Archive for January, 2009

Warning! Do not feed the trolls.

Trolls… We’ve all come across them, they were around before the web even existed, hanging around in dark corners of Usenet, lurking, waiting to bait an innocent subject.  Today, they’ve evolved into much more sophisticated creatures, not only inhabiting online forums, but living on blog comments, twitter accounts, yelp reviews, and online games – pretty much anywhere a lonely individual sitting at home can find a way to compensate for lack of ‘real-world’ friends.

Today, we’re talking with Andrew Heenan, and his site www.flayme.com/troll.  Andrew is well versed in how to deal with ‘trolls’ on the internet and took the time to share some of his knowledge with our audience.  His advice is great, and for anybody having a headache dealing with a troll, I suggest reading his website and comments below.

For any readers that might not be aware, could you explain in your own words what an internet troll is?
One who sets out to disrupt a forum, by posting in a way that will annoy or humiliate members – the motivation and methods vary, but a troll is no more than a troublemaker, who does it ‘because he can’!

Your site reveals an interesting fact, that the term ‘troll’ does *not* in fact come from slimy creatures living under bridges – so where did it come from?
The anglers among your readers will know that trolling is the art of trailing a bait, hoping that a fish will bite; for the internet troll, it’s all about the response. Just as many anglers will put the fish back after the catch, so the Internet troll has no real interest in the issues being discussed; they are simply entertaining themselves by causing frustration in others. It’s about power – trolls create the illusion of power by manipulating others.

Do you think there are any subjects or behaviors that attract trolls?
Though there are exceptions, most trolls don’t really put a lot of work into their hobby; so you’ll find sexist comments placed on feminist forums, racist or homophobic comments on political forums, and so on. All easy, obvious targets. A particular favorite seems to be the ‘fundies’ (religious fundamentalists), because they seem to be almost guaranteed to bite, however lame the troll’s bait.

What are some steps to get rid of a troll?
The most effective method of troll management is ‘Don’t Feed The Troll’; if it does not get a response, it will move off and try elsewhere; any response is validation of its sad existence, so should be avoided. But we’ve all been taken in; the skilled troll may start with a question or comment that may seem odd, but is not rude, wrong or particularly inappropriate. Once it has you hooked, then it attempts to manipulate you into anger or humiliation. One of the most effective troll tricks is to cause group members to disagree – often ‘planting’ a new member to defend them, with a plea to members to ‘give him another chance’. The resulting dispute allows the troll to leave the members fighting, with no further effort required.

Think back to the most difficult troll you had to deal with, how do you finally stop them?
This question goes straight to the heart of the problem – you cannot stop a troll, unless you are an owner or moderator. But you can manage it.

I’ve never had a problem in dealing with a troll to my satisfaction; I ignore it, I move away, or  I indulge in a little troll baiting to amuse other members. But while I may be happy with that, none of these actions will necessarily stop the troll, and the damage to the forum can continue.

It requires every member to ignore the troll; every moderator to spot them and take appropriate action … and that’s not always going to happen.

If you use newsgroups, it’s no trouble to ‘killfile’ trolls – but you still have to deal with other members’ responses to the troll. They cannot be stopped, because there’s effectively no moderation.

In forums or blogs, it’s a matter of moderation, and on more than one occasion, I’ve ceased to read a blog because the owner failed to prevent troll abuse to the point where the readability was reduced to zero. Trolls can only succeed if someone feeds them – or fails to moderate them off the board.

Any advice you’d like to give to mods or admins dealing with a troll?
I think the best rule for moderators is that it’s important to give the loyal members the benefit of the doubt, rather than worry about the troll’s ‘rights’. If it acts like a troll, and smells like a troll, then delete the posts and suspend membership. Then forget about it! Very occasionally, you may get it wrong, and the ‘troll’ was a confused or inarticulate ‘newbie’ – and that’s shame. But the priority must be to be fair to the forum.

I’ve been told ‘trolls have first amendment rights’ to free speech – it’s a civil rights issue’. Sure they do, on their own websites, and I respect their right to post whatever they want, subject to the law, on their own sites. I’m not saying they cannot troll, simply that they cannot troll on my property – and that’s my civil rights!

And never, ever, negotiate with a troll. Always ignore any email or other approach, as there’s a small risk of a frustrated troll becoming a stalker. But that’s another story …

Finally, is there anything you’d like to mention about your site or what you’re up to in 2009?
I’m always on the lookout for more tips on troll management, and I’m hoping to spend more time on updating the web site this year. But I say that every year!

