I am the moderator of a forum that contains two groups with opposing views. One group wants frank discussion/criticism (this forum is the official site for a musician) and the other, larger group, likes it peaceful and positive. Since it's an official site, some people feel that it exists to market the musician, as well as provide a place for his fans to discuss his music, and as such should be a very positive place. Others think that discussion of his perceived errors in marketing himself, flaws in the website design and content and criticism of the music he has produced should be an integral part of the forum, and are an accepted aspect of most musicians' official sites. I can see that open discussion makes a forum more dynamic, but am not sure where to draw the line, or how to accomodate both groups. And I'm unsure if I should try to accomodate both groups.

This musician has a fledgling career, so I'm uncertain what kind of forum will be most interesting to his fans, and which will induce more fans to register and participate. Does anyone have a similar situation or experience with this kind of problem?

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If you let people criticise too much then they will get out of hand and a time will come when there will be abusive language used against the musician very openly. If I was the musician or his agent I would keep the forum heavily moderated, some critcism should be allowed but when you give people that liberty they tend to get out of hand and start misusing that previllage. I was a moderator at EA sports Australia forum once and it had to close down because the number of moderaters were less as compared to the requirment of the forum.

If you allow bickering and fighting you will soon find that that's all you have. People who do not wish to engage in that sort of activity are generally driven away, decreasing community size and leaving you with the extremists. In some cases this can work to bring in more posts (hot topics get a lot of attention versus dull ones) but for the overall longevity of your community (and profit potential) it is rarely a good thing. As you said in your post, the larger group of members doesn't want this... a true community follows the users, influencing them if necessary but listening to them always.

I am a strong believer of constructive criticism. I believe that some criticism and negative comments towards the musician or his music may make the forum a more "honest" place to be where people can give their honest thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, it should also be heavily moderated. For example, "He sucks! I hate his music" shouldn't be allowed but "I really don't like song X - it's not my taste at all" or "I think he is capable of a lot better than song Y" should definitely be allowed.

I have a "Shark Tank" forum, and it's for all the disgruntled...Just let'em fight it out.


I have a "Shark Tank" forum, and it's for all the disgruntled...Just let'em fight it out.


Hi Eric,

I've now been running << url snipped to comply with forum policy >>, a site dedicated to the old Commodore Amiga computer for over 10 years. While this may not be typical, what I've found is that originally it was all Amiga-related discussion. Then, I opened up "the DMZ" like your "Shark Tank" and simply let them go.

The problem became people taking fights and personal attacks into the other, more moderated forums. So, as the Amiga-specific news became less and less, I expanded "the DMZ" into a series of "Coffee House forums" on various subjects such as religion, politics, etcetera where our Amiga users could discuss everything, though we still have the occassional overspill into the regular Amiga related forums.

Now, I find myself in a quandry. My site exists because of the small community that has become accustomed to using the Coffee Houses. Attempts to open new sites (such as Whyzzat.com) to divert the Coffe House forum discussions away from Amiga-related discussion have met with a lukewarm reception at best, while even the mere IDEA of killing off the original coffee house forums have drawn nothing but critical fire from all the users. While there is still quite a bit of Amiga support on my site, if Google ads weren't around, the site would be closed long ago.

In short, allowing "conflict", even a bit, establishes a pattern which can quickly overrun your real intent (much like gnolls storming the walls of your castle). Giving your users the extra leeway is easier to give than it ever will be to take it away should it ever get out of control.

Now, despite 10 years of dedicated service, I'm often referred to as "hitler", "censorship central", "anti-christ" and a lot of neat words that make me think that it would be better to simply kill the site, wait 3 months, then rebuild and refocus the site back on the Amiga without the open forums at all. Would I have less of an audience if I did that? Yep. Would my users be happier in the long run? I would believe so. In the long run, would I end up with more users? Absolutely.

Just a thought, based on my 10 years in the business.


I'm often referred to as "hitler", "censorship central", "anti-christ"

Do you post a list of rules that define the boundries between polite positive criticism, polite expression of personal tastes (that may disagree with others), and offensitive, insulting, polarizing or demonizing attacks? Such rules and definitions could be referred to to show the violator that he/she is not being politically correct.

