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David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
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Messages
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The Life of a Forums Owner
By cre8pc on Cre8asiteforums

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.)

5 a. What 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.
 

im_in_chains

Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2007
Messages
35
Points
6
Thank you for a very interesting post, David. It's always interesting reading other forum owners' experiences.

I've ran my own forum for almost 4 years so I can appreciate much of what you're saying.

The people who host our forums are tacking the spam problem. We don't have a user activation facility (yet, hopefully something for the future) so spammers go to the trouble of registering then posting links to unsavoury sites, so my Moderator and I have been busy removing them and banning their IP addresses. Luckily, someone further up is doing their stuff to help us and other forum owners.

I love meeting our forum members and getting to know them. Some of them are still quite shy and either don't speak much or at all. Do you ever get silent members? If so, what do you do with their inactive accounts?

Take care
Chains
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
38,051
Points
113
The people who host our forums are tackling the spam problem. We don't have a user activation facility

Why not? What forum software are you using?

I love meeting our forum members and getting to know them. Some of them are still quite shy and either don't speak much or at all. Do you ever get silent members? If so, what do you do with their inactive accounts?

I don't do anything to discourage members who want to read and not post. With a forum like this one, I expect a certain number of people will always prefer to do that.

We do have an add-on installed that sends emails to members who have not logged in in 90 days to remind them that the forum is still here and to invite them back. Note that it's based on last date logged in, not when they last posted or even whether they ever posted, and that instructions for how to prevent any future reminders are included in the emails, as an anti-spam measure.
 

Retired

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Aug 17, 2005
Messages
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I've ran my own forum for almost 4 years

What is the topic of your forum?

I too will be interested in what forum software you're using. When we were using phpBB on the forum I host, we were inundated with spam registrations, probably because, I understand, there are robot scripts that seek out certain software platforms, register and post spam.

There are other open source software platforms that provide a higher level of security, however.

As for members who prefer to read and not post, there will always be some folks who prefer to remain "silent".

This should not be a concern, because the success of your forum depends on your ability to provide a reason for members to return.

Some will be active participants while others will be silent, but if they keep returning for new and interesting info, you've got a successful forum.
 

im_in_chains

Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2007
Messages
35
Points
6
Why not? What forum software are you using?

I too will be interested in what forum software you're using.

I don't know, David. None has been created.
I have a Conforums forum which is all web based. I don't use anything downloaded on my computer.

I don't do anything to discourage members who want to read and not post.

As for members who prefer to read and not post, there will always be some folks who prefer to remain "silent".

This should not be a concern, because the success of your forum depends on your ability to provide a reason for members to return.

Some will be active participants while others will be silent, but if they keep returning for new and interesting info, you've got a successful forum.

Neither do I, David.

I've made all the boards on my forum visible for guests to view. However, people still like to register which I don't understand as there are no extra benefits other than being able to reply to/create posts.

Note that it's based on last date logged in, not when they last posted or even whether they ever posted

I wish we had this facililty. We only know of members' activities if they post. If they choose not to, we don't even know if they've logged on unless we happen to be on the forum the same time they are and can see their name at the bottom. Once they log out, their name disappears. So, we may never know if they've logged on.

What is the topic of your forum?

It's a friendship advice forum although it does encompass advice on relationships such as family and work. It has general sections for fun and leisure, too.

Kind regards
Chains
 

Retired

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Messages
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Points
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encompass advice on relationships such as family and work. It has general sections for fun and leisure, too.

Sounds interesting. Have you entered you forum information into the Psychlinks Support Directory?

have a Conforums forum which is all web based

I don't believe I've come across it. So you have some access to a control panel to customize your forum, but you you are unable to control malicious registrations, is that right?

Am I correct that the software is installed on a server where there are several forums sharing a domain name?

If your forum is popular, why don't you register a domain name on a service such as GoDaddy, whic is really inexpensive, and install one of the open source forum software platforms. An open source forum software I like is SMF, which I (and David) have had experience with.

If you care to spend a few bucks, then vBulletin, the software in use on Psychlinks, would be a good choice.

Both of these are highly customizable and are top notch for security.

However, people still like to register which I don't understand as there are no extra benefits other than being able to reply to/create posts.

This is the whole idea of an interactive forum. Without registered members, your forum has no traffic and all you have is a one way website.

The decision as to whether to make your forum visible to unregistered guests is a dilemma pondered and discussed by forum hosts since the beginning of forums.

Making registration necessary to view the forum is an incentive to register; however, your guests cannot evaluate your forum and if the forum is invisible to guests, it's also invisible to search engine bots.

I am of the opinion that if your forum is read and visited by large numbers, you have success, particularly in a support and information forum.

I feel that forums where registration is required to view the contents would be appropriate for private, family or corporate forums.

However it's up to the skills of the forum host and moderators to make registered members feel welcome and interested enought to post and become interested in discussions. What's your view on this?

Do you have other moderators besides yourself, Chains?

If you'd like more info or links to the resources I've mentioned or if you would like to see an example of a working, and successful forum using SMF, let me know.
 

stargazer

Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2004
Messages
1,720
Points
36
I took the forum off of my web site partly because no one ever visited. The forum still exists, it's just not visible on the current site. I'd put it back if I had any clue how to re-vamp it in such a way that people will post. Also, I couldn't figure out how to change the skin color to suit my new color sceme. It's an smf forum.

The web site is here (in case you want to see the color). Some sort of blue would be good -- probably the PsychLinks forum color, or close to it, is all right. The forum, if you want to see the current color, is here. (If it works -- sometimes I get a message saying there's a "temporary parse error.")

I've (obviously) tried changing the skins through the options I have as an administrator, but when I do so, nothing ever happens. Guess I'm still a "luddite." :(
 

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