Friday, January 11, 2013

Too Many Rules Can Hurt Your Online Community by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Last week I joined an online community group and on the same day deleted my membership in the community. It wasn't because the community group lacked information, interaction, had spammers, people with rude behaviors, or any of the reasons we would typically assume. It was for one reason only--too many rules.

I thought to myself, there is no way I'm going to remember all these rules and I will end up forgetting and violating one of them by accident.

My next thought was, I don't have time for this. I need to make my life simple.

My final thought was, what does this online group have that none of the others have? Nothing! 


Don't get me wrong, I believe in rules. Setting up sensible rules are necessary to prevent few people from spamming, posting bad links, verbally abusing and hurting others, or posting offensive things. However, there is a balance. Keep in mind that for every bad individual, there are many more who are reasonable, sensible, professional adults who don't need to be treated like children. Keep your rules sensible and balanced for the majority who are not trouble makers.

I have joined a number of online email lists, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and now Google+ Community groups. Some post simple rules that are only a few paragraphs, while others have several pages of specific, mind-boggling, over-bearing rules that no one will be able to remember.

A month ago, I joined a LinkedIn group that I thought would be interesting and helpful. I received a standard welcome email from the moderator with a long list of rules and by the time I got to the third page of rules, I stopped reading. I haven't posted or participated in this group, because to be honest, I'm really not sure what is allowed and what isn't. I will probably leave the group soon. There isn't any point in being a member of something I'm hesitant to participate in.

If you are thinking about creating a community group and the purpose is to build a large network of people that will ultimately increase your platform, my advice would be to try and keep things as simple as possible. Do you really want to waste a lot of time hand-holding, coddling, and reprimanding individuals for the slightest of offenses when you have a lot other productive things to do?

Remember, setting too many unnecessary rules will discourage good people from joining your community, and indirectly slow the growth of your online community.

What are your thoughts? Have you had your hand smacked for posting something to an email loop or an online group forum that you thought would be perfectly acceptable? Have you dropped out or been tempted to drop out of any online communities for something similar? Or have you had to deal with the opposite issue of too much self-promotion and rude comments that went unmoderated?


Caroline said...

Good post. One piece of advice I learned last year was (from you? not sure who), pick and choose what you belong to. Gave me freedom to join those groups I felt most beneficial. I don't have time to participate or even view all the groups but I can perhaps gain information/knowledge from the few that work for me.

Appreciate all the helpful info.

Linda Glaz said...

This is so good and so true, Jennifer. Yes, it's very hard to remember each and every group's thoughts on it. And I know of very few folks who would intentionally mess up and do what's not wanted, but remembering all the rules is daunting. I'm with you, Jennifer, it actually stops me from joining most of them.

Amanda Stephan said...

Jennifer, this is a fantastic post. I've learned the hard way, I guess. An acquaintance will suggest or ask, and to make them happy, I jump in. And usually, the regret come pretty quickly afterwards.

I've had to purge several groups because of this very thing. I need to concentrate on what I really want to do. Write, of course, and network with groups that are going to help me become a better writer. Too many rules that are difficult to remember? Sorry. Got to cut ties.

Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. We writers have enough going on in our lives without being required to memorize somebody's grand maxim. We like to enjoy participation, not sweat the little stuff!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Carolina, I'm not sure if that advice came from me or not, but is something I often tell people. I know I've heard Bonnie Calhoun say the same thing. We can't belong to everything, so we need to streamline where we invest our time and try to make sure it is the best fit for us as individuals.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Amanda, It is hard to turn down requests like that from our friends. I've been in the same boat and I've had to purge. I can't handle the daily chatter. Lately, I've joined more groups for Epilepsy, Asperger's and homeschooling, so I've had to cut back on writing groups.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Linda, I agree. My head is full of too much already.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Word Obsession, I like the term you used, "somebody's grand maxim".

Robin Bayne said...

There's nothing worse than getting slapped down for a post you thought was appropriate. Have left several groups for this reason.

SEO Moz said...

thnx for the information..
blog is really gud.Help my india is the World Best Forum and Blogging Site which provides the all category of forum and blogging and Social Community site.

Online Communities