Have you noticed all of your members?

by Martin Reed on 24 August 2007 in Articles

Moderating all areas of your forum

I have written in the past about how to effectively moderate forums. In that article though, I did not make any mention of the areas of a forum that the vast majority of forum developers fail to pay any attention to – namely the member list and the member profiles.

Why the member list and member profiles require moderation

The reason why most forum developers fail to moderate the member list and member profiles is because they are less prominent on the site. The main content of a forum is in the posts that members make – therefore it makes more sense to spend the majority of time ensuring that your members’ posts do not break your site rules or otherwise contain undesirable content.

Unfortunately, some users of your site (particularly first time visitors) may take time to browse your forum before deciding whether they wish to join. During this time, they may check out your member list and read some member profiles to get a feel for your community and its members.

The last thing you want is for that new visitor to find offensive or obviously scam/spam member names. Even worse would be member profiles containing offensive or obscene content.

A new member is true gold – the biggest challenge for any online community is to attract and retain new members. Make sure you don’t push away potential new members by failing to moderate all areas of your forum.

How to effectively moderate your member list and member profiles

It can be difficult to fully moderate your member list and all member profiles, particularly if your forum is popular and well developed. You can always decide to manually approve all new members – this gives you time to check each new member profile and user name. I am always hesitant in recommending this though, as it can be easy to lose the heat of a new member. It can be a solution though, if you are able to moderate all new members quickly.

By far the most effective way of moderating your member list and member profiles is by taking on help in the way of forum moderators. Make sure your moderators know that you want them to check out the member list on a regular basis, along with the profiles of new members as they join and existing members on a random basis.

As long as you are aware of the need to moderate these areas of your forum and you communicate these needs to your moderating team, you are already ahead of the majority of your competition.

Prevention is better than cure!

Of course, there are steps you can take to prevent any content that requires moderation from appearing in the first place. You can get rid of most automated spam/scam memberships by installing anti-spam software on your forum (the humanizer MOD for phpBB is particularly effective).

Having clear, prominent site rules can also help prevent members adding content to their profiles which you may not wish to appear on your site. Most of the time your members, both old and new, will be more than happy to stick by your site rules – as long as you have them!

You may well assume that you moderate your forum effectively as you vigilantly read every new post made, each and every day. After reading this article though, how effectively do you really moderate your forum, and have you noticed all of your members?

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Peter August 27, 2007 at 11:36 pm

This is something I have paid very close attention to, all 3 of my forums have forum registration by passed with a sign up form sent directly to me, although that said anyone that knows the forums well could still get to the registration pages (and some do), but this alone stops at least 10 a week from getting on the forums that shouldn’t be there.
The ones that should I manually add.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 2, 2007 at 9:35 am

Peter – Is there a particular reason why you manually approve and register each new member? Why don’t you let your forum software take care of that for you?

Peter September 3, 2007 at 12:37 am

Well Martin, i have found that one in 15 is genuine, the rest are spam and with 3 forums it’s takes a while to get rid of them all (at least 10 a day), they add websites that on one occasion when I went to check it out downloaded some virus onto my computer, it was at that point I changed it, what if another member had opened that page or a vistor to the site?

On the wordpress blog it’s easier the software holds everything in moderation including comments and very rarely get any spam on blogger.

I would love to open it up but, would end up spending the time I should be using for posting and updating, getting rid of spam links and spam memberships, members don’t seem to mind the way I do it, in fact it has given better quality members that participate, would I of lost a few genuine one’s? I don’t know but going by the old way (running about two years) it’s seems about the same week on week.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 6, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Peter – What forum software are you running? There must be a way of holding all new applications in a moderation queue until you manually review them. Your current process, though it seems effective, is extremely time consuming.

Peter September 6, 2007 at 12:45 pm

I use phpbb2, and yes you can hold all applications in a queue pending review, the problem is it doesn’t stop them entering their website address on our site, meaning antone on our site, guest or member can access the entered website, as I have said elsewhere after one link downloading a virus, I can’t take that chance on a international website.

I am trying out phpbb3 at the moment which seems to have more settings for this type of thing.

I I could get the forums to do it the way wordpress does it then all problems would be solved, in other words nothing shows until they have been approved

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 6, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Peter – There is a hack for phpBB which prevents people from being able to enter a homepage until they have been approved as members. Additionally, the humanizer hack should stop pretty much all spam memberships.