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How to make having a forum become less than a full time job?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by jonsidneyb, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    I was wondering, you do you keep your forum from being a time consuming thing? I can't figure out how.
  2. Floris

    Floris Guest

  3. Andy.N

    Andy.N Well-Known Member

    Community manager and your team don't work for free, do they?
    borbole likes this.
  4. jadmperry

    jadmperry Well-Known Member

    I think it depends on the type of community you have. Mine is very time intensive because it relies on my input on very technical issues that others are not suited to comment on. So, in that situation, the answer is that there is no way around a substantial time commitment. Even so, over time, the previous posts represent an investment of time in getting the answers out there, so the time decreases.

    But, for other types of forums, relying more on the posts of the members, I think you just find the right staff (paid or unpaid, as the economics of the site dictate) and you delegate and supervise.
  5. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    It is constant non-stop communication and people wanting me to do things for them all the time. If I never slept and never left the forum I would never get to everything people want from me on the forum.
  6. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    Do you have anyone else at all helping you with the running of the site? Moderator team? Trusted members who can do some of the basic stuff?
  7. Morgain

    Morgain Well-Known Member

    This sounds very familiar to me from 30 years of running my own businesses. If you don't have an external situation like a boss, a company structure, or childcare, to force you to stop - you don't!
    It's a mix of servicing something you love, feeling a strong sense of duty, and the fear that if you don't answer right away they'll go off in a huff and you lose them.
    I agree with previous suggestions to delegate - create moderators if you can to take care of the more standard stuff.
    But if you won't use my suggestion you won't have the extra energy to do that. It takes time and care to train mods - get them used to which things to answer which to leave alone for you/ and to discreetly spot check how they are doing.
    Also even if you do get mods going you'll find the work expands to fill the new empty spaces the mods create for you.

    I have two suggestions.

    As you wisely said yourself even if you worked 24/7 you wouldn't get on top of it.
    This is because you have very high standards - you WANT to do it all, and do it well, not just a quick 3 word answer. (Also you need mods!)
    But to be realistic you CANNOT do it all.
    More important if you try to you'll collapse with exhaustion into being ill. Seriously. It happened to me in my first big project and I've seen so many others burn out. If you don't get sick physically you'll get sick of it - and reach a point where you simply can't bear to do it. They will all start to feel like whining babies and you'll come to hate them.

    That is not going to give them your best service. No good you going into collapse - for them as well as no good for you.
    The ANSWER is to set yourself manageable working hours, including that unimaginable thing TIME OFF.
    Ouch! Pretty drastic stuff I know. But remember, you are doing this so the project can survive.


    Check your statistics and see which day of the week traffic is lowest. Take that as your DAY OFF! If you can't cope with a full day take half a day off. Whichever you do you'll have bags of new energy on your return. You'll work faster and more efficiently.

    Set a period of the day that is your Do Not Disturb time.
    Again this will renew your energy so you work faster and more efficiently.

    So the time you take for yourself will actually mean you get more things done. Better speed and efficiency because you rest/ take time off.
    For the rest - you know people are quite surprised to get replies straight away. I notice this with a supersonic mod like Brogan who is very fast. They won't mind if they don't get instant service some of the time. The few that do are the clients you wouldn't allow to bully you anyway. A few clients have to be tagged to treat with distance and rationed attention.


    Learn to triage. This means to tag things with priority so you deal with them in a planned way.
    (If there isn't a software mod for moderators to do this, there ought to be.)
    Allocate a status 1, 2 or 3 to each incoming task.

    Group 1
    Posts or other tasks that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT be left until tomorrow.
    This should be a moderately sized group as you learn to recognise REAL RED ALERT PRIORITY.
    Group 2
    These are posts or any other tasks which wouldn't cause immediate disaster if they were done tomorrow.
    This should be a larger group that the red alert group. Really think it through - is this going to cause DISASTER if I leave it till tomorrow?
    Group 3
    These are posts or tasks which are really not urgent and can get done 'sometime.'
    It takes a little practice and courage to allocate to this group but there ARE always tasks that belong in it. New members don't, and existing members with serious problems using the board - serious ones. Other than that it's your judgement.

    How you use your triage once you've done it is
    ALWAYS get the red group done asap.
    Then in your available time
    TODAY do as much as you can of the orange group.
    You are mst unlikely to finish all of both groups - you might not even get as far as the orange grou - but remember - this is a group that CAN be left till tomorrow.

    NEXT DAY - redo the triage. Some of the orange group will now belong in the red group
    Funny thing is that a few of the orange group will drop to the green group. When they are not new they look a lot less urgent.
    A lot of the green group will dissolve and go away! Magic!

    In forum terms this disappearance is likely to happen because forum members see that a fairly simple request is unanswered and answer it for you. At the moment they probably don't do this as you have trained them to leave it all to you by doing it all. When they see things not done they'll be far more likely to activate and be useful - at least a few of them will. (There's the 80% or more who are just drones but that can't be helped.)
    Some tasks also disappear because the situation changes - a new software mod or new policy appears so that task is no longer relevant.

