Your Way or the Community’s Way?

August 14, 2013Comments Off on Your Way or the Community’s Way?

What do you do if the community wants to go in a direction you dislike?

For example, if the community wants to talk about a topic that you
consider outside of the community’s domain of interest.

You can either let members do this, or not let members do this.

 

Allowing
behaviour

It’s usually better to allow members to do what they want. If you
restrict behaviour, members might go somewhere else. Or, worse, existing
members might create their own rival communities (quite common). Your
community’s direction is best led by members, not by you.

In fact, if a new behaviour/topic is popular, it signifies that the
interest of the community is changing. You should allow this to avoid being
left behind. The community interest evolves, thus your community must evolve
too.

If you’re going to allow a new behaviour/topic, you should also
encourage it. Create a place/feature within the community for this to happen.
Make an announcement stating the community’s support on the issue.

 

Restricting
behaviour

There are two potential problems with the above.

First, a relatively small group of members can take the community in a
direction not desired by the rest. You can resolve this by having a vote/asking
the community whether they feel this new topic/behaviour is within the
community’s domain of interest.

Second, and far more common, allowing this behaviour would degrade the
overall concept of the community. It might erode the community’s boundary or
unique positioning within its ecosystem. For example, off topic conversation
might be fine – but…

StackExchange’s moderation policy is very strict because they want
solely to provide useful answers to the most difficult questions, anything else
would turn them into just another forum. The community doesn’t know what’s best
for communities.

If the behaviour doesn’t erode the community’s boundary or unique
positioning, allow it. If it does, don’t allow it – but clearly explain why. 

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