Managing Online Forums

Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards

 Managing Online Forums

Author: Patrick O'Keefe
Pub Date: April 2008
Print Edition: $24.00
Print ISBN: 9780814401972
Page Count: 320
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814412930

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments xvii

Foreword xxi

Introduction: Is This Book for You? 1

How This Book Is Organized 2

Communities, Forums, and Boards 4

Book Website 4

After You’ve Read the Book 5

Chapter 1. Laying the Groundwork 7

Fundamental Decisions 7

What Will Your Community Cover? 7

Whom Do You Want to Attract? 8

What Will the Benefits of Your Community Be? 9

How Will You Support the Community Financially? 9

What Is Your Situation? 10

Create a Brand-New Stand-Alone Community 10

Launch a Brand-New Community and Content Site at the Same Time 10

Launch a Brand-New Community as an Addition to an Existing Content Site 12

Purchase or Take Over an Existing Community 13

What Skills and Characteristics Do You Need to Have? 14

Conclusion 16

Chapter 2. Developing Your Community 17

Choosing a Name and a Domain Name 17

Communities for New or Existing Content Sites 18

Naming a Stand-Alone Community 18

Extensions • Dashes and Numbers • Spell It Correctly! • Length • Prefixes •

Don’t Curse!

Domain Name Registrars 21

Web Hosting 22

Choosing Your Community Software 23

vBulletin 23

phpBB 24

Basic Options 24

Software Options 25

Requiring Registration to Participate • Smilies • Flood Controls • Word Censors • Post Counts •

Old Posts • Purging Accounts

User Options 29

Signatures and Avatars • Username Changing • User Titles and Ranks • Ignore

List • Private Messaging • Allowing Users to Be ‘‘Invisible’’

