Steve Yelvington has a great post on Forum/Comment management in the big media environment entitled “Throw the Bums Out.”
Those of us that have managed online communities for years know that you’ve got to have a good sherriff around or things get completely out of hand. Think roving bands of digi-thugs corrupting what would otherwise be worthwhile conversations. I’ve seen it enough, with spammers, commercial agendas, tinfoil hatted clowns and their ilk, and I’ll admit over time I became very quick on the draw. I do not regret now, nor have I ever, a single banning. My only regrets are the folks that I gave the benefit of the doubt and had to remove from the community later.
An online community needs an explicit social contract. I’ll repeat the “new covenant” draft that Loren Omoto, Frasier Van Asch, Dan Gillmor, Christine Montgomery and I drew up at a Poynter workshop almost two years ago:
We promise, with your help
To listen to what you have to say.
To help you have a voice.
To give you tools so you can control our relationship.
To be open about how we gather and produce the news.
To deliver news on any platform you want it.
To respect your time.
To be relentlessly useful.
To be relentlessly creative.
To be a good citizen and help you be a better one.
To facilitate your efforts to find relevant news and information. Even when we can’t provide it, we’ll help you find it.
To never abuse your personal information.
To help nurture community discussion.
To be a catalyst for social agendas.
To be constructively involved in shaping the public dialogue.
To revisit these promises and to keep evolving.
Love, [We, the media]
That’s just a start. It needs a second component: A call to leadership on the part of community members.
He’s right on the money – we, the media and community owners must take responsibility, but the truth is that leadership must eventually develop organically. Real community leaders develop over time and you’ve got to allow them to grow. This is why good communities eventually start to self-police, because the forum ceases to by “the forum”; it becomes “our forum” – and we don’t tolerate spamming, hidden agendas or rude behavior.