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How do forum owners manage time?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by jonsidneyb, May 19, 2011.

  1. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    My forum is not too large but it can eat up a huge amount of time.

    The fact is I really don't have the time to come in here but I do because I like it here and I need to at least try and know what is going on with add-on's and such since I want to get moved over.

    Where does the time go?

    If I let it I can be on the phone all day with members. It can be a bit of a dog fight. I don't have my number on the forum but I do have it on my store. This is a wild guess but I would say that 24 out of 25 calls is about the forum and one about the store.

    What are these calls about? They vary all over the place but I will touch on a few of them:

    A: I could be wrong but I am starting to think that maybe 1% or 2% of forum posters are on forums because they don't have any place to go. Some of these people just need someone to talk to and I feel bad about that. It is not very many people that do this but it does not take many to make life hard. There are some people that if you let them will call every single day. Eventually they some get offended and think I am mean when I tell them I have to work. If I allowed people to do this to me I could easily be on the phone 24 hours a day and would eventually end up living on the street.

    B: Conflicts among members. My group is not a homogeneous group and people are there for a variety of reasons. I prefer it that way, if my people became a homogeneous group I will have failed. That creates problems of its own. While the vast majority of people get along fine there are people that stir the pot. They will make blanket statements that while possibly true for some people are situations it is not universally true. Then it becomes "If you don't believe in XYZ you shouldn't be in the forum" Some times a big dust-up can create a blizzard of messages and phone calls that can be massively time consuming.

    One thing that drives off some of my best members are experts in things that they have not done before or have little experience. I have also had members with twenty years or more experience at something but they often get driven off by the guys that who have never done the subject at hand.
    The generates the message from the experienced person "I am out of here" and from the people that have never done the activity "You only have like minded people in the forum" It make me want to scream at times.

    C: Not a single day goes by that I find someone trying to join the forum that uses multiple accounts on other forums. Actually It is usually more than one and have at times been five. Plenty of people are smart enough to know not to have multiple accounts posting on the same IP but I usually don't catch them before they join with IP address's anyway. Some people do get past the 6 checks that I do on all new members.

    99.99% of multiple ID people that get by my screening are not called out publicly but by a private message. Only once did I confront someone on another forum, it was pretty tacky of my to do what I did. I found this person had 4 usernames on one forum and I found a total of 7 that he was using. He had at least 2 usernames on every single forum I found him on. When I confronted him about it he said "You don't know the half of it" (post #7)


    I also can't seem to get people to not reply to a PM notifications email.

    D: It is not all of them but people that want to try and make money off of my forum can be a very big time suck. They are constantly wanting me to do things for them and currently I don't make any revenue off of them. Some of them want to eat up my time so that I can't take care of my own store.

    There is no one thing that eats up all my time related to the forum but tons of 15 minute things here and hour things there and it add's up to a full day before I actually do any work.

    Right now I have more than 1000 PM's that I have not yet read. I have even more unread e-mails. When I don't have my phone off during the day 5 minutes after I get off of one call someone else calls. I have more than 100 members I have not screened and approved yet and I am way behind on the messages from my store. A wild guess is my time is broken up 95% forum 5% store.

    I know all forums are not the same and each may have their unique issues but my problem has become time management in a big way. When I come out here I actually get further behind but once in awhile I need a break from my place and this place is generally relaxing.

    My forum is small, I have no idea how large forums manage nor do I understand how people with multiple forums manage. I am obviously doing something wrong.

    How have you guys been able to manage the demands for time on your forums?
    Peggy and Walter like this.
  2. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    Stop the phone calls, they sound like they're taking up all your time.

    If the enquiry is about the forums, politely inform them that this phone number is for the shop only and ask them to use the contact form / support section of the site to contact you.

    If they insist on trying to carry on the conversation, firmly interrupt them and ask them if their call is about "shop" business? If they say no, then repeat that they must use the traditional online contact method to discuss forum business with you.

    If that fails, interrupt again - tell them that you have another call waiting regarding shop business and that they should use the online contact methods - and then bid them goodbye.

