Along the difficulties of initially building a good group/community, comes the hassles of managing said [virtual] community – especially on the book of the face.
I am a coadmin on the Ontario & Western Railways Historical Society Inc Facebook group. My friend Peter is a coadmin of the Linux Mint group.
Something both of us have noticed is the ridiculous spam problem Facebook groups have developed over the past 1-2 years. It’s not a new problem, of course – Stack Overflow has had problems since very early on, too: they printed A Theory of Moderation to outline the issues they were seeing, and how they planned to handle it.
The real problem at the root of all the spam lies, though, not in technology, but in people.
Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt - if you don’t have human exception handling in place.
Spam doesn’t arise on its own – it’s all developed by people. Until the people problem of spam can be addressed, it will continue. Sadly, technology, in and of itself, cannot deal with the people problem.
So instead we have human admins and moderators whose [typically volunteer] job is to ensure that the communit[y|ies] keeps to a general standard, as defined by the community itself. By assuming technology could be made that would fix the problem, we’re asking the wrong question: human behavior needs to be addressed and improved; while technology is wonderful and can aid in the process, it is no panacea.
Encouragements for moderation teams can come in the form of gamification (the SO model), community accolade, or just the individual admin’s personal satisfaction.
The drawback is that this task can become so overwhelming at times and in places that it those tasked with caring for the community, when the community itself won’t do anything about the problem(s), give up because they adopt the view that it’s everyone’s problem, and presume that since it is everyone’s problem, it’s not “theirs”.
What are the solutions to these issues? I can think of a few – but many remain yet unanswered:
- the community must encourage the admins
- if the community isn’t doing something to make their admins feel appreciated, the admins will, eventually, leave
- better tech
- it’s not possible to solve all problems with technology, but there are certainly many areas that can be improved in this regard
- community engagement and education
- seasoned community members and admins alike need to take the time to “mentor” new community members to make sure they stick to the guidelines of that community
- community members need to be proactive in assisting the moderators when inappropriate items are posted, or conversation degrades below the stands of the group
- a willingness to say “no”
- admins and the general community needs to be willing to tell some people they are not welcome
- this should [almost] never be in a hateful, grudge-bearing manner, but it must be done to ensure the integrity of the community in the long-term
- a willingness to morph
- the flip side of (4) is that the community needs to be willing on a regular basis:
- review its own guidelines
- change / modify rules
- find new admins
- welcome new members who aren’t yet versed in the ways of the group ( related to (3) above)
I am sure there are many many more items that can be added to this list. But this is the starting point for every successfully-maintained community I’ve ever seen.
What others would you add, or what would you change?