I started my site in august just as a way to learn something new. I have no experience with being a webmaster, php, or even html for that matter. I wanted a new hobby and when I asked a buddy about phpNuke (he has his site powered by it) he subtly suggested that I was in over my head and I should try something a little less involved. Well I took that as a challenge and went for it.
I have had some problems along the way, and have found answers to some here, as well as other sites. Others have gone unanswered, but Im pluggin away at it. All in all, I think im doing alright, especially since this is all so new to me and I am basically learning as I go.
Now my situation:
My site was growing slowly but surely, mostly just a few personal friends, and some others that I knew from other sites, chat rooms etc. I started spamming (gasp) in some newsgroups and had a few people join. Then one person told a friend of his who told his brother, who told a friend of his, who met someone from my site, and all of a sudden there was a group of 4-5 people who were obviously quite close, on the site as well as in real life.
What happened was this "clique" started using my message boards as their own personal chatrooom/instant messenger. They would post endlessly, usually with only 2 or 3 posters in a single thread. Threads were becomming unbearably long and off topic, and usually ended up being 4-6 pages of one word/emoticon posts and such. Other users started telling me they stopped posting because this group was ruining it for them. And new users were telling me they werent getting involved because these people "dominated" every thread.
I asked one of them personally to tone it down a bit, and he did. The others kept it up, so I started intervening in their threads telling them to use their IM progs. That led one of them to start calling me a "whiner". I explained that it was ruining it for the other people, especially the ones who had been on the site from the get-go. This brought a responce of "screw those people" from this one character. I had my girlfriend warn him, telling him he would be muted if he didnt tone it down and let everyone get involved. He baited me by saying "ban me, see if i give a s**t"... so I did. This caused an uproar with them bringing up "freedom of speech" and "censorship" issues. I told them i didnt care about what they were talking about, as long as they didnt flood the boards.
Well they wouldnt drop the issue, and I wasnt about to back down on my stance that they were ruining it for other people. So i told them that the flooding rule (the ONLY rule I had on my site) wasnt debatable and they should feel free to join another site that wouldnt mind. So i suggested a few sites and have had another member "quit" (she still comes back to read, just doesnt post).
Basically these people no longer post on my boards, which doesnt bother me one bit. But what i was wondering was if I was out of line? I have absolutely zero experience being an admin so I dont know if I was wrong or what.
I know that was a long post, but I wanted to explain it the best I could.
I know nothing about PHP, MySQL or anything.
Artifice Nuke Soldier
Joined: Nov 03, 2003
Fri Jan 09, 2004 2:28 pm
Your site, your rules. Sounds to me as though you were in line. If someone did that on my site, I wouldn't think twice about banning them. Majority > Minority on a site in my opinion. If a small group is ruining it for a large group, that small group should stop. Have a nice day everyone.
Joined: Nov 05, 2003
Fri Jan 09, 2004 2:36 pm
You pay for the site in money and time, first too your host and then in your time to make it okey on your site, i do not think you got over eny line, they did.
Hey, a personal site is like in your own livingroom at home, true? Hwo would like enyone to camp in the livingroom and dont behave?
I just wonder..
while the "your house, your rules" obviously works at your house when confronting a person ...err... in person...
However, the same social behavior isn't always present in online communications. Notice how people will often be much more bold when chatting with them online as opposed to being in person.
The person who cried "freedom of speech" probably would have just sat inyour living room and done nothing if you confronted the other person.
btw... freedom of speech does NOT apply in this case. You were merely moderating a discussion which is an art form and a paid profession in certain industries.
Being that it is an art form, you have to experiment with different techniques. Put the "ruling" to a vote on your site and let the users decide. (if the vote looks like its going south... merely jump into phpMyAdmin and add a couple of votes in your favor , an old trick that can be your last ace-in-the-hole)
a friend of mine taught that one to me... haven't had a poll where I've had to use it yet... knock on wood.
I have moderated a pretty large message board (5,000 plus members) and the one thing I learned is this:
If you build it, they will come. And they won't make it what you want it to be, they will make it what they need it to be.
