- Be kind.
- Walk, don’t run.
The point was to keep the rules simple in a way kids 5 to 12 could understand and remember while helping them, and those who interacted with them, enjoy their time at camp. The same is true for our communities, no matter the topic or the demographics:
- Be kind and respectful to others in the community.
- Listen before you talk (and listen to the moderation team).
- Don’t just barrel through, take the time to be aware of your surroundings and others around you.
On a somewhat recent #CMGRHangout, Brew, Dom and Berrak discussed online community policies with David DeWald, Patrick O’Keefe and Sarah Robinson to look at why it matters to have policies and place and where to start with creating them.
Assume that someone is new coming to your community for the first time, every day. They have no idea how it works or what’s going on.
Why Do Policies Matter in Communities?
As Patrick O’Keefe mentioned during the hangout, “It’s essential to have guidelines because they’re the foundation of a fair and even playing field in the community.” Plain and simple, if you don’t put policies in place, and enforce them, you have two main problems:
- New community members don’t know what’s acceptable or what to expect.
- Sarah Robinson pointed this out so clearly sharing that, you should “Assume that someone is new coming to your community for the first time, every day. They have no idea how it works or what’s going on.” You can’t expect someone to know how to play the game if you don’t teach them the rules.
- Harassment and disrespect can enter your community and you will end up losing solid community members as a result.
- In addition to Gamergate, which swarmed through the gaming world in 2014, there’s been much talk of Code of Conducts circulating around the developer world as of late. If you haven’t read Randi Harper’s The Developer Formerly Known as FreeBSDGirl, I’d recommend to do so. Randi’s story is the perfect example of why you need to have policies in place before you have a problem. Always make it clear how anyone in your community can report on harassment.
Everyone has a choice to be part of the communities they participate in—if they don’t like the environment, they will leave. As community professionals, it’s our job to make sure that environment is a healthy environment where members respect each other and feel safe.
It’s essential to have guidelines because they’re the foundation of a fair and even playing field in the community.
Where Do I Start?
If you haven’t written guidelines before, it can be a bit overwhelming to start. As it turns out, David DeWald has a basic framework you can start with: Generic Rules of Conduct. David also shared to “Look at the community as it is today and use it as a baseline to ask what behaviors you want to keep and what behaviors you want to weed out.” To add to that, Patrick pointed out there are two ways to look at your community guidelines:
- Your guidelines are a living document. Don’t hesitate to adjust it.
- Your guidelines are a vision statement for who you want to be as a community and the type of people you want to attract.
When I first started creating the guidelines for our community, I did quite a bit of research and digging into other communities to see what they settled on. These were my favorite examples:
- Google Small Business Community
- Welcome to the SitePoint Forums
- Get Satisfaction Community Guidelines
- Socratic: How to Be
- FAQ/Guidelines: Discourse Meta
Look at the community as it is today and use it as a baseline to ask what behaviors you want to keep and what behaviors you want to weed out.
Where to Go from Here?
Now you know why policies matter and where to start, but that’s really just the beginning. Our panelists talked a bit more on which stakeholders should you consult when creating community policies, how to make sure your policy is simple and clear enough that it will be read, how to encourage your community to read, or be aware of, your policies and how to enable your team to enforce community policies. Want to hear their tips? Catch the replay:
Remember to keep your guidelines fluid enough that if you do need to incorporate something, based on feedback from the community, you can.
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