Online gaming communities are notoriously toxic. Though most players just want to have fun, we've all seen what one bad egg can do to a thread. But it doesn't have to be that way. Moreover, it is absolutely imperative to your brand that you stop that kind of stink before the stank sets. Here's why.
Yes, I am trying to beat you over the head with this term. Again, everything in your forum is searchable on the Web. This includes toxic, insensitive, or otherwise hostile posts. These posts can negatively impact your brand. It only takes one bad post left unchecked to spoil your reputation. But you can't be everywhere at once, and that's exactly why you need a deep bench of admins and mods.
Admins and Mods
The last thing you want to do is take away from someone's experience of the game. Though the Hell Let Loose Training Camp (HLLTC) is a busy place, no one actually has a job. Everyone does what they do because they love it. Failing that, we have plenty of help.
So, here we go. By the numbers:
You'll want at least three admins and, perhaps, twice or even three times that in forum moderators. The idea is that with numbers like these, there will always be someone with eyes on the situation.
If your forum is particularly busy, increase admins to five, but keep the same proportion of moderators to admins. Given five admins, you want ten (or even fifteen) moderators.
Always promote mods first. Given three admins, you will want six (or even 9) mods. If your forum is slamming, promote more mods. Once you get to thirteen, promote one to admin.
Have simple, clear policies regarding forum posts. My favorites are the HLLTC's top-three rules, followed by our "zero-tolerance" policies. And here they are:
4.1 Be kind
4.2 Be patient
4.3 Lead by example
4.4 No dev or game bashing
4.5 No camp program slamming
4.6 No PDC ("Public Displays of Conflict")
You can't stop bad posts from being posted, but you can stop the "message" from spreading through your community. The tactic is very simple. Delete any post you feel crosses the line.
If the one who posted turns out to be a long-standing member of a solid character or even a short-timer that you believe in, contact the poster and ask them to delete or modify the post. Explain why you believe the post is bad or, perhaps, divisive, and convey to them the importance of protecting the community you've built together.
Dedicated members will almost always delete or modify their posts. If they don't, do what you feel is right. When in doubt, place the good of the community first.
Subjects to Steer Clear of as a Rule
There are certain subjects that, though not bad in and of themselves, typically incite differences of opinion or outright argument. The chances of changing anyone's mind about anything they believe are practically zero. It doesn't matter how good you believe your argument to be. It's best just to play it safe.
To play it safe, steer clear of religion, sexual orientation, politics, healthcare, the economy, foreign affairs, war, most crises, the environment, and race relations. There are more, of course, but just keep the conversation about the game(s), and let your community be a place where people can come to take a break from the world. There are exceptions to this rule, but you really need to "feel" these lines in the sand.
Lastly, meet with your admins and moderators and make sure your team is on the same page and that everyone follows the same procedures. Consistency is everything, regardless of what you do.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.
Now, go get 'em and great luck,
GOD-sSs-END (aka David Allen Farrell)