Operating a community site or forum is no easy task. As someone who has served as an admin or moderator at several different forums, I know well the challenges such sites face from trouble users, spammers and even Web hosts.
Fortunately, long-time friend of the site Patrick O’Keefe recently released a book targeted at helping forum and community administrators run their sites. The book, entitled “Managing Online Forums“, is a broad guide to running a Web-based community.
It is a book that all forum administrators, especially new ones, should look at picking up. Not only can the advice in this book help you grow your community, but it can also help keep your site on the right side of the law and a good neighbor on the Web.
A Practical Guide
Perhaps, the best way to describe O’Keefe’s book is “down to earth”. The book is not merely content on providing the information forum admins needs to do their jobs, but to provide real-world examples.
Throughout the book there are call outs and sample documents for readers to look at and mirror on their own sites. For example, chapter three, which discusses setting up forum guidelines, not only details the requirements for a good set of forum rules, but provides several examples of good guidelines, including some used on the author’s actual forums.
Likewise, chapter six, which discusses how to handle problem users, is laden with actual stories of forum participants gone wild, almost all of which are pulled from the author’s actual experience as a forum administrator.
But while the examples and hand-holdiong may help gear the book toward novice admins, a group for which there is precious little help, there is enough detailed information to make it useful for veterans. Specifically, the later chapters about adding new features to the forum and making money will likely have strong appeal to forum veterans and those already running sizable communities.
Still, the majority of the book is definitely geared toward inexperienced admins and works to help them learn the lessons in print that most have to learn the hard way.
Why This Book Is Important
As someone who has worked with dozens of community and forum admins, I know well how “over their heads” many admins get. This is especially true when it comes to legal matters, such as copyright infirngement, trademark issues and privacy.
With forum software, such as phpBB, often being as easy to install as one click and free community sites such as Yuku making it easy to set up and run your community with no cost, the decision to set up a community is often an impulse one made without consideration of the practical requirements.
This lack of administrator preparedness is big part of why forums are being used as spam blogs and communities are often some of the most difficult sites to get infringing works removed from.
An administrator that is unprepared to handle the realities of running a community does a disservice not only to their members, but to the rest of the Web. Fortunately, this book not only makes it easy to learn what you need, but provides the tools to execute an effective strategy.
If you are setting up a forum or even just thinking about it, this is information that you can not afford to be without.
If I were going to lob a complaint at this book it would be that its audience focus was too narrow. Though bloggers and other Webmasters may get some out of the book, it is clear that the vast majority of the content is geared at forum admins and, more specifically, novice admins.
Still, this is an important group to target. Not only do they need the most help establishing and growing a healthy forum, but also with dealing with the inevitable headaches that come with it. Those who have been “behind the curtain” of large forums are a fairly small group and, overall, are reluctant to share their information.
On that note, if you do not purchase a copy of the book, you can visit the book’s Web site and download the relevant templates, including user guidelines, staff member guidelines and contact templates (for when a user violates a rule).
The point is though, no matter where you get it from, this is information every forum admin needs to know. The greatest asset this book has is combining the information into one resource.
However, for me, that is reason enough for it to have a place on my shelf.