Managing your Board

This documentation applies to zIFBoards only.

Properly running your forum is more of an art than anything else. It can take luck, patience and some skill to successfully run a community. Whether you're working on your own or with a team there are some tricks to the trade that you might find useful in this guide. Central to your board is, of course, your community. It's important to understand that a lot of what attracts people is what they read. Interaction between staff and members, conduct, etiquette; these are all key things that can sway a person into joining your forum.

Invisible Administrators

A common complaint among members (and staff even) is that sometimes administrators aren't seen. While everyone can sympathize that they do a lot of work “behind the scenes” in the ACP, it shouldn't be at the sacrifice of their presence in the community. An anonymous pseudonym in control has the appeal of a sharp blade. It's not a case of having to divulge privacy, merely making sure your people know you're there. Get involved with the community, put yourself out there and join in the chatting and games and discussions when you can. If working as an administrator is beginning to tear you away from time on the board itself you should really consider a second hand.

Board E-mail Address

Part of the overall security of your forum is to ensure both on-board accounts and email addresses are well protected. A tip for ROOT Administrators: the board itself requires an email address in order to designate outgoing emails with a primary setting (email PM notifications, mass email function, etc.). By default, the email you register your board with is the designated board email. As a means of keeping your own primary email address private, you should change the board email setting.

Admin CP > System Settings > General Configuration > Board email address

In doing this the email address registered to your account will never be shown via emails and thus will dramatically reduce the chances of someone discovering and attempting to crack it.

Staff Selection

A board will eventually come to require staff. The most common position is that of moderators but different boards have their own requirements. But when it comes to selecting staff, it's of the utmost importance that you choose people you trust. Many an issue we deal with involves problems surrounding poor selection of staff, such as leaks and abuse of power. It is key that you can trust your staff - enough to be able to leave it in their hands as there will be times when you are absent and they must hold down the fort.

Whenever you are giving a role of responsibility, particularly one that includes moderation powers, you should take into consideration several key issues:

  • The person's history - have they been warned? If so, what for? Was it anything serious? Has there been a marked improvement?
  • Their activity - are they active at all? If so, where and what are they contributing? Is it quality or quantity?
  • Their role in the community - is this person respected? If so, is it for popularity's sake? Do they seem to understand the rules? Do they set a good example? Do they appear experienced enough?
  • Trust - could you honestly trust this person in a position of authority? Can they work as a team? Have they ever done anything to shake your trust?

It is especially important that when it comes to selecting Administrators you choose individuals who are absolutely trustworthy. NEVER grant administrative powers unless you are absolutely certain the individual will never abuse the position. It is strongly advised that you do NOT promote people simply because they are friends; we have had many instances of so-called friends turning nasty. Administrators are best selected from existing staff who have an established history of unwavering trust, contribution, ability and loyalty.

Secure Accounts

It is not difficult to find a board that has been the victim of “cracking” or account theft, where an individual has gained access to a staff member's account and inflicted damage. This can be devastating, from a moderator who can delete topics to an administrator who can effectively ruin the board. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that you reinforce the idea of security to your staff. Drum it into your staff to:

  1. Have a secure email that DOES NOT use the same password as their forum account (preferably, a unique password altogether);
  2. Choose a secure password. A secure password contains:
    • uppercase and lowercase letters
    • a number
    • punctuation or symbols
    • at least 8 characters
  3. NEVER give account access to anyone else - parents, siblings, cousins, family members, friends.
  4. Avoid the use of words in passwords.
  5. Perhaps create a unique email for their account and to keep it secret.

Poor security is the most common cause among cracked accounts or boards. Don't settle for anything less than full and proper secured accounts.

Staff Interaction

Following on from above, it is equally important that staff are seen to be a part of the community rather than apart from it. Unless you are employing these people and paying wages, they are effectively members who have earned the privilege of possessing rank and (limited) power. Community Moderators in particular should never be distant from the community; this gap can quickly become a chasm and the separation can come across as being cold and uninterested from the moderator.

Always be welcoming to new comers. Why not encourage your staff to post in introduction topics to welcome new people? If you're extremely active even just welcoming the latest batch is better than nothing.

Activity is as important as physical presence; staff need to be seen in the community as well as around it. Not everyone has the time (or the inclination) to start new topics so instead you can participate in ongoing topics, offer your opinions and insight, join in with the frolics and let the plebs know you're “one of them.” I would emphasis offering your opinion. Sometimes staff are seen as drones because naturally they work as a team and can have standard approaches to work but when you're off duty, so to speak, you should show your individuality.

Just as an afterthought: the dispensation of warnings and punishments is key to a board's maintenance and enforcement of the rules. Overbearing staff are seen as tyrants and ogres. Remember that the people you're dealing with are individuals and they shouldn't be painted with the same brush. When handling first-time violations approach the situation carefully. Leniency is a gesture of good faith. Be calm and gentle, point out the rules and why what they did is not acceptable, and ask them not to do it again. Quite simple really. If you come down heavily on everyone, especially if it's their first offense, you will only make enemies. Save the iron chains for the repeat offenders and serious violations and bear in mind that nobody's perfect, mistakes happen and the best way forward is to help the person improve.

Board Etiquette

The way in which the community interacts, what is held to be reasonable and the way situations are dealt with are all devices used to measure the worth of a board. It is commonly held that uncontrolled flaming (fighting and name-calling) and unrestrained spamming are bad etiquette and can cause people to leave.

In the instance of flaming, it can be viewed that by allowing flaming to go unpunished or unchallenged the board has no boundaries when it comes to what people can say. Generally it is advised to dissuade flaming and encourage considerate, respectful behaviour. This is not the same as honest criticism. To call a spade a spade is no crime, however most draw a line at simple insults with no basis. If you are going to allow members to publicly confront others, you should ensure they do so on legitimate ground and they don't resort to childish attacks. To avoid this problem many adopt a zero tolerance policy on flaming.

Spamming is often viewed in a dim light. What is defined as spam tends to vary but meaningless posts with a random selection of numbers and letters are usually the worst form (or the most basic). Outside of a designated spam forum and/or a chat forum, spam is best avoided and removed and instead proper interaction encouraged. If not controlled, you could end up with people joining just to spam advertise.

A fun and friendly community is of course always preferable. A community where people are respected and staff are firm but fair can easily sow harmony and reap relative peace. No board is without its problems but these can be dramatically reduced in quantity if you take care to guide your forum along a healthy path. Remember: as the creator and owner it's your job to set out a vision for the future and take the board by the hand. As a parent is to a child, an owner is a necessary guide who has to put a great deal of care and effort into their community, nourish the good bits and help them to grow.

zifboards/board/management.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/09 16:02 (external edit)