Every once in awhile someone will come to Cre8asiteforums to ask how to start or market their own forums. I always have two thoughts. Firstly, why are they selling their forums in ours? That’s tacky. Secondly, do they have any idea what they’re getting themselves into?
While technically I own Cre8asiteforums, true “ownership” belongs to the entire community. This is what I’m most comfortable with. It’s also difficult to manage that way for a variety of reasons and impossible if you’re a control freak. If you are one, think long and hard about the part called about “Community”.
Experience and Experimentation
I’ve been associated in some way with online communities since 1995. It’s a way of life. My experiences are all over the place. Some of them were ways to test the waters of a certain genre. Some were to teach myself new skills and what better way than to jump in head first? My community travels have not been focused on just search engines and web design topics. I’ve moderated email lists on taboo topics, sensitive topics, emotionally charged topics, pushing the envelope of thought topics, business topics and have even moderated a group where one of the community members was my own mother.
I didn’t use my real name there, and she referred to me there by my other name. It was quite unique and it opened up an interesting way for her and I to get to know one another in a new way.
Cre8asiteforums is global, with a large Moderating staff and several technical Administrators. We’ve faced everything from birthdays, to emergencies to moving to new software and servers together. Through it all, we’ve shared it openly with the membership.
When we chose to earn revenue, we had several options. Our needs were not great, but money makes more things possible. We settled on a compromise way of ad sales that was worked out with the community’s input first. Our members have their own forum inside the forums to tell us what they want in “their” forums.
We dream a lot. The staff would like to meet each other. The first time most of the Moderating staff got to see me was when Webpronews released the first video interview of me at the Chicago SES. They heard my voice for the first time. They saw my face move and heard me giggle too much. That was a big moment. We even get excited if one of us gets to talk to another one on the phone.
Online forums birth families, but it’s not enough. Some connections aren’t complete unless you can talk to each other, shake hands, hug and especially laugh together.
You Can’t Just Up and Walk Away
There is one discussion I never see anywhere on forums, and that’s how to turn it off. Cre8asiteforums, in its present incarnation, was launched almost 5 years ago. Before that, it existed as a club for 4 years. That means I’ve been dedicated to it for 9 years and that’s not counting the other places I was moderating alongside my own.
I could walk away from the others, but not mine because there’s many people to consider who have invested their time and skills to it as well. If something bad happens to me, I already know enough people will do what they feel is in the best interest of the forums. Still, having a plan for your forums is important to consider. You may not always be here to care for it.
So You Wanna Be a Forums Star
Daily life as a forums owner is a chore that never ends. This is the part that I think never gets discussed enough. So here it is. If you can live with it, you will thrive with your own forums.
1. No days off unless you have one or more persons who can handle anything that comes up. That includes hacking, server issues, a member that goes beserk or someone has a question only an Admin. can handle. Other people besides you need access to the server, so trust is vital.
2. No days off because if you aren’t there, it’s just not the same without you and your community misses you.
3. No days off because spam never sleeps.
4. Some moderators will moderate the entire forum, while others will moderate their own assigned forums only and if nothing is happening there, you won’t see them.
5. You can’t be a prude, thin-skinned or easily offended. You wouldn’t believe the things we see people post. (See 5a.)
People Spammers Post: Nude pictures inside posts; stupid usernames with every possible spelling variation of narcotics ever invented; links to porn sites; (Of course we look!), links to Britney’s you-know-what; pictures of that too; and her friends; political statements of every variety including some we never did understand; links to one’s own website because it’s the “coolest”, “greatest”, “new thing I found”, etc.
6. Not everyone gets into the forums that signs up. If they manage to get past the validation stuff that tries to prevent automated spam, we track IP’s of everyone who joins. We know who spammed us before and there is no second chance. We close the door on re-entry. Those who get in and used a jolly old assortment of letters from the alphabet for their username are banned because frankly, they’re likely not even people.
7. We love emoticons so much that we have a moderator who has the special job of finding us more so we can accurately express ourselves. Some of these emoticons are not used out front where the community can see us because we are terribly naughty, mean, and some of us have a peculiar love of blowing spammers to bits with our emoticon guns. We have a whole hidden forum where we shoot spammers and blow up their information. Who needs video games?
8. Moderators come and go. Some Admins come and go. Members come and go. If you get attached to people, running a forums can be constant source of good-byes. Some members, however, have us at “Hello”. Some of them are adopted as new Moderators or we just drool all over them because we love whatever they post.
9. We scramble outbound links in posts, profiles and signatures. If we didn’t do so, we’d have something like negative 30 PR and who wants that? Why should we suffer so that you can promote your websites? Did I just say that?
10. No days off. Even you think you have one, you can’t possibly be a good forums owner if you can forget your forums for even a day. Mine comes with me on vacation, seminars, and even to bed.
Think I’m kidding?
You try relaxing with over 10,000 people visiting your house every day.
See also the funny piece, The Life of a Leading Search Blog Owner