The thing is, if you have a preconceived notion of what the board is and how it will go, you lose. As a provider, you simply put the technology out there and let your members use it as they see fit. Cliques happen on a social board. In a tech board, it still happens but not nearly as much. But on a social board, a guy that really chaps your Rainbow Brite as a Mod may be a crowd favorite. And it has been my experience that people will attack a mod before they would turn in Osama Bin Laden if they knew where he was and needed the reward money.
Don't ask me why, but people see any public forum as a first ammendment exercise. I GRANT YOU that they aren't paying the bills, aren't putting up with the head aches, and could care less how many hours a day you spend tweaking code to make the whole thing work right. They have a white box they can type into, a group of buddies to support them, and an opinion they probably would be too embarrassed to share with their parents. Welcome to the great unwashed masses.
Learn to enforce the TOS on a person to person basis with DETACHMENT. Hey, you are the guru, right? You put up the technology to make it all possible. You already hold the winning hand, so no need to spank people. If they want to make it a public forum on "me and my pals", let it go that way. Because as more members join, the original clique loses its sway. Strength in numbers, my friend.
Forums morph into other things over time. As you get more members, the original clique will get turned on as "elitests" and "insiders". The new members will resent the fact that they are telling inside jokes, etc. Why? The whole first ammendment thing again but with a new crowd and a fresh perspective. That means that you will have two cliques, but a good Mod always remembers to share one thing regarding the TOS: Attack the opinion, not the poster. If you can keep that one rule happening, you have it made.
Evolution is a FACT on an MB Forum. If you think you have a viable product, and you are getting click-throughs and drawing some revenue, you might just want to let things happen. Patience is a virtue. If you are running a non-revenue site, or a site that draws some cash but the headache is disproportionate to your efforts, shut it down.
I guess the bottom line from my experiences is yes, you can ban, boot, kick, lock, etc. You will be called a nazi, a jack booted thug, and 10 kinds of an asshole. That is in the job description. Just be consistent in HOW you enforce the TOS, make allowances (sounds like you have), and keep in mind that you are dealing with people that just THINK they know way more than you do. After all, you are back stage and get to see how all the magic tricks are done.
In the end, you hold all of the cards, and the addition of new members will nullify the current crop of duds. Just keep in mind that the new crop of duds won't be any better. It is a vicious cycle at times, but that is how it goes. The best you can do is let things run the way they seem to want to, ALWAYS answer questions and help requests, and stay out of the way for the most part.
The key to being a good moderator is the same as being a good child - Seen, but not heard. After all, even though you built it, it is their forum, not yours.
Joined: Apr 07, 2003
Sun Feb 08, 2004 4:24 pm
Lol, here are my rules based on running a dozen different forums over several years.
1. Make your posting rules clear and to the point. Remember that as the webmaster your forum is a dynamic body and you can update your rules to cover unacceptable behavior as it occurs. Either tell them in your rules post that it's their responsibilty to check the rules to see what changes or else mass email them of changes. Whichever you do, you've put responsibilty back with the posters to abide by acceptable forum conduct.
2. If the rules are ignored, don't let it slide. Once you start, it becomes harder to enforce the rules next time.
3. If you have cliques and the space, offer them a private forum for their gab sessions on the condition they continue to contribute to your public forums and take their "buddy" stuff to the private forum.
4. Don't get into explaining why. You already did that in the forum rules or your previous messages to them. You start arguing from a point of weakness when you get pulled into the "why can't I...?" stuff. You're paying the bill. You don't "owe" them. Point them to your forum rules.
5. If you continue to have problems with ignoring the rule, put them on moderation or temporary suspension. If that doesn't work, remember you have ban control. Better to lose a couple of members than have the boards in turmoil and bad feelings all around.
Mostly, don't beat up on yourself for enforcing the rules. As the admin/webmaster you have to set the tone for your site and make clear what you will and won't tolerate. Nobody likes to be the bad guy, but sometimes you have to to keep your board from fragmenting.
