Another thing of awesome: Communities. I firmly believe this is one of the greatest things the Internet has help to advance. Communities based around work, games, interests, passions, and so many more opportunities.
One of my favorite platforms is the Internet Forum. So simple, and yet there is so much interaction between members. Love it.
In the time that I have spent in administration/moderation positions of forum based communities, and participating in twice as many, I have found the following really can help someone to enter the community and help make it awesome.
Let’s face it: The internet is much more like “real life” then we wish to admit, and there are usually many forums on one topic. But, like the offline world, you need to find out which one fits your personality, your moral preferences, and which makes you feel at ease.
Once you read over the rules, read some posts, and start to participate. You will get a feel for the “vibe” of the community (not just it’s interests) you will really know if it is the right fit for you!
1.) Introduce yourself: I know, trust me, this is the hardest part. How much do you tell, how do you get your personality across, how do you communicate your similar interests & others that may interest them. It is always what I stumble on starting out. But the truth is: You really don’t have to sweat it that much. No one has a feel for a member based on one post, this is just the stepping stone to getting your name out there. Say hello, reply to those who welcome you, and make some new forum buddies.
2.) Post it: Don’t forget to post on your new community’s threads, and help answer questions when you can. Participating on other posts is a great community builder, and helps you get a feel for the your new forum buddies. That is sort of what a forum is there for, discussing whatever the community is built around. You are not going to agree on everything, and some forums may not welcome debate. There is often no need to stir the pot, agree to disagree and move on. No spam, no flaming, and keep it clean - within the forum rules.
3.) Learn and appreciate the rules: This may come as a surprise to some forum-lurkers. I totally understand if you do not understand (please ask someone for clarification) or agree with a rule; but I do believe they need to be respected. The rules are one of the first items you should be familiarizing yourself with. This will really give you a direct look into the founders, moderation team, and administrators vision for the site and community. Following these rules will also make your experience relatively-hassle free. We all make mistakes, but knowing what are considered the “big no-nos” for the community will allow you to participate worry-free.
I should also note that most forums have a “report” system in place to get direct contact with the forum team. It’s simple, easy to use, and the best systems don’t even alert the person you just reported. A community has to be willing to step up and help when they can. Sometimes that is just simply reporting the spam posts that may come through, or reporting a serious rule that has been broken. Use it, but don’t abuse it. We all need to understand that most forums won’t reveal the actions taken against other members, and because of this we just have to trust that the situation will be handled. If you don’t like the way it is being handled, consider moving on to a new community.
4.) Find your passion: Obviously if you join a forum about Dogs you are a Dog lover. But what about Dogs do you love? Do you love Dog Shows? Agility Training? Is it a particular breed you love? Find what makes you really passionate about the topic and get involved. Maybe no one has written a fantastic guide to Fishing in Club Penguin – which brings us to the next idea.
5.) Share your knowledge: So you know how to rock the fishing game in Club Penguin. Share your tips! Create a guide if there isn’t one, or maybe you have something to add to the Wiki. Take a look around and add your knowledge. Most forums love knowledge – just not know-it-alls. Back up your guides with facts and pictures. And for heaven’s sake.. .make it accessible and easy to follow! The key here is you want to share what you know.
6.) Get to know the community leaders: These are the people who will shape the community, for better or for worse. They are human, and will make mistakes, but if you get to know them and talk to them in a respectful way it can usually be avoided. You are generally going to find they are super passionate about the topic, and will totally be willing to carry on a discussion regarding a new feature, glitch, or something forum related (that becomes their passion quickly). Unfortunately they are also generally piled in requests and concerns. It’s a tough place to be in some days, but a friendly hello goes a long way to making it all worth it. Get to know them, assist them when you can, and follow those darn rules.
( Note: This doesn’t mean stalking them, or finding out their personal information and location. PLEASE (sorry exasperated yelling here) respect the privacy of individuals should they choose to keep it private.)
7.) Get to know your fellow forum-buddies: Forums are communities. Communities are groups of people. If you want to make your stay awesome, get to know each other. Respect their boundaries for the personal stuff, but seriously, get to know the community.
8.) Connect to Social Media: See if your favorite community has some social media to connect to. I am connected on both Facebook and Twitter to some of my favorite communities. It expands the experience and allows you to receive updates on-the-go. If one of the gaming forums I am on receives word about a new feature, they publish details to their front page, which is sent to twitter. Instant updates are awesome.
9.) Provide Feedback: This should be done in a super awesome way – let’s treat each other as adults – but do it. Have an idea on how to improve the tweets going out? Suggest it. Sometimes communities get super focused on doing what has to be done, and we need someone to step up and say “Hey, I have an idea to make this easier.” Thank goodness for that.
10.) Step up: It’s easy to suggest ideas and complain about situations that are not being resolved to your liking. Sometimes we need to step up and unload some of the burden on the community. Offer your assistance in areas you know, or simply step up and be an example to the community. Treat others politely, with respect, and show a little kindness in your post. Your opinion is not validated by treating others unfairly, it may just do the opposite. Step up in your participation, assistance, and your attitude. Please don’t hide behind a forum name and treat others like nothing.
Treating others like real people will always make your stay awesome.