
Now I'm aware that this is my fault because I haven't done anything about it :) A big part of it has to do with time. There are far too many messages for me to keep an eye on. I'm planning to add moderators but it's being met with strong opposition. Many veteran members feel they're entitled to act any way they want on the forum, because they've helped create the content. And the mood in the forum is at an all time low. Many veteran members no longer participate there.
So what now? Can this forum be salvaged? No matter what they need to be moderated. I'm sure of that. But I'm also considering just giving notice and shutting down the non-customer support forums. It's a monkey on my back and I'd rather focus on the main purpose of the site (which is not forums). From a business standpoint, the forums only account for 3% of site traffic, and generate no revenue. But from a community standpoint they could be considered essential. Can anyone give me some insight? been through this before?
I'd post a note saying that you are moving to a moderated format, and that the board will be temporarily closed until you can put together a quality Mod team. (make sure you ask for volunteers)
If it's a forum worth keeping, you will have some quality people step up. And the downtime will help get rid of the trouble makers.
If you can't get anyone to help out, then just dump it completely.
Welcome out of lurkerdom, autopilot. I thing WG is offering sound advice. First, I think you need to evaluate how beneficial the OT forum is to maintaining your sense of community. If there is value there, and the damage is being caused by a small group of troublemakers, then do as WG suggests: turn off posting for a bit, freeze new registrations, clean things up, and recruit a few mods. Let everyone know what the new community standards are. Ban the worst vandals by email and IP address, but consider testing the users who may have caused problems but were also good contributors.
Slow down new registrations, too, to prevent banned posters from coming right back. Keep a visible presence yourself if possible. Good luck!
There's some good advice above, but I would add this: where does the off-topic forum fit in with your business? It is damaging it at the moment, but even if moderated, would it be valuable?
I would close down the foum as WG suggested, and see if there is an interest for continuing with moderators. If there is a strong interest from the posters to continue, but the forum doesn't fit in with your customer support forums, I would hand the keys over to the new mod team, buy them a domain name and a year's hosting, and offer to sponsor them for a year on their new forum (with a banner ad or something). After that, they're on their own - if the community is big enough, they will be able to find other advertizers and/or launch a subscription section - and you would have washed your hands of the situation. If there is not enough interest, or too much in-fighting, delete the forum permanently.
Some really good advice so far. I would also recommend closing the forum for a while to sort things out.
When you come back, make sure you have a solid TOS and maybe ask members to tick a box to say they have read it.
Consider changing the look of the forum so it feels like a different place. -- Different place - different rules
basenotes beat me to it: a new, perhaps more "upscale professional" look is essential - make it obvious that the forum is part and parcel of the BUSINESS of the website. And this makes it unanimous for closing the doors for a while....
One other thing: get rid of ANY of the "fun thingys" like avatars, graphic smilies, graphics in sigs, maybe go to no sigs at all - plan for a clean look, and a professional attitude.
Can't do better really than take a look around here!
Since I recently posted a thread about the death of forums (Death of a Salesman) in the interest of education I'd love to hear more about how the death spiral evolved.
Was it new members coming in over the last 2 years that poisoned the waters?
Did existing members get into some form of power struggle? Trying to dominate as though leader by invalidating what other people had to say?
How many members did it take to set things on the wrong path? Was it 20 out of 200? 5?
Did you have a TOS that prohibited any of the conduct that lead to the decline? I take it the TOS wasn't enforced?
Is the subject matter one that lends itself to contentiousness, such as games, sports teams, music, etc?
What's the demographic of your board?
Did the dissent show up in reduced sales?
Can you tell if a competitor seeded your board with troublemakers?
Do tell, please, in the interest of the education of the rest of us.
I like vkaryl's idea of a new look for the forum. I've seen people react to changes in physical space (a more professional office, for example) by improving their own appearance and behavior. Forums can be the same way - a clean, professional look will emphasize the new expectations for decorum.
Actually, that was basenotes' contribution first....
Right you are, vkaryl. Sorry, basenotes. :)
Be sure to report back, autopilot, and let us know what you did and how well it worked.
|Right you are, vkaryl. Sorry, basenotes. :) |
It might have been my suggestion, but Vkaryl made it sound better! ;)