Successful Forum: Problem Solving By: Shawn Joseph Gossman www.AnotherAdminForum.com, Owner Welcome to the third article in my Successful Forum article series. So far the other two articles have covered basic forum creation and basic forum membership and staff population. In this article, I will be discussing problem solving. Running a forum will not be pure ease, there will be problems and you will need to create solutions. This article will guide you on some of the most common problems on a forum and give you basic suggestions on how to respond and react to them. This article will cover various problems from member violations to staff arguments, forum bugs to downtime and some things in between. When you run a forum, the main thing to keep in mind is that when a problem occurs, you will need to try your best to accurately resolve it in a timely fashion so that more drama doesn’t occur and harm your forum more than it needs to be harmed. The problem with spam Spam is probably one of the worst (if not the number one worst) problem that forum owners will run into. There are many programs out there that will automatically post spam on a forum such as Xrumor and others. Most of the time, a program is posting the spam so when you take action, no one is really getting the punishment they deserve. I like to nickname it the War on Spam because to me it’s just a cyber-version of the War on Drugs. Spammers are worthless forms of existence and you must, as a forum owner fight back against them. Spam on a forum can ruin your forum! You want to make sure that you get spam off the forum as soon as possible and even before regular members even see it. However, crucial and active regular members tend to help out and report spam to forum staff when they see it and you will need to rely on members like that. I would suggest posting something on your rules or in the news section about asking members to report spam if they see it so that you can get it removed quicker. The number one tool to block spam on a forum is human intelligence! This means you need to develop a community of members who will report the spam when they see it and you also need to build up a good staff team that at least one staff member will constantly be on your forum and will find the spam and take action before it does any major damage to the forum. There are many modifications of various forum software that help block out spam. I recommend installing anything that includes StopForumSpam.com because it will block out most of the spam bots from even being able to register on your forum. Also, any sort of Q&A modification is good for a forum just be sure to make custom questions that are related to your forum’s niche (or topic) and make them somewhat difficult. Easy questions will easily be solved by smarter spam bots. Try to stay away from CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA as they are both broken systems these days. And remember, human intelligence and vision will always be better than any modification to help control spam. The problem with drama There will be drama on your forum sooner or later. Most drama happens between one member and another member and sometimes even between a member and a group and even a staff member and another member or staff member. Drama will happen anywhere you get people involved whether it’s a city or a message forum. Drama usually happens when one person doesn’t agree with another person and wants them to change their mind about something. Unfortunately, drama can create flame wars, trolling, and horrible debates and even make members leave the forum and not come back. The best way to ease drama on a message forum is to stop it in its earlier stages. When you notice members starting to argue, attempt to calm them down and remind them that every responsible and mature human being has a right to their own opinion. Usually, when you are formal with people and remind them to act mature, they will usually realize they need to act mature and the drama will stop for the time being. However, you will need to keep an eye on them because the drama could easily spark again at any time if they get into another disagreement with one and other. I recommend taking a positive approach though! Do not be one who flexes their muscles around and threatens to ban anyone being dramatic on the forum. Be positive, professional and firm when you need to be. If you can help people work a problem out, then you will appear more credible and professional to others which will give your forum a better reputation. If you allow drama to go on, it can seriously harm the reputation of not only your forum but you as well. The problem with advertising There are spammers that use spam bots and such and there are members who join a forum to advertise. Now even though these members can be considered spammers too, I usually don’t see as a spammer because they are joining as a real human being and advertising. I still think what they are doing or what their main mission is, is wrong and I still think they need to be responded to once it happens. You want to be firm about members who join just to advertise because that can get pretty annoying to other good members and who want to keep the good and active members happy. Unless your forum is specifically made for advertising, you will want to stop members who join to advertise as soon as possible. You need to include this in the forum rules so you can back yourself up with facts and accurate information once you take action against these kinds of members. I would recommend removing their advertisement and sending them an email or private message to not advertise on the forum in ways that violate the forum rules. I would give a simple unofficial warning at first and if they violate again, then decide what sort of action to take after that next violation. There are many warning signs of a human advertiser. They will often join and not fill out any profile information except for their signature with their advertisements. They will often reply to threads, popular threads with posts that are not really that relevant and are very short (aka one liners). Its best to not allow that on a forum as it can become annoying to other members and either cause drama or cause them to leave the forum. There are ways on the backend to help deter these human advertisers including requiring a certain amount of posts before they can post links and also requiring a certain amount of characters before they can post a new topic or reply. Sometimes a one liner is appropriate so I would worry about requiring a certain amount of characters but I would consider required so many posts before they can have a signature or post a link. The problem with errors Forums can break at times, whether it’s from a new modification you installed or even just because there is a bug in the current software version. There can also be problems that members are having simply because they don’t know how to use a feature or they cannot find a feature. The best thing for you to do it to provide something where they can easily report errors, bugs and seek support and you need to ensure that you can resolve it quickly to avoid any further errors and frustrations from other members. I recommend setting up a special board for forum support, bug/error reporting and related topics. You should post a sticky topic on what information to posts in a support thread and explain that the information may already exists and that they should perform a search before posting a new topic. You should attempt to respond quickly to new support topics and train your forum staff to also respond quickly. If members seem to have issues more with a certain topic that other issues, then I recommend writing a solution topic and making it sticky so that it can be found a lot easier for members experiencing that reoccurring issue in the future. Organization is also a good practice to decrease the number of support requests on a message forum. Sometimes members will seek support simply because they cannot find something. It’s a good idea to make sure features, settings and functions can be found easily on your message forum community because if they can be found easily, then you will have less reports from members who are lost and confused on how to do something on the forum. You should also make sure you keep your forum up to date with the latest software updates and upgrades because that will not only fix various bugs and errors but it will also keep your forum safe from hackers and other problems. The problem with staff A message forum needs to have staff members as any community does. Your staff members will help keep the forum active, respond to members who need help and make sure the rules are followed at all times most of the time. However, having staff in any situation or setting will open the door to staff problems, conflicts and ego issues. The best practice is to only seek the best staff members who show professionalism, maturity and a higher want of being a part of your community. Ego of a staff member is a big problem. Sometimes when people get into a position of power, they let it go to their heads and they develop a God-like attitude and appearance and can ruin the forum faster than a blink of an eye. You need to be strict about not allowing ego staff members from being a part of the community. A bad ego can ruin the community and harm your reputation as well since you brought that staff member on the forum to begin with. I create a staff manual on my forums which tells the staff members what I will expect of them on my forum. I explain about how bad egos is not allowed and will result in demotion without warning. I explain that I expect staff to be active members as well because they are leaders now and people tend to follow the leader. I explain what their duties are so that they have plenty to do and won’t be confused on what to do or bored of being a staff member. I explain how they should respond to each violation of each rules we have on our forum. I also explain how to use various staff tools and features in association to the forum software I am using for the community at hand. Congratulations! We have just covered many of the common problems that forum owners face. If you enjoyed reading this article, please reply with your comments and any other problems and solutions for the problems. You may share this article on other websites as long as all text stays completely intact. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and you can expect two more to be made for this series including an article on marketing and advertising your forum and an article of earning revenue with your forum.