by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
A friend once asked me why a community needs guidelines. Shouldn’t adults be able to interact appropriately without them and determine what they want their community to be? In theory, that sounds good. However, in practice, it can become an entirely different scenario. Also, appropriate behavior isn’t the only reason to have guidelines in place. While your members should definitely determine the overall feel of the community, there also should be some rules. Those rules need not be complex if you want something simple. But you should definitely have some in place.
Members May Be Confused
A well-run community should have a clear objective. It’s difficult to set and keep that objective when no guidelines are in place. Members may get confused as to what should and shouldn’t happen within the community. Without guidelines, no one really knows what the community is about and what behaviors are expected (or not expected).
Managing Could Become Difficult
A community without guidelines is much harder to manage since members may be confused about things. This often leaves the community manager in a difficult position. If there are no rules or guidelines, members may be reluctant to listen when situations arise. It also may become tough to decipher whether a situation is even a situation at all, since no guidelines are set. When should you laugh about something and when should you take action regarding certain posts and behaviors?
How Do You Know What’s Relevant?
If you have no community guidelines, how can you organize your community? While it may seem beneficial to just let members discuss whatever they wish, it can quickly get out of hand. Guidelines will help you sort it all out, whether your community is about one topic or a hundred. An organized community is easier for everyone to use and simpler to run. With guidelines in place, you should immediately know which posts to move, delete, or leave where they land.
Some Members Might Push the Envelope
With no guidelines, some members might take advantage and run amok. But is it really running amok if you have no rules? There are people out there who will do this simply because they know no rules are there for you to enforce. These members may feel that anything you say is simply an opinion and not something they need to listen to. There’s always the option of banning unruly members. However, simply having guidelines in place to enforce can prevent doing so in many instances. Who truly wants to restrict their members or treat them that way?
*I originally published this on Bubblews.com (no longer published there).
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Every community needs to have a clear objective. What is your community about? Do your members know the full purpose or intent? Is your community’s objective obvious when people visit the web space?
Make new on-topic posts as often as possible
In order for members to be able to interact with a similar objective, things need to be fresh and on-topic. If other members aren’t posting relevant topics regularly, as the community manager, you should step in and do so. This ensures that both new and old members understand what the site’s objective is. If things aren’t kept up-to-date, they may lose sight of what your community is truly about, which also leaves room for spam and other unwanted behavior.
Monitor member posts for relevancy
In addition to making those new, relevant posts, it’s important to keep an eye on what community members are posting. Part of a community manager’s job is to make sure that what’s being posted is relevant to the community. It’s fine to have an area for off-topic things. But if you want your community to be user-friendly, most posts should match what your community is about. Those that don’t should be moved to an off-topic area or removed entirely. Use your better judgment based on what your community members would prefer.
Keep an updated “About” or “Mission” section or page
Every web community should have an area that describes the community’s purpose. If your community consists of a website with multiple conversation areas (like comment sections, private messaging, and forums), you can create a specific page for that. Usually, that page should be titled along the lines of “About Us” or “Mission statement”. If your community is just a forum, you may want to include some community info within the main/welcome/guidelines post. That way, it’s immediately visible.
* I originally published this on Bubblews.com (no longer published there).
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Ever wonder how I seem to get so much done in a day? One of my methods is by using specific templates or outlines that I make myself.
Some of my templates are geared toward specific types of content and some are geared toward specific sites. For instance, some sites may not allow for basic html commands, like bold and italic text or in-text links. Therefore, my templates or outlines for those sites will look different than those I may do for many other sites.
More tips on this with sample templates: Quick Web Writing Tip: Make an Easy Outline to Speed Productivity
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
In web writing, it’s best to keep your sentences simple. Even though you may be speaking to an adult audience, web readers like to skim and be done with it. Simple wording makes your work more attractive and easier to scan.
Shorten longer and run-on sentences.
On the web, statements should be less than ten words. The shorter, the better. In the following example, the sentence is too long: “Angela took a stroll down the winding pathway that was located in City Park in the city of Denver.” Instead, you could say: “Angela walked the curved path in Denver City Park.”
Avoid words that can be used more than one way.
According to the Yahoo Style Guide (pg 329), words like “once” and “before” can be confusing. They can be used in two or more ways. Instead of saying “Once you add the eggs to the recipe mixture, stir the ingredients slowly before moving on” you could say “Add the eggs to the mixture. Then, stir slowly for five minutes. Move on to the next step.”
Avoid long-winded words.
While the word “pathway” is a simple word, “path” is better for the web. People usually find things on the web via search. More people will search for a word like path versus pathway. Also, path is easiest to read of the two. Always choose the easiest word for what you need to say. That way, even people who have a harder time reading will be able to understand you more clearly.
Use simple words.
Try not to use long words or those that are harder to say (or read). Instead of using the word difficult, you can use hard. This may sound like you’re “dumbing down” your work. Really, you’re just making sure people see it and stick with it until the end. Web readers scan fast and they also leave fast. Your job is to make sure they find what you write and stay with it as long as they can.
Text and Photo by Lyn Lomasi; © 2014 All rights reserved
*I originally published this on another site (no longer published there).
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