Building a community is hard. Online, even harder.
This is what I’ve noticed from recently participating in some online community building. It’s not a big project, just a small online forums for a very specific niche.
And one of the things that surprise me is how important ‘seeding’ the community is.
For example, from talking to several other forum founders, we found that at the beginning, they use bots, to increase the community engagement rate.
Yes, bots. Some fake accounts created for the sole purpose of creating and replying to some threads.
See, the funny thing about human is, we all like to participate in a community but we rarely wants to be the first to do so. By using bots, forum founder can ensure that there’s a constant flow of new threads and discussion happening.
Plus, people who just landed in the forum from Google or some other external source, will see a thriving community with active posters, sometimes very, very helpful, that it makes you wonder how did they have all this free time to spend on online forums.
Little did they know, they are replying and discussing topics with robots, not real people.
Another benefit of using bots to ‘seed’ the community, is that you can actually design the culture of the community.
By culture, I mean people have the tendency to follow certain patterns of interaction based on the types of interaction that they’ve already seen. So if you see an old forum, usually they have this pattern of speaking, that characterized the community. The types of posts, the types of response, are uniquely theirs. And this ‘culture’ does not born overnight. It develops slowly over years of interactions between members.
And this leads to the title of this post.
I used to be quite active on 4Chan. I saw them as a unique community. In fact, all the chans are pretty unique, in that they’re constantly the source of new content, especially offbeat content like a meme, and yet, the creators of those content never got the attribution that they seemingly deserved. Why? Well, on 4Chan, everybody’s anonymous.
So oddly enough, 4Chan in my eyes, with all its broken ways, can be said as a perfect community. It’s a community that’s always giving something without hoping for tangible rewards (they want some laughter, maybe). And the community has cultures that are so uniquely theirs, that an outsider will get spotted pretty quickly. This outsider then will get egged on and this term usually will come up:
Lurk More, Faggots
That is, in a way, a form of community-run-moderation. And it’s very effective. You can cull the bad from the good (well, the good according to 4chan), without having to resource to banning, because if you’re out of the 4chan line for even a bit, you’re gonna get policed. Unless you’re a pretty dedicated troll, you’re gonna hit the x button and get out. I wonder how many moderators 4chan actually has, and the ratio of moderators to users. Because from an outsider’s perspective, these unique characteristics of 4Chan should decrease the moderation cost quite a bit.
So, how should a community enforce a lurk more policy? Unfortunately, you can’t. Not in this day & age, unless you want your forum to be branded hostile to new members. But still, that’s a pretty interesting way to look at community moderation.