Corner: Forum Building 101 - The Dangers of the Staff Only Forum
When setting up your forums, it is often recommended that you also setup
a section that only your staff can access. The reasons for this are
many. A staff-only area allows your staff to discuss important policy
issues, problem users, and the board itself in private, without worry
that the average member will stumble across something they shouldn’t.
challenges with having a private staff area lie in your staff gradually
“moving in” and reducing or outright stopping their public
forum participation. Administrators must pay careful attention that
they also do not fall into the “manage from the back” trap.
protect against this danger, active administrators must pay careful
attention to who is active in their staff forums. Spot check them to
be certain they haven’t moved in full time. As most of us hire
our staffs based on their prior performance in the areas they now moderate,
we want to keep them active there, where their contributions can build
content and draw in new members. Posts made in private may help guide
things, but rarely translate into new content or new members.
in particular need to pay attention to their own posting patterns. A
successful admin will guide and steer their board while avoiding the
dictator role. This requires professional interaction with your board
staff. It is up to you to set the tone and the pace. If they see you
“hiding” in the back, they will often emulate you and also
hide back. This runs the major risk of the board having previously active
sections wither and die as the heavy posters had all been hired and
resorted to lurking in the back. Lead by example. Additionally, when
you as an admin aren’t publicly visible, you run the risk of being
seen as the despot in the tower, only appearing to punish rule breakers.
You run the risk of being seen as out of touch or worse by your members.
your staff to continue their past activity in their sections, and be
certain to visit them regularly by posting yourself. Each post that
staff makes in public both reminds the members that you are there, but
also serves to further the conversation, build content and entice lurkers
to register and post.
also helps keep your staff as active members, and can serve to prevent
the feeling that they are a special “elitist” group which
happens from time to time on forums.
Encourage staff to remain active in public
- Check staff activity regularly
- Lead by example and be an active public poster.
hope this has been of some help and welcome questions.
©2005 Bob Hubbard - All Rights Reserved
Hubbard operates several forums online. A former Commodore 64 BBS sysop
from the ‘80’s, he now operates MartialTalk.com,
a leading martial arts forum, KenpoTalk.com,
an community for the kenpo karate community, BuffaloIT.com,
a technical forum, and Nephrites Citadel
(rustaz.com/forum), a community for sci-fi, anime and more. He is also
technical admin at FMATalk.com, a forum
for the Fillipino martial arts community. Copies of this article are
free to distribute, provided all text is retained intact. It and other
articles can be found at rustaz.net.