    With regard to the "know it all's" - interject into the threads yourself - as the forum admin - and explain that everyone's opinion is valid, and express that user "x - y - and - z" have lots of experience and as long term members of the forum their advice and info is quite well trusted. This will give support to the members you trust, and should stop them leaving.

    I once had a situation where a member was going into far too much technical detail when replying to newbies simple requests - in the end we had to close his account. It caused some upset, but it also gave the newbies some breathing space and allowed other members to give simpler, easier-to-understand answers (which can be complicated as the newbie learns more).

    It's a difficult job with lots of highs and lows, but the trick is not to worry too much about upsetting people - because if they're a troll, or aggressive, or too full-on, they WILL put other people off your site - and the end result is you keep one idiot, and lose lots of good people!!

    Shaun :D
    jonsidneyb likes this.
  3. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    Oh, and it helps, every now and then, to just take a couple of days off from your forums and let your mods manage them. Hard as this may seem, it's actually quite refreshing sometimes and puts things back into perspective. (y)
    Peggy and jonsidneyb like this.
  4. Wuebit

    Wuebit Well-Known Member

    My forum is tiny and it eats up Sh*t loads of time I hear you mate I hear you
    also aye stop all the phone calls.
    jonsidneyb likes this.
  5. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    How do forum owners manage time?

    I have no idea but once you have an answer, please let me know.

    I barely get time to eat and sleep these days; unfortunately it's not my own forum which takes up most of my time...
    jonsidneyb likes this.
  6. Marc

    Marc Well-Known Member

    How do forum owners manage time?

    Oh this answer is so simple ....... Badly LOL
    Caelum and jonsidneyb like this.
  7. Sadik B

    Sadik B Well-Known Member

    As a policy,
    • My phone number is not on ANY forum I run. I don't sell anything, they are just communities so I don't have to provide phone support.
    • I DO NOT reply to emails.
    • I DO NOT reply to PMs unless I ask someone to PM me.
    • I have automated spam management so I don't manually screen new users.
    • Only a handful of my forum members know who I really am and have my real name.
    jonsidneyb likes this.
  8. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone. Keep the time savings tips coming. Anything that can save time at any place is helpful.

    I have automated spam management but it does not seem to catch the multiple account guys as they are getting in manually. It is disturbing when the same person is in a thread as three different people.

    I better return to my store then move on to my forum.
  9. Sadik B

    Sadik B Well-Known Member

    Ok since I do not know what your forum is about so I may be wrong, but why is it such a problem if some guy wants to maintain multiple identities? And if it is, how are you even manually identifying them? Through their IPs? Then you can write a plugin for disallowing registration from the same IP if one exists already.

    I agree, manually allowing new registrations is such a pain. I don't think any single person can keep up if his forum gets busy.
  10. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    Not by multiple ID's. Most of them don't use the same IP for the various account. One problem with disallowing people is many of my members are from homeland security, or with large companies.

    There are six things that I do to check the members and if anything looks odd I will dig more. When I did deeper it is not any single thing that I do but just look for clues and sometimes I find the proof.

    Once I had many medics and doctors alert me to some posts telling a product this person was talking about was dangerous. Someone asked if the person was with the company making the product he said he wasn't. I dug and dug and finally found his name online but could not prove that he was part of the company. I finally called the company and asked for him. He was the sales manager.

    One mistake that people make is posting their email address. One one site they might have a username of abc123 and an email address of abc123@badposter.com then another account with the username of 123abc and an email address of 123abc@duplicateguy.com

    Then I find them on another forum with the user name abc123 and email address of 123abc@duplicateguy.com and another username of 123abc with the email address of abc123@badposter.com. Simple things like that give some of them away. It can take a bit of digging at times but there are often clues.
  11. James

    James Well-Known Member

    $time date('H:i:s')
    Marc likes this.
  12. -GR-

    -GR- Well-Known Member

    Time? What time?
    Peggy likes this.
  13. Ingenious

    Ingenious Well-Known Member

    It sounds like you are over run!

    If you are not careful you could burn out, if you don't enjoy it anymore and it's just a pain in the arse to run. It sounds a bit like that creeping in from your post.

