Guiding your Community from Good to Great
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The internet is like a giant delicious pie that’s filled with all kinds of cool junk, and you are building a community for a very specific slice of that sweet internet-pie. Pie metaphors aside, you probably are working to build a unique community filled with people who interact with each other in distinct ways. As a community leader, it is important for you to invest in your community and encourage these conversations and interactions on your site.
That’s where community guidelines come in. They’re one useful tool for strengthening your community by setting straightforward expectations and “rules of engagement” for your members. Check out these communities for some great examples:
The Dissolve links directly to their guidelines below the comments for better visibility.
Providing an accessible contact link can help community moderators do a better job.
This community welcomes heated debates, but also lays down some ground rules.
What community guidelines are right for my site?
If your community is still taking shape, we have some sample guidelines to get you started. But you’ll also want to think about type of community you want to build and the behavior you want to encourage. Maybe your members communicate primarily in cat-memes and puns, or perhaps you hope to generate in-depth conversations and civil debate. Think about the community that you want to build, and how your guidelines can help steer the discussions in that direction.
Guidelines can empower great discussions
Logic may tell you that you should keep your site as “open” as possible, so that you don’t accidentally stifle discussion. However, if you want to encourage quality discussions, providing clear expectations for your community can help focus and curate great conversations.
The community leaders over at NPR’s Code Switch know a thing or two about creating an awesome community. They have created some solid guidelines and have shared some insights on the importance of applying these rules:
For everyone upset about a deleted comment or revoked posting privileges, there's likely another person who values a more tightly managed discussion. And while some would prefer for us to err on the side of allowing more comments rather than fewer, a loosely managed discussion inhibits some from participating.
Code Switch's commenting guidelines play an important role in encouraging respectful and civil discussion that adds value to their site's content.
We want to hear from you!
- What kinds of guidelines do you set for your forum? Do you have an example?
- What’s unique about your community and how does that affect your guidelines?
- Describe a situation where community guidelines had an impact on someone's behavior on your site
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