_________________ In a world without fences or walls, there is no need for Gates or Windows
Joined: Aug 24, 2003
Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:55 pm
Good posts, all of you. Thanks.
Just a quick update. So the people wouldnt drop it and eventually resorted to threatening me ( ), and then demanding that i delete their accounts. I just told them to not come back, but they insisted, going as far as to start a new thread every 5 minutes saying "delete my account". So i just banned them from the site altogether.
The best part was they started posting on another site that i recommended for them. They really were upset by it i guess because they would go on and on (on this other site) about how they could go about getting on the site. They were using proxies to make fake accounts, flooding my site with thousands of page views from single IP's (3000+ from one IP in 40 minutes) and such. These are people in their mid to late 20's! Not just some bored kids. What really vindicated my decision was when one of them ( the one who cried "censorship") even told them to shut up at their new hangout.
There is a new "crop of duds", but at least they show some discretion and dont use it as their own personal chat room. I have resigned myself to the fact that its never going to be exactly as i had planned, but at least my original members have gotten back into the swing of things, and new people seem to get involved alot easier.
I know nothing about PHP, MySQL or anything.
simrin Support Mod
Joined: Jul 17, 2003
Location: In front of a computer, who wants to know
Tue Feb 17, 2004 1:03 pm
It truly depends on what you are willing to put up with and the feedback that you get from other users. Everyone is right. The site is yours and you have the freedom to administer it however you want. First amendment does not apply to your own personal property. While technical rules apply that you can't change their words that they post you can still delete a post just fine. If you want to censor things in a post your are also more than welcome too. People need to understand that you have every right to protect your members how you see fit. In my case if I had a site that younger ages accessed I would probably set up some anti profanity rule and enforce it as much as possible. One thing that might help you is getting help in moderating threads from people you trust. People who know what you expect and how you want to see things run.
Joined: Feb 12, 2004
Tue Feb 17, 2004 1:58 pm
I hate to do it but I am going to have to play devils advocate here, I agree with about 95% of what you said and did but I still feel that you were in the wrong because by your own admission you didn't have a clearly defined policy of acceptable use.
I had something similar happen to me on my site, with a member that was ebay link dropping in most every thread he replied to, almost like it was his sig or something. This annoyed me greatly and I emailed him about it and he was rather taken aback and said if I was opposed to his behaviour why hadn't I stated so?
Soon after I changed my rules section to reflect this and in my case the user is still there and posts quite frequently. I do agree with the your house, your rules analogy but you IMO have a responsibility to spell out just exactly what those rules are, you shouldn't (as I did also) wait for someone to violate some unspoken rule and then ask then to stop.
Joined: Apr 07, 2003
Tue Feb 17, 2004 3:50 pm
Sometimes enforcing the rules brings out the best in people too. I had a member I was about ready to ban for disregarding posting rules, posting to the wrong forums, ect.. I talked to him, as did one of my moderators, and he straightened up. Now one of my best posters, always adding something interesting or cajoling lurkers to post and usually one of the first to welcome new members and make them feel at home. I think being reminded that rules were in place and would be enforced made the difference. Still a bit rambunctious, but the kind of rambunctious I can live with and enjoy.
smittysinz Nuke Cadet
Joined: Mar 15, 2004
Mon Mar 15, 2004 8:24 am
I gotta say a bunch of things here.
First; I just read some of the best advice I have seen in a long time, in this post.
I have been an admin on a gaming website for a few years now, and have to say that I have run across almost every situation mentioned. Yet, we have not had the need to ban someone.
We live by the "it's our house, our rules" creed, but we also have a section where any and every rule both on the forum and in our game server can be discussed. For both, we direct everyone to that section if they have a complaint or question. We do not allow the "why" routine or bitching on the server, nor do we in most topics in the forums. The rules discussion section is one of our least populated areas if that gives you any idea how things are.
I have to agree with the thought that it usually takes a quick reminder to get someone back on track to being a great addition to the community!
This has also gotten me thinking that we need to expand our rules list to include one for the overall forums. We have "mini-rules" under some of the sections, but it wouldn't be a bad idea outlining most of the basics in one location.
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