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I am working on a couple online communities and I was hoping some people would know the biggest mistakes you can make while designing a online community. I don't want to run into legal trouble.

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Last Post by InsightsDigital
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There are a lot of things to do wrong and a lot of things to do right. The most important IMO is to not do what everyone else is doing. Nowadays there are just a handful of popular forum systems out there (vBulletin, phpBB, etc). All forums are being powered by the same systems and have the exact same features and operate the exact same way. So come up with a unique gimmick and distance yourself.

When DaniWeb started, the big thing was to have niche sites that united everyone on a single, particular topic ... such as a forum exclusively for everything Windows Vista or a car enthusiasts forum for everything Acura. What made us unique was that we were one of the only ones to figure out a way to put the convenience of everything under one roof without the site feeling like it has no direction and is just a mosh of random topics.

You mentioned legal trouble ... is there anything specific you're worried about potentially happening that you want to protect yourself from? Check out DaniWeb's AUP and Privacy Policy (links in footer and on registration page) and check out the AUPs of other forums as well. Find what you like about each one and piece together what works best for you.

At the very least, include something about how you're not responsible for harmful posts (i.e. defamatory posts). Some online communities choose to allow users to retain the rights to all content that they post while others, like DaniWeb, assume ownership of all content submitted to us. Research the benefits of each and find what works best for you.

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Thanks. That helps a lot.
At the moment, I'm in the process of creating a destination review website (something like 43places.com but which will include hotel reviews.
I want to launch this site for only African destinations. I need advice on how best to set up my website for maximum response when it launches. I don't want to launch and then start struggling to attract visitors to the site.

How did Dani Web become so popular despite the diversity of topics? Do I start getting the idea out in tourism forums and other sites of interest or is there a specific form of networking you'd advise?

I'm sorry for the long-winding post.

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I bought traffic from Google before I had some sort of stats program. I wasted a lot of money because I couldn't see what the people were doing on my site when they got there. Now I have a good stats program and I can see what is happening on my site allowing me to make changes.

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There are a lot of things to do wrong and a lot of things to do right. The most important IMO is to not do what everyone else is doing. Nowadays there are just a handful of popular forum systems out there (vBulletin, phpBB, etc). All forums are being powered by the same systems and have the exact same features and operate the exact same way. So come up with a unique gimmick and distance yourself.

That's a great point to consider. I'm noticing that lots of forums use both of the systems that you mentioned, which is fine, but I can get boring if they don't customize even just a little, with say, color. Do you think the reason that people use these platforms is because they are easier to use? Or really because it's "popular?"

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Are people open to completely new online communities? Something that isn't one bit like anything else around? I am curious as how people will respond to it's originality.

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People won't be attracted to a new forum with no threads and conversations in it. They might be interested in a new type of forum if it is a topic they are interested in and they see lots of other people participating on the site.

If you are just starting out, be prepared to particpate on your site and write lots of content to get it started while also doing everything possible to attract new people to the site.

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I have spoken with creators of their own online social networking sites and all these 3 entrepreneurs told me that they had hundreds of contents and information on their community by the time of launch. One creator told me she had over 300 articles she wrote on her community before launch. Another creator is writing over 1,000 and still is working on launching on their community. I personally have created online communities with almost nothing or little content with the notion - I create and they shall come - well I did have lots of visitors but the bounce rate was very high.

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If you are in a hurry to launch and don't have the time/skills to write those content, you can consider using articles from directories like articlesbase.com but be prepared to spend the time on filtering the good ones out from the mostly advertising junk.

However, it remains a murky area on the issue of duplicate content with regards to google.

As for the legal safeguards, the very least you can do is to host your site on a server that is outside your jurisdiction if it's feasible. for instance in my country Singapore, the adult/political condemnation sites are hosted on U.S. servers and these sites has survived for years safely.

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Hi guys

There are a few easy ones, complicated webdesign is usally one of the big mistakes, or complicated registration !

Bad english or simple mistakes always put people off your website straight away !

Woc

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I would add that a big turn-off to potential members/participants is the tone of the forums. I have gone onto forums and posted questions and because I was not on the same level as the regular posters their attitudes, and responses, ran the full range from dismissive to nasty to completely insulting. Forums like this one are moderated very well and certain behavior and content is not tolerated.

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I totally agree with you. The tone of the community is created by the members and founder. I am a member of a technology board that every time a member posts a self-promoting link, immediately, other members share their dismay. This helps prevent other future spammy posters.

I also agree that in any online community there are always:
1. The Creators - create content
2. Collectors - share links
3. Lurkers - those who watch but dont contribute.

http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2007/04/forresters_new_.html

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