Creative Self-Expression

I just realized that I think one of the main reasons I’ve been quite frustrated in general over the past few years is that I have had no creative outlet other than this blog. This is quite hilarious when you consider that I used to do the following.

  • martial arts
  • compose music
  • write stories (fiction / fantasy)
  • create worlds / characters (RPG)
  • draw / sketch
  • sing
  • dance
  • design (graphic / web)

Community-Based Administration

In my last post, I mentioned that community-based administration is a much more effective way to administer a community than the use of spam catcher bots, moderation, or forced registration. I’d like to talk about this a little further in relationship to what I’d actually like to see in blogging software today to make community-based administration much easier for the main site owner to delegate to his community members. Again in effect creating the situation where the larger a community becomes, the easier it becomes to manage (instead of the opposite effect which is happening on so many blogs today).

  • Administration Reporting – Before anything else this is the most important of all. If you plan on delegating administration to certain community members, you need these community administrators to be able to self-administer each other as well and be aware of what each of them is doing. Therefore reporting of administration activities among admin members themselves is critical, as it can easily catch an admin who is abusing their admin rights. Again this raises your culture of openness in your community to your admin members themselves. They more information you can provide them, the easier they can assist those within the community.
  • Admin Usage Categorization – Admins need to be able to categorize why they are taking actions against someone. In other words, they need to be able to easily report why they are banning someone. In effect though, the system should self-categorizing. For example, if I notice a spammer commenting within the community, I should be able to select a admin option on the comment, select ban, and finally select an option explaining why that person is being banned (i.e. spammer). As soon as I process that action, it is added to the reporting system mentioned above so that others can review it if necessary.
  • Varying Levels of Rights – This is the most obvious admin requirement. While you may want to give full admin rights to a long time trusted community member, you may only want to give a few selected rights to someone who has been a part of the community a shorter while. Having the ability to set a varying level of rights (and of course assigning these rights to groups which members can then be placed within). For example, I said that I don’t like forcing people to register for sites and that anyone should be able to speak opening, even anonymously if they wish. Yet what if in registering, you decided to give additional priviledges to members who had been a part of the community a longer time? What if they were given voting priviledges say? What if a community member could initiate vote on a comment and get it removed as spam themselves with the help of other community members (based upon the number of votes required that you set)? Again you’re empowering the people within your community.

Using Community To Administer A Site

In my last post, I mentioned that I thought it was ludicrous to try to control the spammers on your site by trying to control everyone entirely. Why? Because if you do, you will not only succeed in driving away the spammers but also your community as well. I mean would you want to live in a community where your freedom of speech was restricted? Of course not but how do you get around this problem while still giving people an open voice? Well below is not a perfect answer (because there are no perfect answers) but it is a practical and effective one that actually allows you to use the strengths of your community, the people within it, to aid you in controlling this problem as a collective group (which is what communities should be all about).

Before I describe the approach though, I want to elaborate a bit more upon the current situation of blogs. Right now it seems that when a blog has a few visitors (like my own for example), comments are low and spam usually isn’t a problem, therefore I myself can administer my own site quite easily at this point in time. As the community around a site grows though, the comments increase in number as well. This brings more awareness of the community to others “malcontents” shall we say who would like to take advantage of the community for their own purposes. Imagine them like thieves and scoundrels infiltrating a thriving growing community.

Therefore, once my site gets very popular and attracts a lot of attention, this problem will probably grow beyond the means of me administering it on my own. It would be like having a single sheriff in a massive metropolis trying to maintain law and order. It’s impossible. This is why site owners usually revert to enabling robots (i.e. spam catchers) to help them maintain order, security gates that moderate those who can speak, or an identity system that tracks their users and only allows those authorized to speak to do so. What is wrong with all of these approaches is that all of them still keep the site owner in control like some fascist dictator who doesn’t trust anyone else to control his kingdom but himself. Yet for a community to be sustainable over a long period of time, trust needs to be an integral part of it.

Ok onto the solution and this will be another one of those “Everything I Learn In Life, I Learned From Video Games”. Back four years ago or so, when I used to play Counter-Strike, I was within a clan that had their own server where in effect we were doing the same thing as people do on blogs today. We we’re creating a community. Like a blog, the more popular that our clan CS server became, the more malcontents arrived on the scene to spoil things. So how did we get around this. Again we leveraged the power of the community around us. Instead of forcing everyone to go through an “Iron Curtain” to access the server, we kept the server completely open to everyone and elevated the roles of community members in helping us keep the “riff raff” out. In effect, we rewarded and empowered our long time community members.

Basically we gave these key community members (who had been a part of the community a while already) administration access to the server so that they could self-administer the server if we weren’t there. Thus the larger our community became, the more easily were we able to administer the server because more and more people were chipping in to help out. After all, we didn’t own the community (even though we created it), everyone did. Therefore why not let everyone truly participate within it and help it grow?

Now just to clarify, people weren’t the only ones administering the server. We did have bots that automatically followed set rules to deal with malcontents who without question were breaking the rules. For example, if a flood of messages (i.e. 10 in one second) appeared, the bot would detect this and kick the person automatically for spamming. If a person repeatedly shot another person on their own team, again they were kicked automatically. The key thing to realize here is that the bots were only used when something was completely obvious. All other situations were left up to human judgement, in effect letting the community administer itself (even to the point of allowing the community to vote someone off the server).

So to clarify what I’m getting at here, instead of setting up “Iron Curtains” on your site and making them your own little dictatorship, why not instead reward and empower your long time members of your community and give them some administration rights. While a lot of blogging systems don’t include all of the tools necessary for good community-based administration (i.e. banning rights to ban spammers IP’s, notification messages to inform the master site owner of the ban, etc), you can still at the very least give certain trusted people in your community the ability to delete comments on their own, so that spam can be removed from the site. Yes, this means that someone might see the spam on your site for the short period that it is there. And yes this means that things won’t be perfect and they may be a little messy but hey that’s life. Again it isn’t perfect. The key thing is that your community can retain it’s voice and in elevating certain members you’re actually creating a stronger community because they will actually feel like they are contributing to the success of the community as a whole.

Speaking Freely On The Web

I’ve always been an advocate of getting out on the Web and commenting on other’s people sites as not only does it generate more interest on their site but it also can generate interest on your own site as well. Lately however I’ve been noticing more and more people either moderating their comments, adding anti-spam catchers, or insisting on registration before commenting. Well basically I’ve had enough of all this crap and I’ve decide that I’m tired of feeling like some homeless person on the street who isn’t allowed into the building because of the way he looks. "Buggeroff! You’ve got nothing we want to hear!"

Um, what happened to the openness of the Web? The great equalizer? People getting tired of it already? Oh well, at the very least I’ve decided that if I’m going to reply to a post or topic on another site now, I’ll be doing it on my own site instead. It’ll be like my own little rogue radio station where I can broadcast to the world on whatever topic I feel like without be censored or blocked in any way.

Update: I’ve decided to join everyone else and remove my comments too! Feels great to be part of the "in" crowd now! Wonder if Britney Spears is reading my blog now!? Maybe I should check my referrer log!? 🙂

Update: Ok enough already. Jokes over. Comments are back up. 🙂