You know it's bad when... ...The owner of the site is googling Forum Moderation articles to see what he is doing wrong. ...When you have people that continue to poke the bear, poke the hive, poke the process. ...When you have people report a post then proceed to fan the flames. ...When you have members share that they are not sure how to respond to a post in fear of getting moderated. ...When you start calling the Moderator out who is actually trying to keep the peace, a Forum Nazi. How about this one... ...When you are not sure you want to keep owning a forum. That your goal of providing a Best Culture Mountain Bike Website you feel is heading in the wrong direction. Is the honeymoon over? Do Forums live in Dog Years? Let me share some stuff... "Mikie you should have a politics forum." "Mikie, I didn't sign up for a place that talks politics." "Mikie, when are you going to start an eBike Forum?" "Mikie, are we going to allow eBike talk on this site? If so, I'm outta here!" "Mikie, this guy is being an azzhole!" Yet then the member reporting it becomes an azzhole. "Mikie, I want you to delete my account." "I don't delete accounts." Then they go away, then come back, then go away, then come back, they go away, then come back... Don't get paranoid if you think I am talking about you. Trust me, there is more than one in every category. I get it. Human nature. Do you know why I continue to narrow the subjects to Mountain Bike speak only? Because there are people here that will figure out a way to piss others off on other subjects. Or is it that people will figure out a way to get pissed off? At least if you are arguing over whether 1x10 is way better than 2x10... at least it's a reasonable discussion/argument. Society is driving our Nation in the same fashion that imtbtrails is getting driven by it's Members, to narrow our speech and be offended by ... EVERYTHING. I personally have no problem with us talking Politics, eBikes, Religion, and stuff outside Mountain Bikes. But there are those here that go nutz when they hear something they don't want to hear. So I try to moderate in a way that suggests resolve in all directions. Towards the offender and the offended. It may be some of you are not getting the hints when you ask for my help... I even gave up totalitarian authority in effort to blend leadership styles for a broader base. Now some are snapping at him. Understand... I want all of you here. My last blow up was a real blow up and it harmed the site. Some are not coming back and I may of in the past not admitted it, but it significantly harmed me losing the friendships. I aint doing that again. Instead, I'll just shut the site down because quite frankly, it isn't worth it. So make a decision to either be a contributor or a troublemaker. Contributors will get plenty of lovin'... Troublemakers will get plenty of warnings offline, then upon failure... disappear. This Forum Software has built in to it a full system for corrective governance. The goal is to help people get better or help them out the door. If enough troublemakers rule the day then the site disappears or may become Arkansas focused, yeehaw! I mean really, why would it be worth it to me? You know... the only reason I post all of this is because I actually really do care... I think the bottom line is everyone really just needs to chill! Here is an article I read. It's directed at Moderators but I hope everyone can learn from this... As your online community grows in popularity, so do the opportunities for varied, and sometimes toxic or rude, comments. Knowing how to spot these comments and what to do about them, especially in large communities where several moderators may be responding to posts, is crucial for setting the right vibes in your community’s culture. This article approaches the topic of dealing with online bullies, trolls, and simply irate community members from the perspective of a moderator. In a large online support community that answers hundreds of questions daily for over 200 products, at OpenText, technical analysts moderate our forums channel, not community managers. As the community program manager, it is a large part of my job to train channel moderators, or CMods, as we call them, to conduct themselves professionally online. Recently, the question of how to handle negative or abusive comments in the forums came up. The question prompted me to create a protocol or process for CMods to follow. In support, which is a process-oriented organization, community program managers need to write step-by-step instructions for all aspects of moderation. Therefore, documenting that process revealed some considerations that we took into account. Here are the initial steps our technical analysts take when encountering a possible irate online customer. 1. Understand the post. Often a toxic post is easy to spot, since it may contain foul language or angry type in ALL CAPS and several exclamation marks. However, sometimes that alone isn’t the case. Tone, too, can indicate toxicity, but it can also be mistaken for a language barrier issue, especially for some whose word choice or written communication skills are limited. In all cases, and with every post, a CMod’s first step is to understand the poster’s question. That may take a few read-throughs and follow-ups with clarifying questions. Understanding the post and addressing the reason for it can stop a toxic situation in its tracks. Learn to spot the hallmarks of an angry or toxic comment or post. 2. Determine what action to take. If a CMod determines that a post is toxic, it’s time to follow our process, which enables the right prompt and professional response. I warn our CMods not to rush to judgment and not to respond if they are feeling angry. Short, curt responses or defensive remarks will only fuel the fires and make a bad situation worse. Moreover, labeling community members typically serves no one well. Whenever a CMod contacts me to announce that they have spotted a troll online, I ask for information about the member’s perceived intent. Often, as it turns out, a “troll,” as it were, is a community member with misguided good intentions and a bad or misinterpreted set of communication skills. Make sure to be in a calm mind space before you respond to a toxic situation. Grab a beverage, take some deep breaths, and let your cooler head prevail. 3. Respond in a prompt and professional manner. Most toxic posts require a response from a moderator. Ignoring an irate customer, or taking rasher measures like deleting the post or banning the member, should never be a CMod’s action. Our in-house process requires that moderators report all toxic posts to the community manager, even those posts that can be handled professionally with a CMod’s direct response. We have a three-strike policy for toxic posts before escalating the poster to their account team for community censorship. Customers are the reason we exist as a company; there may be business-related issues that only the account team knows about, and they can help guide us to a successful customer resolution. Our standard response typically begins with an “I am sorry you are having trouble with…” type of introduction, followed by “We are here to help resolve the issue.” 4. Make an effort to resolve the issue. Many times, I’ve found that toxic posts come from frustrated customers who feel that no one is listening. Be sure to listen closely; if you’re able to understand the issue fully, you may be able to avert angrier, more irate responses from the customer. In cases where the customer has expressed frustration with our online support forums channel, I will offer an opportunity for communication in another channel, including a phone conversation. Remember: one-channel communication, like a single clothing size, does not fit all needs. Make yourself available to customers in a channel that suits their communication needs. 5. Turn an angry customer into an advocate. Sometimes formerly unhappy customers, who become happy once we collaboratively resolve their issue, provide a great opportunity for advocacy. In my personal experience, I have been able to recruit previously irate customers and turn them into online advocates. One, in particular, was incensed about our documentation. We set up an online review board of customers to contribute their feedback to manuals, and the opportunity allowed both the previously disgruntled customer and our company to reap the benefits of his expertise. Another angry customer argued that his responses were often better than our technical analysts were. We allowed him to show off his expertise in the community by contributing a regular customer-contributed blog post on technical issues that he found most interesting. — By following simple support engagement principles, which I call “CARE,” or Communicate, Advocate, Respond, and Encourage, you may be able to avoid toxic or rude comments. Many of these types of comments grow out of customer frustration and can be avoid through CARE. In a future blog, I’ll discuss the CARE principles for supporting your online community.