When you go to a bar, do you read the rules of the establishment before you enter?
What about a café? Restaurant? Sports stadium?
In fact, when was the last time you read the rules for anything, ever? Can you even imagine a line of people reading the rules before they enter an establishment? It would take forever to get inside.
Yet, even without these rules, we usuall manage not to steal everything and trash the place.
I’m amazed that there is so much discussion about what to include in the rules of a community platform. We’re not on the same planet as our members when we think like this. New members don’t read the rules. No one does. It may be comforting (and legally useful) to have them, but lets not pretend they do anything to change behaviour.
What are the rules for using Facebook? Twitter? Linkedin? Gmail? I bet you didn’t read them, let alone remember them. Can you remember the rules for any platform or community you’ve joined…ever?
Don’t believe me? Track it yourself. Look up the number of hits to the rules page of your community. Is it low? Now use Google Analytics to identify the average amount of time each member spends on that page. 5 seconds? 10 seconds? Is that enough time to read them?
Creating and tweaking the rules might feel like an important community task, but it does nothing to change the behaviour of members. It’s your subtle influence that will have the most impact.