Because Ning has taken the EXCELLENT step of setting up this network for NC's, I thought I would relate the amazing experience that creating a network on Ning has been for me! You might find something here that's helpful, or interesting, or you may not. Either way, I think the Ning team deserve the good vibes now that they have rediscovered their relationship with us NC's!!
Some background - I love racing go karts. Have done for many years and am employed in the industry. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time on the most popular forum (UBB software based) for the Australian karting community. Then, one day for whatever reason, the forum creator removed the site, no explanation, no nothing, it just vanished!
The only other forum existing on the web was run by a highly unethical character, well known for distorting the truth to suit his own economic health, and thus I decided I'd create a forum.
I'd read up a fair bit about UBB stuff, when a friend mentioned Ning.
"It's like your own mini facebook", he said.
Sounded good to me, so I created Kartbook! Not the most creative name in the world, but it works :)
I had two goals for Kartbook:
1. That people would behave in a civil, friendly and hopefully FUN manner. (Something which had not generally been the case on the previous forums).
2. That the truth, no matter who it did or didn't suit for it to be known, would be allowed to be published, and remain unmoderated.
I did a few things that have made it remarkably easy to achieve my goals.
1. I asked EVERYBODY to use their real name, and politely enforced it.
2. I created a short and sweet set of guidelines that basically said "no bullying, no spam, no worries".
3. I refused to delete ANYTHING that didn't contravene those guidelines, even if the person who posted it asked me to!
The result has been truly, truly incredible. There are 6000 licenced kart racers in Australia. There are 1700 members on my network, and we receive pretty regular visits from about 10,000 unique computers. The average visit lasts ten minutes. The average visitor returns five times a week.
If someone signs in with a "handle" instead of their real name, they get howled out of the place by the members themselves faster than you could imagine. I ask one or two people a month to update their profile with their real name, the rest of them get sorted out by the existing members :)
If someone bullies someone else, I get private messages, emails, facebook messages, and in one extreme case three phone calls, all within a minute of the inappropriate post being made.
We see intelligent, sometimes heated but always fair, discussion about a huge range of topics relating to karting, and best of all, the majority of the membership THINK before posting a message!
Because whatever they say, it's got their name right next to it, and they KNOW it's going to stay there, even if they regret it after a cooling off period. Early in the piece, a few people made harsh or stupid comments, thinking it would remain on the site for five minutes (long enough for their target to see it), and then be removed before the whole of the karting community and industry could see them behaving childishly... those few people were mistaken! Lots of people therefore saw the negative effects of "opening mouth before engaging brain", and it now happens VERY rarely! Strange as it may seem, by REFUSING to moderate in all but the most extreme cases, I've made the NEED for moderation almost disappear altogether!
Obviously this works in my case, because the karting community is a fairly tight one, and having one's name dragged through the mud in full view of your friends and acquaintances is much worse than having an anonymous fight on the internet!
One major issue that we found had to be overcome was the forum software allowing the thread-creator to moderate the thread with as much power as the NC. In one case, we had one of our less scrupulous members delete anything and everything he didn't personally agree with in a thread he had created. I don't believe that the thread creator, or the network creator for that matter, OWNS a discussion in the forum. Each discussion is owned partly by every contributor, and no-one should have the power to moderate other people's opinion.
This particular episode occurred back in the "Get Satisfaction" days (which I found to be highly unsatisfying!), so in lieu of a solution from Ning, the solution we came up with was to use CSS to hide all the moderation tools from the thread creators. This also means that on the rare occasion that I DO need to moderate a thread, I need to un-hide the moderation tools, but that's not a big deal.
The success of my network came as an almost complete surprise, and it is now "the hub" of Australian karting on the internet. As a result, I upgraded my account with ning to remove the ads, and started an online shop supplying kart parts to the Australian market. This too has been a great success and, while only three weeks old, looks likely to become my primary source of income by Christmas.
I'd like to say thanks, to the whole Ning team, for an amazing experience that I could not have achieved without your help. I'd also like to congratulate you on the development of this Creators network. I feel that it's a sign you're willing to listen to us, and work with us, and I think you'll find us much more appreciative and supportive of your efforts, now that we're given the opportunity.