The Do’s and Don’ts of Running a Message Board

1. Don’t get too deeply and personally involved in other people’s personal problems. It hogs up valuable board space and bores the heck out of anyone not directly involved to see page after page (including your own contributions) of arguments.

2. If your board is “members only”, don’t be surprised to see the number of postings and posters drop. There is a limited number of people who want to belong to your private board. Some people post on boards in order to reach a large audience. A “members only” board does not work out for them because it limits their audience. The same goes for boards that contain too much off-topic, personal yakky-yak stuff. Some people are not interested in personal chatter … they consider it to be “frivolous” and don’t like weeding through what they consider to be “junk posts”. This is not a personal thing against YOU, it’s simply a different audience with different needs. Your board may not fulfill them. Don’t fret over that… it’s the way things are. You cannot be all things to all people. Accept that.

3. Don’t lie about your relationship with another person. Sure, the other person may not be popular but you like ‘em. Don’t cover that up or deny your friendship and affiliation. People will find out eventually, and it reflects more badly upon you for others to see that you had lied, instead of knowing that you were friends with an unpopular person.

4. Don’t ever divulge information about another person, like a phone number publicly, (which they gave you confidentially) on a message board even if you have a spat with that person (even if you purge your post later). That makes lurkers and other people reluctant to trust you with ANY of their own personal information (can you blame them?)

5. Don’t go on other message boards and argue with people, for ANY reason. You, as the administrator of a message board, have the mission to attract people to your board. Other message boards relating to your subject, or a similar ones, are the PERFECT PLACE to find people to invite to your board. Put your best foot forward and wow ‘em so they’ll come. Don’t come off as a blowhard, or they won’t come. And for heaven’s sake, don’t brag about your educational level. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a rocket scientist. This has no bearing on how you are running your board and you certainly aren’t attracting people by trying to put on airs of being better educated than everybody else.

6. Don’t place your posters in the awkward position of choosing between your board and another one. You may be surprised and a little hurt to find that your hold on them was rather tenuous in the first place. People don’t like “loyalty oaths” and don’t feel that YOUR personal dispute with other boards is THEIR problem. People want the freedom to come and go as they please, and if you won’t respect their rights to do so, someone else (e.g. the competition) WILL.

7. Don’t try to stake a claim on a person, even if this person is a close friend. Your friend has a brain, and can think for himself or herself, and if you try to claim him or her for yourself, and imply that “the competition” can’t “have” them, eventually your friend will chafe under your yoke and leave you. You do not have exclusive friendship rights to ANYONE.

8. Don’t make promises that you will not keep. If you say “I will not fight or argue anymore”, then people expect you to keep your word. If you slip back into the fighting mode, people will no longer trust you or believe you.

9. Don’t blame innocent people for your problems with their friends. Understand that any person can only be held responsible for that they (themselves) had done. Don’t try to make them answer for, or explain the actions of their friends. Don’t subscribe to the concept of “collective guilt”. This snare entraps the innocent along with the guilty. Remember you are trying to attract people to your board, right? Making everyone “guilty” will blow your chance to get new posters on your board.

10. Know when to give the ball back and walk away. If you intensely dislike a group of people, stop playing hardball with them. You are not proving anything by escalating an already-bad situation. A constant barrage of arguments, accusations and threats between 2 “sides” isn’t going to solve anything. If they keep baiting you, just say, “Screw this” and go. You’re depriving them of their fun by not being present. Don’t give them the joy of seeing you behave like a jackass while you take them on. You aren’t missing anything, and any time wasted arguing with them just hurts you and your reputation. A message board lives or dies by its webmaster’s reputation. Is the questionable “joy” of getting that “last word” in WORTH the damage to your reputation?

11. Accept the fact that some people will NEVER be amicable to you. After enough tries, just forget ‘em and move on. If you get “banned” from a board, or are made to feel unwelcome, use your freedom of choice and find another board. You’d look absolutely pathetic if you keep going where you are not welcome, so why bother?

12. Don’t make up stuff, or willingly claim the blame and responsibility for malicious acts of others just to spite people, (e.g. “Yeah, I did this, so Nyah, what’cha gonna do about it”). If people believe you, you’ve just gained a reputation as a troublemaker. If people don’t believe you, then you will be known as a jerk and a liar. What is there for you to gain in doing this?

13. Be consistent in the way you deal with people. It doesn’t work at all if you bounce back and forth between the two extremes of being conciliatory (even if it’s 95% of the time) and being a stark raving lunatic when you’re angry (5% of the time). People can’t deal with those extremes and will always remember the 5%, not the 95%.

14. Don’t question the integrity of people who have not caused you any harm. If they come onboard to lurk, don’t question them, especially if they’re not causing any trouble. Don’t assume that lurkers are out to “spy” on you or those lurkers have a secret agenda or have some sort of evil intent. Don’t demand any participation…you can never force people to do that if they don’t feel like it.

15. Don't apologize for deleting any postings that are offensive or inappropriate for your board. Sure, some whiners will scream "Censorship!!!" and rant about how heavy-handed you are. Ignore them and do what you have to do to keep your board clean and a good place for people to visit. The "Censorship whiners" aren't the type of  people you want around anyway. If they don't like the way you do things, they are free to go and start their own board and see how many people want to play by THEIR rules.

This article is Copyright 2000, K.F. Louie. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Unlike most of my other pages, I don't particularly want to debate the contents of this page. I'm not "pro" or "anti" message board/chat board/chat room. I believe in "Do unto others" and "Freedom of choice". Thanks for listening.

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