    Have a look at everything and anything that requires manual intervention. Can any of this be automated? Think about things that need manual work and ask why - for example, do you manually approve members, if so, do you have to do this? Don't be afraid to change things about and try new things. Sometimes we build such big barriers in our forum (against spammers etc.) that in reality are not justified and simply waste more time.

    Have clear times when people can call you and stick to those. You do need offline time to do back office jobs.

    It sounds ruthless but regarding point A, you cannot in any larger community be friends with everyone. You'll spend all day just chit chatting. At some point you have to take a step back. I always see it like this: You can either be part of a community, as a member, or you can run a community, but you cannot be both.

    Have a look at what people are asking in these 1000 PMs you mention. Are there questions you can answer on-line, in a FAQ or guide?

    Getting some good moderators can help a lot. I have two fantastic moderators who have taken a lot of work off my shoulders. In fact, many members PM them first when they have a problem. It works well, leaving me to do other things.

    Point B - ALL forums have fights and disagreements. Such is life. You have to accept this. You also have to give people the time and space to have their say and to respect them for this. Have a good set of rules and put up a posting guide. Once you start closing posts - nicely - people will start to get the idea. The moderation here I think is a good example of how you can be laid back and nice about it, but still firm when you need to be.

    I don't, and never will, give my personal phone number out on my forum.

    Good luck - and chin up :)
  14. Marc

    Marc Well-Known Member

    Brilliant LMAO
  15. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    Interesting topic, this. I'm very glad I ran across it.

    I was intrigued by the fact that everyone seems to agree taking phone calls is a waste of time. That's an issue that we've been thinking about lately. I believe Japan has a law requiring firms that do business over the web to provide customers with some means of contact other than via the website.

    Of course, I'm not thrilled about publishing our phone number on the web; we can't afford to hire someone to answer it (at least not just yet). So we're trying to decide how to deal with this. Fax and snail mail seem like the frontrunners at the moment, but the jury's still out.

    Might I ask how those of you who run forums as a business handle customer contact?
  16. a legacy reborn

    a legacy reborn Well-Known Member

    Get another active admin to help you out...it might seem kinda of bad when you only have 100 mems and you didn't start out with this person but they will be there when it grows as well ;).
  17. steven s

    steven s Well-Known Member

    Boy, I'm lucky with my forum. It practically runs itself.
    Members know to report spam rather than reply.
    Mods can give an infraction for spam that automatically ban then soft deletes posts.
    Members pretty much self moderate. I rarely have to step in.
    It's just a good natured community.

    I spend more time here getting frustrated and on vB waiting for new releases.
  18. Walter

    Walter Well-Known Member

    Not via phone. We have the same laws here as you have in Japan, we are required to provide a phone number. But whenever someone calls to ask e.g. "Why can't I login?" I tell them that the phone number is not for support. Otherwise I would get swamped with calls. This would only be doable if it was a hotline and we charge per minute.
    Dominion likes this.
  19. Peggy

    Peggy Well-Known Member

    I actually manage my time quite well. Between trying to grow my own forum, posting here, being a mom, and working part time, I do pretty good.

    heh a couple of days ago, someone actually accused me of being a bad mom to my special needs son because I spend too much time online (according to him, and yeah, it was someone from here). ppfffftt... Just because you see me online doesn't mean I'm sitting at my computer. ;). Over the years I have learned to multitask very well.

    Jon, get rid of the phone support darlin! It'll be the death of you.
  20. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    That sounds like a good approach. I'm still not sure I like the idea of making my phone number available, however. Even if I don't take the time to talk through support issues, the ringing phone itself would be quite a distraction.

    My wife, like Peggy, is quite good at multitasking. She can jump from a phone call to a post on her SNS to the 100+ documents she's got open on her desktop for editing and back, and things actually get done. Me, I tend to get deeply involved in one thing, and changing gears takes a while. So having to field phone calls would probably occupy more of my time than actual length of the calls.

    Hopefully our site will be a big success and we can afford to hire a receptionist. Until then, though, I gues this bears further thinking about.

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