Sometimes Running A Community Sucks Ass

  • 29,877 – The total number of registered website members
  • 15,237 – The number of active members
  • 15,000 – The average number of unique visits per day
  • 45,000 – The average number of page-views per day
  • 2 or 3 – The number of members needed to cause chaos, confusion, backstabbing, strife, and hatred among the entire community

Community members overrunning the siteOne of the most difficult things about running a community website is dealing with the vast diversity of personalties. With members at ranging in age from 15 to 80, a wide range of cultures, religions, backgrounds, social-status, upbringing and differences in anything else you can think of, trying keep everyone happy is a bit like being a politician or pissing into the wind. No matter how hard you try, you still get pissed-on and pissed-off.

For about the last two months many long-time (and the most valued) members and even moderators have been at each other’s throats, bickering, fighting, and frankly acting like children. One moderator quit due to personality conflicts, another had been continually threatening to quit if the site was not run to his liking, and now someone (actually, probably two members) are going around making fake profiles on Myspace of other members with some pretty nasty things in them – then sending these fake profiles to other members at the website.. Pretty childish shit that reminds me of that Twilight Zone Episode where everyone in the neighborhood thinks the country is under nuclear attack and soon everyone degenerates to acting like rabid animals to try and fight their way into the only fallout shelter on the block – each person displaying what they’re really made of.

How I’ve dealt with the problems:

  • Fired all the moderators: After getting yet another threat from one of the moderators that he would quit because he didn’t like the way that I did things, and seeing another round of childish bickering between moderators and members, I fired ALL the moderators – I fired all of them because of the close relationships that a few of the moderators had and I did not like having the power that they have being held over my head. I realized after a few weeks that I could not do all of the moderation at the site myself and invited back a couple of the less-vocal ones to help me out in a slightly less powerful moderator role.
  • Instituted a complaint system: It seemed like some of the members that had been around the site for a long time (including some of the moderators) were growing egos and feeling untouchable. I created a simple complaint system where other members could formally complain about posts made by other members. After two valid complaints (and warnings) members would be banned – period. They also get to wear “complaint badges” next to their name for at least a week if they received a complaint. After banning a few members, including one long-time and very helpful member who pushed things too far by insinuating a (non-violent) threat to the family of another member, and knocking down a few egos with those “complaint badges”, things have started to cool down – most members are learning some self-control.
  • Created a “Rap-Sheet” for all members: By using Drupal’s Profile module I created a custom field with restricted access that I can use to store notes, complaints, etc for every member. This is far easier and more reliable than relying on my failing memory.
  • Reduced my communications with members: Being too friendly with members makes it difficult to objectively evaluate complaints or ban someone if necessary. I’ve tried to cut-back on my chit-chat via IM’s at the site and email, choosing instead to silently fade into the background.

For the last week or so, for the most part, things have been civil at the site, but the constant attack against some members continues off-site, via Myspace and email. I’ve pledged to stay out that since my powers don’t extend beyond our website. It’s really surprising what “mature adults” will stoop too. All part of the fun of running a popular community website.

No moral, no message, no prophetic tract: Just a simple statement of fact. For civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight’s very small exercise in logic, from the Twilight Zone.

3 thoughts on “Sometimes Running A Community Sucks Ass

  1. Wow. Sorry for your plight, Randy. But I say you’ve made the right decision. Funny what most people will go through when power is in their hands. And to think it’s only moderation power. What more if it’s political? Sad, so sad. Human nature.

  2. I also have run several communities and you always have to be ready to make decisions. Even when members of your core team don’t get along with each others, you cannot ignore problems, you always need to be ready to deal with them.
    Unless of course you spend money to pay the moderator team and pass the responsibility on to them.

    ~ Mike

  3. People are funny that way. Everywhere you go. Sorry you got caught up in this. I got caught up in it IRL a couple weeks ago — however, I was not in the drivers seat. It’s tougher to steer matters straight when you aren’t allowed to hold the steering wheel … but not impossible. Things seem to have settled down on my end and I’m glad that they seem to be doing the same on yours.

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