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Building Community with vBulletin. A Forum Review.
By Steve Shubitz - Owner/Founder/Webmaster of the geek/talk Forums @ GeekVillage.com

The best way to learn about building community with vBulletin, is to examine a successful board. Scuba Board is a "hobby" site which contains no advertisements.

When I say "building community", I am not referring to an obsessive fixation and or concern with generating page views, unique visitors , or revenue. Your first goal should be to create a virtual place where folks feel comfortable, safe, and can obtain some benefit from the community. Your traffic and in a few rare cases, revenue will be a natural result of this environment and should never dictate your building community goal and procedures.

A lot of folks have debated the merits of a hobby site and more particularly the lack of quality, ethics, civility, and the tendency to slap dozens of adverts on the site and "pretend" you are a business. While this is certainly true for a great many of these sites, their are outstanding exceptions to this rule, like Scuba Board.

What makes Scuba Board tick?

1. A passion and love of the topic. No one on planet earth should ever start a Forum because they want to make money. Plenty of folks have tried and they have either failed or will fail. Browse around Scuba Board, thread after thread contains real content which helps the community. Delivered in a civil and respectful manner.

2. Mature "guidance" is mandatory. Contrary to popular opinion, you don't "run" or "Admin" a community. You provide the necessary guidance, which includes setting an example for others to follow. Great communities are run by the members. Great communities have members who reinforce the "culture" and "rules". Your "guidance" must include setting a civil and respectful example. If you do this, your members will follow. If you set an example with profanity, flames, attacks, and a general lack of civility, your members will emulate your actions. If you watch Scuba Board for a few days, you will see that the owners (KN and LD) don't post that much. The examples and tone are set by the Moderators and the members follow suit.

3. Rules and enforcement of same are mandatory. Communities without rules and the necessary enforcement of same will fail. Both must be implemented. Scuba Board has it's share of rules. Even an unusual "Avatar" procedure. They also rely on the members to enforce these rules. Their is no stronger force in a community than peer pressure. Your goal should always be to surround yourself with folks who share similar views on community. Eventually a core group of members will step forward to reinforce your culture.

4. It's not your community. That's not a typo. You may have registered the domain and purchased vBulletin, but your members built it and thus they own it. You can see this at work in Scuba Board. Absolutely no "chest pounding" and bravado on how great their board is from the owners. Let the members "speak" and gain a sense of pride of ownership and a stronger sense of the great community which they have created.

5. Still skeptical? Think you have the secret trick or a new "hack" to create a mega super board? Not a chance. Their are no tricks, hacks, or secrets. Just a lot of very hard work 24/7/365. Read this thread, to learn exactly what I mean about "pride of ownership", "community", and saying thanks. Dozens of posts by members full of praise and the willingness to "speak" with their wallets to help the owners of the board. Not a "shill post" or phony post present. Real folks helping the owners on a voluntary basis.

Conclusions

Guiding a mature community can be a daunting task with periods of skepticism and questions about your own motives. Given the "Wild West" nature of the Internet and the cultural expectation by surfers, who think that they can say and do whatever they want, Scuba Board is an outstanding model and divine inspiration for all of us.


If you need more secrets and tips for vBulletin, click here.

This article is ©2003 by Free-Webmaster-Tools.com/Published Perfection. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form is prohibited. Print this article.

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