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).
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