Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 3.231.226.211

Forum Moderators: rogerd

Message Too Old, No Replies

Personal Tragedies and Forum Members

Striking a balance between offering help and being taken advantage of

     
7:41 pm on Sep 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 17, 2002
posts:2251
votes: 0


When run well, and with a pinch of luck, some forums attract members who feel as if they're members of a family. They look forward to visiting the website several times a day. A lot of them keep in touch off-site. Some of them even meet and become friends offline.

Inevitably something negative, even tragic will eventually happen to at least one member ("the member").

Most of the family will want to do whatever they can to help get the member's life back to normal ASAP.

1) From a webmaster's point of view how should situations like this be handled in terms of what messages are permitted and what messages get deleted?

2) Should the website have a TOS that covers this sort of thing? If so, should the TOS make it mandatory to get a sysadmin's permission before the member can post a solicitation for help.

Here's an important point to consider. This is the point that made me realize I should seek out the advice of my fellow webmasters.

What if the member has been inactive for nearly a year (just short of being deleted for inactivity), returns only to post a message about what's happened to them, and then proceeds to solicit widget supplies instead of stuff that might be considered more important like finding a place to live?

11:06 pm on Sept 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

New User

10+ Year Member

joined:May 17, 2005
posts:37
votes: 0


It depends on what your forum is about. If it is about widgets, and only widgets, then I would decline this particular post, perhaps with a personal email to the poster with your sympathies. If your members can PM each other then this sort of message could be sent privately.

If your forum is about finding friends, then asking for help with a personal tragedy is a valid part of that and should be allowed. (Ensure you are not posting anything that might make new members feel out of the loop or uncomfortable).

If your forum is about widgets but secondarily has a community feel about it, maybe some separation of threads into different forums is the appropriate way to handle it.

I don't see any real need to have your TOS cover this. There doesn't have to be a rule for EVERY evenuality - tact and personal moderation should be sufficient to handle situations that occur outside the TOS.

4:17 am on Sept 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 17, 2002
posts:2251
votes: 0


I agree that a rule isn't needed for everything. And yet to make the job of my moderators easier I like for them to have a rule they can point to and tell a member, that's the rule being violated. It takes the burden off the moderator and puts in on the rule. Or more likely on me. It's worked very well over the years. Much like here our moderators are all loved by the members who usually abide by the TOS.

My main concern was how to handle members like the one I described. If the same thing had happened to an active member I'd be the first one to set up a PayPal donation page. I've actually done this once before and that member is now back on his feet and even more loyal to the website and his friends there who helped him in a time of real need. I'm just worried that this new member is up to no good and I thought having a rule to prevent soliciting stuff, except in our forum for soliciting widget parts, could be a good thing.

I've since come to an understanding with this member and so for now the problem has been resolved.

But in the long term I still wonder if a TOS to cover such things is a good idea. Again please remember I'm looking at this from the point of view of the owner/webmaster, not a member. I have an obligation to protect my members/friends from being scammed.

Sorry to ramble. That tends to happen late at night. ;)

1:06 am on Sept 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Jan 22, 2005
posts:195
votes: 0


Sounds like a 25% violation each of the don't reveal personal contact info rule, and the no soliciting rule. Particularly when the request is sincere, it is a gray area in the best thought-out TOS. Not the kind of eventuality one could expect to include in a TOS under 300 rules, as if people even read 5-rule TOSs!
If it is sincere, it is the type of thing that would have to be handled on a case-by-case, site-by-site basis. This is the sort of thing that could easily be taken advantage of- THAT would be my concern.
In my experience, I have reached out and offered help to a fellow forum member twice. Both cases I offered light work for generous pay (never something for nothing!) One person gratefully took me up, and bounced back, and has been very helpful occasionally since. Another person never responded to the offer, probably dodged a scam there.
I remember this big melodramatic post by a guy who claimed to have witnessed a tragedy. I smelled a rat and stayed out of the fray, but he lapped up a lot of sympathy for a few days, until people started looking into his claim and found no corroboration with reality, and called him on it. Long story short, he became a major troll and hacker after that, and a great forum went down in flames within three months.
Another spin: Recently a young woman mentioned thoughts of suicide within a thread. That situation stayed calm, and the woman is a content member of the community still. While this thread was active, though, views shot ahead of all other threads by more than double, and my AWstats went bonkers! I found this more interesting than useful.
Bottom line, keep your BS detector running!
-Automan
<edit: speeling>
6:01 am on Sept 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 17, 2002
posts:2251
votes: 0


Bottom line, keep your BS detector running!

That's always great advice. :)

The situation I posted about eventually failed the BS Test badly.

7:23 am on Sept 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Apr 5, 2005
posts:128
votes: 0


In the 9-years I've been webmastering my forum site, there have been at least a dozen of these come up. I have always allowed the greatest latitude with regards to our TOS (as many such posts break all sorts of rules).

The end result? I've never had a negative outcome. My site's 'family' is amazingly cohesive and supportive which only serves to enhance the site. Were there to be a scam one day, I don't think it would reflect negatively on the site as I've never gotten the site officially involved in such a cause and members realize that.