    Basically - don't try to wrap your life around the work because that way madness and illness awaits which will NOT do your project good.
    Define your working hours and fit the work into them.
    Create mods. Even one mod can make a big difference.
    Triage your tasks every day.
    avi, lazer, RobinHood and 2 others like this.
  8. borbole

    borbole Well-Known Member

    Hire someone or a few people depending on the workload and your budget. That will free you up a great deal.
  9. Morgain

    Morgain Well-Known Member

    It can do - eventually. Trouble is when you most need help you don't have the time to show helpers what to do, and then keep checking them to make sure they are not making too many mistakes.
    This is why I think my suggestions for personal organisation come first. This frees enough time to add the task of introducing helpers.
  10. lakef

    lakef Member

    what would happen if you turned off PM's for two days a week? I mean not reading them, AND changing the setting so that people cannot send you a PM for two days per week.

    some folks would reconsider the importance of sending that PM if they had to wait a day or two before sending it. I would bet that the number of PM's per week would drop. but the important ones would still get there. and you would have two easier days.

    also, I saw that you run a store with the forum. and have special forum-knife projects.
    How much of the comm is due to the forum itself, and how much is due to the store and the projects?
  11. Lykke

    Lykke Well-Known Member

    I don't know what kind of forum you have or how many members you have.

    But what we did for EntropiaPlanets.com is to 'hire' people (they work for free because they want to help out and to be a part of the 'private behind scenes' section) as moderators and help with content etc. (we have an integrated wiki which requires constant updates among other things).

    In the beginning it was very hard work maintaining the forum - and we still have a lot of things we fix, update, change - but having help with some of the more heavy stuff concerning the community is a re leaf and we could not have made it this far without them. We call them 'Staff' and created a private staff section where we have different forum sections for different forum work.

    Concerning the community and what they need help with or wish for - create a wish list forum and ask people to post there. Create prefixes for ' Open' - 'Read' - 'In progress' - 'Completed' - 'Case closed' - depending on status, and tell people in advance that they need to create new threads with the default Open prefix (you can change it as you do things). Tell them also in advance that you will reply as soon as possible - just so you update it with 'Read' - That doesn't mean the issue needs to be fixed within 3 days though, as long as you always give an estimated time schedule.

    Behind the scene you can create your own priority list as Morgain also suggests.

    Time is the only limit in life - some says you only need to priority it better, but if tasks are more than you have time, it doesn't matter how you priorities them; there will always be too much. Which is why it's great to get help from others :)
  12. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Well-Known Member

    I will go through the list and try and get a handle on some of these things. Right now I am putting out a fire but I do need to do something. I will try and get something to save time done each week.

    The knife projects are not a big time consumer, more than 90% of the communication is not related to the store. Unfortunately I get store communication three places and am going to have to try and get customers trained to use the stores e-mail address. I get store question via PM, personal e-mail, and and the stores e-mail address. The total number of messages I get are very small compared to forum related ones. Many of the forum related messages are people wanting me to stop what I am doing and help them make money.
  13. Sadik B

    Sadik B Well-Known Member


    I have two suggestions.

    First, code a few things (or get someone) to automate some of the mechanical work you do. For instance on my site, one of the major features is the documents section. My problem is that people keep uploading duplicate documents. I was spending nearly an an hour everyday just searching docs by titles and deleting duplicates. Now I have just coded an addon which is nearly done which does a file compare by meta information and puts suggested dupes in a moderation queue. That's my specific example. You must be doing "some" mechanical work... see if that can be automated through an "intelligent" program.

    Two, hire someone. Make a training video of the stuff you do which you can trust someone else with and hire some someone and ask them to follow instructions as per your video. That way they know what to do and how you do it. You will find that people will be willing to work at a reduced rate if you hire them for long term. It is best to get someone who is dedicated and honest from within your own community rather than outside.

    All the best
  14. lakef

    lakef Member

    that makes it even easier to turn off PM's.

    try blocking your PM's on weekends, and see if it helps.

    if it helps, block them on Wednesdays, too.

  15. Morgain

    Morgain Well-Known Member

    Many of the forum related messages are people wanting me to stop what I am doing and help them make money.

    Then find a way to identify those messages (by keywords in their query?)
    and charge a small fee for your help.
    If you're helping them make money your time and inconvenience at being interrupted should be paid.
  16. Morgain

    Morgain Well-Known Member

    am going to have to try and get customers trained to use the stores e-mail address.

    This kind of training requires you to be a strict teacher!
    Where you get communication in the wrong place have a copy/paste message ready to bang back, courteously asking them to re-send to the store email.

    "We apologise for the inconvenience to you but you have emailed an address that does not service XYZ Store.
    Please use Reply on your message, and replace the recipient address with XXXX@XXXXX.com.
    Service will be fast, efficient and helpful on that email address.
    Thank you. "
    jonsidneyb likes this.
  17. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    Just take a break dude.
    GeeksChat likes this.
  18. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    That's not bad advice - from time to time. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially if you've got personal stuff keeping you busy/stressed too, and a few days away can leave your head a bit clearer for sorting things when you come back.
  19. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    Yeah I'm in the midst for searching for another job so I don't even have time to post on my own site.
  20. Andy.N

    Andy.N Well-Known Member

    The question is if your forum generate a full-time income. If so, it's just a regular job :)
    zaiger likes this.

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