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Community rules, guidelines, constitution, tips and learning resources welcome!

  • 26 June 2019
  • 7 replies
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It seems that we don't actually have official 'house rules' or user guidelines, on at least one of our communities. This needs sorting!

First we want to reach out to you all. Yes we'll need to make the call on where we want the balance between free speech and a safe place for users to be, and how strict we attend to police this space, but are there universal tips that should always be included when writing this constitution?

Should your top users have influence on these rules? Should they have the final say?

How long, and how prescriptive should any rules be?

If a place already exists for advice on this, send me a link. Otherwise let's make this the place to share best practice on this!

Thanks!
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Best answer by Suvi Lehtovaara 26 June 2019, 13:25

Interesting topic @timcavey !

Here are our house rules 🙂 Latest edit was this spring when we had to reintroduce "no cursing" policy to our community.

Our moderators felt strongly that " Treat everyone well, don't try to be mean." was not enough - it's easier to know where the boundaries are when foul language is totally forbidden. Our old rules are here.
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Userlevel 4
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ps here's the Inspired community's own guidelines page
Userlevel 6
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Interesting topic @timcavey !

Here are our house rules 🙂 Latest edit was this spring when we had to reintroduce "no cursing" policy to our community.

Our moderators felt strongly that " Treat everyone well, don't try to be mean." was not enough - it's easier to know where the boundaries are when foul language is totally forbidden. Our old rules are here.
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Hey Tim,

Great initiative! I know that this is a recurring question for many Community Managers, also there are many different ways to do this.

To take it one step back:
Do you think that there is a bigger difference between user guidelines and terms and conditions? Some like to mix them, other like to keep them seperated... I have a guide on terms & conditions here which might help you on your way.

When we speak about user guidelines, first of all I think it is very important that users actually notice them. Some Community Managers choose to feature their user guidelines in the side bar. I actually would recommend to either include it in their "welcome"-email after registration or in a "new here?"-topic which you present in a Quick Link (or in the welcome-mail).

Here some more general tips how I would go about it:

Ask your super users? Yes!
If you have a hidden category on your community, you can surely ask your experts if there should be an improvement regarding guidelines. As they are trusted users, you can expect that they are reasonable and will be productive with their feedback. Explain if/why you do not add a rule they suggested (often super users want more harsh Moderation, however they need to learn that the community is there for everybody, even unhappy / unexperienced users). So they should not have the final say when it comes to guidelines.

Check regular user feedback (without asking them)
I would recommend you to listen what your users are thinking about the status quo of your Moderation policy, without actively asking them:
  • Are they complaining about too many off-topic comments in their replies?
  • Do your users often flag content which is not strictly against the guidelines?
  • Do they attack each other in threads?
On my previous community for example, there were some negative users who always tried to deter a discussion into a specific direction so they could rant about what they are not happy with. This resulted in users complaining about such behaviour, so we came with a new rule that forbids to "hijack" topics, giving Moderators the right to remove such content if necessary.

Guidelines are there to protect a positive user experience
Every user on your community should have a positive experience. If you work with this focus, you can always identify which actions are not allowed and will disrupt the positive experience of others (e.g. off topic posting makes it harder for others to find relevant information).

Don't make them too specific
To speak in the "no cursing" example of Suvi: Do not list which words are allowed and which not. 😉 It should give you and your colleagues some tolerance in handling content. The guidelines should be easy to understand and users should be able to know which things are ok to do.

Don't jump into discussions after something was moderated
I would never go into a detailled discussion about specific Moderation policies in public after you have moderated something. If you do so, be prepared for countless (and pointless) debates about censorship, how other communities do it much better, etc.

In the end, user guidelines should be reviewed every year or when you feel that there is a trend on the community which requires an improvement of the rules.

Curious to hear from others how they manage this!
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Thanks @Suvi Lehtovaara - v helpful!

Was there any consultation with active users on this? Maybe this is best avoided for a support community?

@Pascal what do you reckon with involving your users? On the one hand it might result in your top users being super on board with the rules and engaged with their enforcement, on the other hand, they might come up with something crazy that you have to reject. 🤔
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@Julian you posted this just before I replied, thanks! The question of involving our top users is settled = YES!
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@Pascal what do you reckon with involving your users? On the one hand it might result in your top users being super on board with the rules and engaged with their enforcement, on the other hand, they might come up with something crazy that you have to reject. 🤔


Good question @timcavey.
If framed correctly, I would personally never shy away from involving the users. Just make sure to set the expectations correctly and ask them for input to take into consideration, not for for concrete rules you will definitely implement 🙂
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Thanks @Suvi Lehtovaara - v helpful!

Was there any consultation with active users on this? Maybe this is best avoided for a support community?


We are an old community and we've had rules since... 2012 at least. We've had slight changes in the rules when we came to InSided (as some of our rules were kinda platform specific), but mostly the general idea has been the same.

Our superusers often quote our rules or use them as reference, and I actually do think that they might have been the first ones to suggest that we forbid foul langauge. So yes, involve them 👍🏻

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