Featured Forum – Zelda Universe Forums

Today we’re interviewing Jason Rappaport of Zelda Universe Forums.  Zelda Universe (ZU) is running on vBulletin 3.8.0, with a number of modifications including a Search Engine Optimization mod, vBSEO.  (One of the features we offer here at lefora, is automatic search optimization for all your forum’s topics, optimizing the keywords on your page, ensuring that google and other search engines crawl your forum a few times a week.)

Zelda Universe Stats:
* Threads: 79,964
* Posts: 2,461,402
* Members: 52,570

How did Zelda Universe Forums start?
The founder is a very good friend of mine named Lars Christian-Simonsen. Initially, Zelda Universe was an offshoot of his personal site, and his little guides garnered so much praise that he split it off and formed a standalone site around it. Naturally, there’s a huge community of Zelda fans out there who want to gather and discuss the series, so it was a no-brainer to have a discussion forum to go along with the main site.

What have been some goals with the forum?
The common goal of the forum has pretty much always been to bring Zelda fans together in the most convenient and interactive way possible. I can’t tell you how many friendships and bonds have been formed as a result of the incredible community that has gathered on Zelda Universe – recently, two of our members married each other! When the forum first began, no doubt it was meant to be a hub for Zelda discussion, but it has grown into its own little metropolis. I’d like to see the forum more integrated into the main site to bring that community effort over to the content-side of things, but for the most part I just want to see the forum continue to grow and spawn projects of its own. The next step is complete crowdsourcing – taking the Zelda community’s projects developed on the boards and turning them into serious endeavors that we can share with everyone on the internet.


How did you go about first promoting your forum?
Google is always a huge help, but most of our members were longtime visitors before they decided to join up! It’s not uncommon for members to pop in, make their welcome thread, and say that they’ve been visiting the site for several years and only just decided to join the forums. Obviously it wasn’t just search engine traffic that brought us up – friends bring friends, word of mouth helps things out, and I know for a fact that Lars would run around showing off his latest projects and updates to the site on other forums. The culmination of all this “press”, if you will, drove a good deal of traffic to ZU and the forums. Not to mention our Zelda information was (and is) pretty in-depth.

Do you still need to promote your forum, or does it grow on it’s own?
Nowadays it grows on its own, though I still promote it as much as I can. But at this point we’re nearly eight years old (turning on Feb. 21st!) and we’ve got a reputation as the largest Zelda community online, so people do end up gathering at ZU one way or another, it seems, even if they go to other Zelda sites. I’ve done a lot of work to make ZU more visible – both in search engines and through word-of-mouth – and I hope it’s paid off as even more Zelda fans discover our great community. I know there are still millions of Zelda fans out there, so there’s always reason to promote!

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. Encourage your active members, and don’t be discouraged by the number of “inactive” members. Many people register just to get a glimpse at the site – the number of active participants on ZU at any given time is far less than the total number of registered members. A good rule to stand by is that 90% of your members will be inactive, 9% will be moderately active, and 1% will probably post more than you do. As long as you make sure the members posting are enjoying their time in the community, more people will come. Your boards will grow.
  2. Encourage your community to create their own projects, or suggest projects for you to create. By far one of our most active boards on ZU is the Feedback, Suggestions and Questions board, where people not only ask for help but also suggest new features to add to the site – and I daresay most of our new features are user-generated ideas. Now our members use these features daily, post in subforums that they wanted to be created, etc. It’s a community – build it together with your members.
  3. Encourage users to go off-topic. Don’t keep your boards to a single subject – we may be Zelda Universe, but our members discuss everything from Zelda to XBox to football to anime, and every so often I make a thread that’s just for laughs (usually in the Feedback section), and everyone spams it up and has a good time until we all decide it’s gotten out and hand and lock it up. But never limit your members – they’ll thank you for letting them have any kind of discussion they want to have. Freedom is the freedom to express oneself; never forget that.

.
And for all the Zelda fans out there, classic and new, which is your favorite Zelda?
My first Zelda game was Link’s Awakening, but by far my most favorite is The Wind Waker. The Wind Waker really brought me into Zelda and solidified my Zelda “fandom”, if you’d call it that and not an obsession! The Wind Waker, I believe, had a certain magic none of the other Zeldas had. Perhaps it was the art style that truly drew me in, because the storyline is pretty samey for a Zelda game. Whatever the case, many people are shocked to find that I found Ocarina of Time quite boring and never finished it, but loved The Wind Waker and have played it many times over. I don’t think that makes me any less of a Zelda fan; in fact, I’m proud not to be the generic Ocarina-of-Time-loving Zelda geek! The Wind Waker totally doesn’t get enough love.

