Session: Building Your Community by Libertyvasion 2010. The post has not been proof-read for spelling, grammar, or accuracy.
This presentation is more focused on your community, though it’s not a be-all end-all, there’ll be a Q&A discussion at the end.
It’s important to know why you are creating your forum. What services and benefits is it going to provide? What will people get out of your forum? Just saying “I WANT A FORUM!” is the wrong answer. How will your site be different? Who do you want to attract? Why would they come to you? How will people find your site? (Google will not magically drive people to your site.)
Don’t spam your site! People will ignore it and delete it, except for spambots, who will immediately come to your site.
Use signatures and website fields to promote your site. Buy ads (if appropriate) to drive people to your site. However, note that targeted campaigns will go much farther than blanket ones. Bringing new users to your site is the hardest part of getting your new community off the ground.
How will your board be organized? Don’t start with dozens and dozens of forums. Are there any legal issues with your site? How many people do you expect? How do you plan on expanding?
Most importantly: Why are people going to stay? Your site needs to have content and a reason for people to stay, or people will drift away to other sites. Your site will be a failure unless you can answer all of these questions.
Once you’ve established your site, some tips:
* Moderation — There is no one-size fits all approach to moderation. You do need to prepare rules, but be flexible in how you enforce them. Don’t hide what you expect out of users. (On phpBB.com, every page links to the rules page.) Make sure that your users know the rules. Know how to handle various situations; you will encounter all kinds of situations on your board, including: spam, competitor advertisements, profanity, flame wars, forum games, obnoxious avatars/signatures, banned users coming back, criticism of your site, escalating complaints (& chain of command for dealing with appeals), legal threats/action, and plenty of others.
The phpBB.com Moderator Team has an internal 24-page guide for handling situations, and a private forum for communicating on how to handle situations and ensure problems are being handled fairly or consistently.
Open mic offering suggestions of other issues to be aware of. Mentioned were the “holy trinity of flame topics”: politics, religion, and web browsers. Be aware of local laws that apply to your board, i.e. the COPPA in the United States.
Question asked — isn’t it all just common sense? It is, but there are lots of people that don’t do the right thing for what’s best for the community.
When you’re building your site, think about what your community wants, what it needs, and what can help it grow. Don’t install 55 MODs on a site that has only 5 members, where’s the value there?