Setup Options 33

What Guests See • How Many Forums Should I Have? • Advertising Forums •

Private Forums • Other Forums • Why You Don’t Want a Feedback-and-

Suggestions Forum

Starting with Staff 48

Design, Layout, and Customization 48

Don’t Just Install a Ready-Made Template 49

Designing for a Community 49

Stick to One Look 50

Customizing Your Community 50

Improve the Usability • Add an Important Feature • Add a Requested Feature •

Make Your Job Easier

Be Smart, Be Safe 53

Follow the Instructions and Recommendations 53

Check Your File and Folder Permissions 53

Protect Your Admin Areas with .htaccess 54

Have Separate Passwords for Everything 54

Create a Separate Database Account for Each Database 55

Backup Your Database—Constantly! 55

Keep Your Community Software Updated 57

Conclusion 57

Chapter 3. Developing Guidelines 59

Guideline Ideas 60

What Do They Apply To? 61

Cross-Posting, Duplicate Threads, Etc. 61

Post-Count Boosting and Bumping 62

Styles of Communication (No CAPS!) 62

Advertising 63

Affiliate Links 65

Copyright 65

Illegal Activities 67

Hotlinking and Bandwidth Theft 67

Legal Advice, Medical Advice, Suicide Threats, Etc. 68

Personal, Real-Life Information and Privacy 69

English Only, Please 69

Respect 69

Obstructing the Flow of Discussion 70

Vulgar Language and Offensive Material 70

Freedom of Speech 71

Multiple Accounts 71

Automated Account Creation, Participation, and Scraping 72

Signatures 73

Avatars 73

Privilege Restrictions 73

Deleting Accounts and/or Posts in the Future (Leaving Your Community) 73

Who’s the Boss? 74

If You Break the Guidelines, There Are Consequences 75

The Guidelines Are Not All-Inclusive 75

We Can’t Watch It All! 75

Have Fun! And, If You Need Help, Let Us Know! 76

Real-Life Examples 76

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (C.O.P.P.A.) 87

Privacy Policy 88

Get Them Out There! 88

Conclusion 89

Chapter 4. Promoting Your Community 91

You 91

What Is Not Considered Promotional Can Be Promotional 92

Preparing Your Community for Search Engines 93

Make Your Community Spiderable 94

Descriptive Page Titles 95

Welcome Messages 96

Before You Launch 97

Directories 98

Partnerships 98

What Can You Offer a Partner? 99

What Can a Partner Offer You? 100

Buying Advertising 100

Link Exchanges 107

Contests and Giveaways 108

Post Exchanges and Paying People to Post 110

Offline Promotion 111

Let Your Users Promote You! 113

What Not to Do 114

Conclusion 115

Chapter 5. Managing Your Staff 117

How Should You Lead? 117

Communicating with Your Staff 120

Staff Forums 121

Talking Things to Death 121

Staff Leaks 122

The Chain of Command 122

Regular Users Who Think They Are Staff 123

Moderators Policing Moderators 124

Only One True Admin, Please 124

Moderation: The Process 125

Step #1: Recognizing Violations 125

Step #2: Removing Violations 125

Step #3: Documenting Violations and the Action Taken 126

Step #4: Contacting Users 129

Responses to Guideline Violation Warnings 139

Process Summary 142

Old Violations 142

Staff Guidelines 142

Staff Guideline Ideas 143

Job Duties • Behavior • Use of ‘‘Powers’’ • Documenting Violations and Related

Issues and Notifying Members • Discussing Site-Related Issues with Members

• Avoiding Controversial Discussions • Staff Forums • Interacting with Other

Levels of Staff • Choosing New Staff Members • Saying Thanks and Being


Example Staff Guidelines 147

Situations Guide 160

Make Your Staff Stand Out 168

Staff Member Benefits 169

Choosing Your Staff 171

When Is It Time for a Staff Member to Move On? 173

Inactive Staff Members 174

Resignation in Good Standing 175

Resignation After Disagreement 175

Wow, I Let This Person onto My Staff? 176

Conclusion 179

Chapter 6. Banning Users and Dealing with Chaos 181

Real People, Real Cases 182

The Bad 182

Forum Spam Bots • That Doesn’t Look Like Spam . . . • Introtisements and

Adverquestions • Violations in Private Messages • I’m Locked out of My

Account! • Why Use of ‘‘Micro$oft/M$’’ Is Bad • Content Thieves and Scrapers

• The Reply-to-Every-Post Guy • ‘‘Freedom of Speech’’ • Me vs. You • ‘‘You Are

So Biased’’ • ‘‘I’m Creating My Own !’’ • When Users Say

Good-Bye • Threats ( . . . or I’mLeaving!)

. . . And the Worst 198

‘‘Remove All of My Posts and Delete My Account!’’ • ‘‘Hate Him, My Minions!

Hate Him!’’ • Admin to Users: ‘‘Attack!’’ • The Grand Delusion • Personal

Crusades: What It All Comes Down To

Persistent Idiots 203

Solutions 204

Post Reporting System 204

Turning Negatives into Positives 205

Helpful Notices 205

Innovative Tools 205

Banning 207

Give Every User a Chance 208

Public Humiliation 208

When Should You Ban? 208

Responding to Banned Users • Lifting a Ban

Banning Methods 211

Banning Usernames • Temporary Bans • Banning IPs • Users Who Use the

Same IP • Doesn’t That Look Like . . . ? • Get Creative • The System Is Down •

Make It So That Only They Can See Their Posts (Global Ignore) • Simulated

Downtime • Automated Banning and Point-Based Systems

Banning URLs 216

Contacting a User’s ISP 217

Conclusion 218

Chapter 7. Creating a Good Environment 219

Respect Is Everything 219

Welcoming New Users 220

Be Human, Be Fun, Be Involved 220

Answering Questions 221

Don’t Have an Attitude of Expected Knowledge 221

Don’t Link Users to General, Unhelpful Sites 221

Don’t Tell Users to Search 221

If a Question Has Been Asked Before 222

Make Your Users Feel Involved 222

Ask Users for Input 222

Announce Changes 223

Share Your Successes 223

Customer Service 224

When a Problem Occurs, Apologize and Explain 224

Responding to Bad or Rude Suggestions 224

How to Handle Private Contact with Users 225

Don’t Take It Personally 225

Allow All Wrath to Be Directed at You, Not Your Staff 226

Politics, Religion, and Other Very Controversial Discussions 227

Conclusion 228

Chapter 8. Keeping It Interesting 229

New Features 229

Newsletters and Mailing Lists 230

RSS Feeds and Syndication 235

Bots 236

Posting Games 237

Arcade Games 239

Contests and Giveaways 240

Member of the Month 240

Articles and Content 241

Chat Rooms 241

Awards Programs 242

Conclusion 244

Chapter 9. Making Money 245

Advertising 245

Displaying (Some) Ads to Guests Only 247

Start with Ads 247

Advertising Networks 248

CPM and CPC Networks • CPA Networks and Affiliate Programs

Selling Advertising 251

Other Ads 252

Ad Threads • Classifieds • Sponsorships • What Else . . . ?

Merchandise 253

Paid Memberships 259

Donations 260

Conclusion 260

End Note 261

Appendix A. Online Resources 263

Appendix B. Blank General Templates 265

User Guidelines 265

Staff Member Guidelines 270

Contact Templates 274

Appendix C. Glossary 283

Index 289

About the Author 297

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