Is there anything you would like to add?
If you’re board is just starting out, you’ve got to keep at it and really make a serious effort to grow the community. Just letting it sit there won’t help – like I said, Lars went out and made a fuss about ZU all over the internet, and if you really think your board has potential, you should be doing that, too! Once you get the ball rolling, it’ll pick up momentum and eventually become an unstoppable force. But only if you put in the effort, and only if you really believe it can go somewhere. If you don’t believe in your own project, well, who else is going to? Nobody, that’s who! So build up your community and make it great, because that’s the only thing it can become.

—-
Author’s Comments: Jason provided some great knowledge here.  Some points of his I think everybody should take away from this:

  • “It’s not uncommon for members to pop in, make their welcome thread, and say that they’ve been visiting the site for several years and only just decided to join the forum.”
  • “A good rule to stand by is that 90% of your members will be inactive, 9% will be moderately active, and 1% will probably post more than you do.
  • Word-of-mouth is very helpful, one way to do this, is an admin, go to other forums and show-off your latest projects
  • “Encourage users to go off-topic” – after all, you’re creating a community of people that share interests, it’s very likely they’ll have fun talking about other topics on your forum.

Featured Forum – Monkey Steals the Peaches

monkey steals the peaches

Today, we’re talking to Doctor Death, founder of Monkey Steals the Peaches, a fun forum that we’ll keep you laughing between videos, photos, and of course, the commentary.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins in order to run a fun and active forum?
Sure thing! I would say the most important thing is to keep it lively. If your members go onto your site to see whats new and theres nothing new since the last time they were on… they are going to get bored with it very quickly.

Second, keep your posts short and to the point. If you go rambling on and on, your members are going to lose interest. People have short attention spans.

And Third… Keep it Fun and open-minded. Nobody want to be on a site where all the members are Die-hard subject-Nazi’s who cant see the other side of the coin.

What are some of the reasons you originally choose lefora over another forum service?  Was there any other software you ran a forum with in the past?
I searched through quite a few forum sites before I chose Lefora. Almost every one of them would say they were free, let you create a site and then want you to pay to use it. Not Lefora. Besides, Lefora had the best looking and most functional page layouts that I could find.

Yea, I tried a few of the ones I found online but I couldn’t even tell you the name of them now… Once I found Lefora, I never looked back.

If you could make improvements on Lefora, what would you like to see?
The only thing I would like to be able to do is to place Images in the middle of a post without using an outside image source like Photobucket. Using one of those deals for your images is a royal pain in the butt. I am pretty good with the Photoshop, and I love to post images. Being able to Drag & Drop images would be Awesome! And One of my members wants to be able to change his user name without losing all his post counts and links. Other than those small things, I would say that Lefora runs perfectly!

How did you go about first promoting your forum?
Word of Mouth… at first. Then through the Lefora Help page. Then I started going to other peoples forums and chatting with them. I use the “monkeystealsthepeaches.com” as my signature on my profile wherever I go. I am currently looking for more ways to promote… we always welcome more members at the monkey!

Finally, is there anything you would like to add?
Yea! I just wanted to add that Chief has really helped me out in to months that I have been at this and he and Chatham were the ones that helped me become a dot-com as well. My friends and I have had a ton of fun on the monkey and I feel like we are just getting started. Things here are awesome.

And just how awesome are you personally Doctor Death?
Well, as you know… I am Incredibly Awesome in every way possible. Being an Ex-Wrestler/Astronaught and Administrator of the Greatest Forum ever, I just don’t see how I could get much more Awesome than I already am. Just come to Monkeystealsthepeaches.com and you can revel in my Awesomeness too. See ya there Kiddies!

Author’s Comments: Thanks for that feedback Doc, we’ll be introducing a new posting editor soon that will make it easier to upload photos from your computer (though you can do it now, by clicking the ‘upload files’ button.

A toast to 2009!

Happy Holidays from Lefora Forums

With the start of the New Year, we have big plans here at Lefora on building out new features for your forums – we’ll especially be focused on features to help mature communities faster – from ranking & point systems to widgets that will help promote your forum outside of lefora.  We’ll also be building an API to offer more services for developers to ‘hook’ into Lefora.

We launched less than a year ago, but in 2008, we’ve seen 1.85 million people visit your 40,000+ forums.  With an average visit time of 6 min 20 seconds.  A third of the traffic to the forums comes straight from people searching on google, yahoo, and the other search engines – much of this comes from the search engine optimization (seo) that we build directly into your forum.


Cheers!
Saúde
乾杯
¡Salud!
Prost!
乾杯!
Kippis!
Salute!
Skål!
Na zdrowie!
Santé!


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