Also, an administrator or monitor could make use of private messaging to suggest to some unofficial posters that they could also criticize the offender for his method of attacking. I have seen this work -- where many users pile-on someone who needs to be knocked down a peg.

Even someone who is engaged in polite debate can be asked to come to the aid his/her opponent when someone jumps into the conversation in a polarizing way.

Stan Hilliard

I'm a firm believer that an all-in-one site will inevitably be more successful than lots of niche sites, each trying to target a specific audience. I don't like the idea of having users have to sign up multiple times to fully participate in all of the facets of a community. Have you tried establishing a single Coffee House forum with strict rules and the rest of the site having a clear policy that all off-topic banter MUST be within the Coffee House forum or it will automatically be deleted with no warning as spam / trolling / off-topic banter / etc.?

A bit of conflict is healthy, IMO.

You can't have a "perfect" forum.


I like seeing discussion, even if there is conflict. The important thing to remember is that the discussion has to remain on topic, and no personal attacks. I have seen forums where they are talking about this technical issue, and then someone compares it to social security, and then we have a Bush vs. Kerry war on our hands.

Moderators have to keep the discussions on target.


its a fine line. Some conflit can be good if its channeled. It keeps people coming back, keeps them posting.

Too much though and people will leave.

I have a forum where politics is discussed frequently. I post articles about local issues, and encourage comments on these issues. But very often it turns political, and quickly gets wild.

I work hard to set the tone of the discussions, which means I have to be a fairly active moderator. Here's what I do;

1. I post articles that model appropriate behavior- my forum policy centers on a byline of "passionate but civil" I specify that means no name calling, no abusive language, and no personal attacks. I post articles that serve to direct the conversation, and show how to be passionate about an issue, but leave room for other opinions.

2. I reply to others modeling appropriate behavior- I reply to others first by thanking them for their post, and then responding without personal attacks, and always strictly to the issue. I never allow myself to 'return fire' or hit back point by point. This quickly puts out the flames in most cases.

3. I publicly correct people who break the rules. If someone breaks the rules, I correct them publicly, as a reply to their post. I repeat the 'passionate but civil' and quote the offensive post, followed by a suggestion to improve their conversation effectiveness. (Stick to the issue, no personal attacks, show respect for others viewpoints) In every case so far, this has met with the offender bugging off, and the rest of the participants thanking me for keeping things civil.

4. I let people know their options for personal control The software I use is Beehive Forum. It allows individual users to block anybody they dont' want to hear from. So, when people join I send them an email that tells them how to use this feature, and suggests that they PM me if they have a problem with a particular user.

So far I've gotten exactly the response I want. I get local discussion of issues, and people join because they know they won't be blasted by a few flamers. Several have joined specifically because of that. It helps to attract the crowd you want, and repel the ones you dont.

But it does take alot of moderater work. When the forum grows, I'll have to streamline my reponses, and train moderators.

Long winded because I can type really fast. Sorry.

Wayne from White Salmon

I post on a particulary author's site sometimes. There are definitely two opposing sides and a long history of why that is which I will spare you from now. Suffice to say that the 'haters' really have some valid points and reasons for feeling the way they do and the 'true fans' seem to have one track minds and believe the author is a god and can do no wrong. The author insults and rants at the fans via her blog on a regular basis, writes the way she does to be 'contrary' and never visits the message board. the mods on the board are all personal friends of the author so there is no unbiased moderation.

Finally after a particularly heated debate (where the moderator called all those who didnt like the book 'self loathing masochists' and then the instant banning of a few longtime key members (for not adhering to a rule that didn't exist at the time of banning but was added about an hour after the bannings) the site was closed down 'temporarily' to look for new MB software and allow everyone to calm down - including the moderator, who then said the bannings were a 'software glitch'. Too little too late I think.

So perhaps it's a fine line on how much conflict is good for a board and how much is too much?

hmm i run a forum where there is always conflict/beef. I think as long as there are people tere to make sure it doest get out of hand then its fine

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