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Running and moderating forums and social media sites
Resources from the web site of Well House Consultants on the subject of Running and moderating forums and social media sites. We provide open source training course and business hotel accommodation in Melksham, Wiltshire, England

Our old forum for delegate support is now archived; we have moved from books as our prime information source to the web, and most of the answers that we previously provided will now be better dealt with via a search. However, user forums remain useful in specialist interest areas and we continue to provide a very active railway forum, and these days we also look after various sites though social media such as Facebook and Twitter - and we're happy to share our semitechnical experiences with you.
Longer articles related to this subject
Moderating a forum

Articles and tips on this subjectupdated
4492Almost so wrong, but perhaps it's right for some?
Posted by a Facebook Friend: I'm all in favour and admiration of keeping daily contact groups clean - of not reducing correspondence to a spam level that goes out on a frequent basis to a huge number of half-interested people. But I don't like this:   1. It encourages untruths   2. ...
4403The unbalanced relationship between customer and provider
A friend describes how he returned from Paddington late one afternoon, when the station and trains were busy, and was delayed by two hours by staff who refused to accept his ticket, even though it was valid. He felt uncomfortable - threatened by staff who at one point even called in a "Gorilla" to threaten ...
4315Welcoming genuine forum posters quickly - but turning away off topic advertisers
Running a forum such as the First Great Western Coffee Shop - a public facing site for passengers (and wannabe passengers) on train services in the Thames Valley, Wessex, South Wales and the South West of England - brings in around 70 pubicly posted messages a day. Such messages are the lifeblood of ...
4307Identifying and clearing denial of service attacks on your Apache server
If ... ..... .... I ..... ..... were ...... ... ... ... to . ...... . write .... .... .... . a ... ...... ... ..... sentence, .. ... but ...... .. drip ...... . ..... ...... ... the ..... ... .. ...... ...... words . . .. out ..... .. ...... ..... . slowly ..... ... ...... with .... ... ..... ... long ...
4283Can a legitimate forum post become illegal a year later?
I am not one for re-writing history. I will go back and correct typos in a post, and I will add updates onto the end of a story (or even cut them into the text with a date of change / amendment note), but I dislike changing things invisibly, or removing material which it's no longer convenient to display. ...
4239Facebook marketing - early experiences
I would love to see the new regional trains that link Swindon to Westbury, via Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge, and with onward connections to Warminster, Salisbury and Frome, succeed. And indeed initial passenger numbers are quietly encouraging. But how do we reach people? How do we make people ...
4234Change to Libel and Defamation laws from 1st January 2014
The Defamation Act of 2013 - http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/defamation.html - comes into force at midnight tonight (31st December 2013) "The aim of the Bill is to reform the law of defamation to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and the protection ...
4065Handling requests to a forum - the background process
When you host a forum such as the First Great Western Coffee Shop which receives around 2,000 new messages for public view every month (as I do), you're bound to get occasional complaints / requests that certain messages be removed / modified. With good guidelines for posters to follow, such requests ...
4025Backups, Codebase, Strategy and more - dealing with forum incidents
I've spent much of this evening dealing with an "incident" on our First Great Western Coffee Shop forum, in which a member ran a script on his own computer, from his own forum account, which trashed all of his posts. Well - not exactly all of his posts as it was "a bit broken", but still enough to leave ...
4017Acceptable User Policy / vexatious interacter
When interacting with of via a web site, you'll usually find an AUP (Acceptable User Policy) which you're expected to agree to - it's probably just a click of a button, and most of you probably won't read the details. But it will include things like "no swear words", "no copyright breaches", "no incitement ...
3910Identifying your real customers and keeping them well informed fast
"We don't sell that at the moment, but we'll be reviewing it early next year. Please keep coming back to our website, where we'll be announcing it". Now - have I got something wrong there, or should "customer service", who gave me that answer, added me on to the list of probably hundreds of people ...
22Falling out over the silliest things
If you do a Google search for "Registry Office" then all the results you get contain the words "Register Office". That's because the office at which births, marriages and deaths in the UK are recorded are know as Register Offices, and the term "Registry office" is an oft-misused term. Even people ...
3479Practical Extraction and Reporting - using Python and Extreme Programming
"We seem to be getting a lot of signups from Germany" - so said my fellow administrator on the First Great Western Coffee Shop forum. At first glance is something of a surprise, as this forum is "provided by a First Great Western Customer, for First Great Western customers" and First Great Western run ...
2820Netiquette for forum newcomers
Once a web forum "takes off" and becomes popular, all sorts of different users will sign up ... and with those who have a genuine interest in the topics being discussed ... I celebrate. Very quickly, some new members fade away (the "one shot posters"), others fit in and become regular members who may ...
2781The 500 pound question to get you started
On the "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" Quiz show, you can win just £500 for getting the first question right ... but then the question is an easy one. It's designed, I suspect, to help put participants at ease. And it would also - very quickly - filter out anyone who wasn't familiar with the ...
2569How to run a successful online poll / petition / survey / consultation
How can one poll succeed in attracting people to complete it, whereas another is notable because of a lack of votes? 750 people signed up last year to support an online campaign that I 'fronted' on a newly registered domain, from a "standing start". Yet only three people voted in a poll that a user ...
2527Flying tonight
Have you ever checked in at an airport, prior to an overnight flight to the UK ... wandered up to the departure lounge, and looked around at your fellow travelers. The more there are, the more crowded the plane. And perhaps you've unfairly stereotyped them too - thinking that the families with young ...
2526A reluctance to move from old shoes to new
I have a comfortable old pair of shoes. They're worn out, scruffy, and they leak a bit these days but I'll still wear them and be reluctant to move onto a new pair, even though that new pair would be much smarter and make a far better first impression. And I don't think I'm the only one. Showy clothes ...
2386Computing under the influence of alcohol
If you're a forum moderator, or (as I do) have an enquiry page, you may have noticed how the tone / approach of your members varies at some times of day. Occasionally, it's that the messages are terse in the morning and late afternoon, but longer at other times of day - that's explained by the use of ...
2254Forum membership - a privilege not a right
How fortunate it is that the vast majority of online contributors respect the guidelines laid down, especially when they agree to terms applied to contributions that they make to forums. But there is a tiny minority who will feel the the guidelines don't apply to them, or try to hide activities outside ...
2177Preventing forum spam - checks at sign up
You may have seen the IP lookup tool we have on our front page (if not, bookmark http://www.wellho.net and it's the bottom right link) which I use extensively to find out a little bit more about addresses that catch my interest - be they generating unusual traffic on our web site, scouring are pages ...
2162Admins thoughts on banning a member from a forum
I took the decision to ban a member from a forum I help look after yesterday. Sometimes the administrators and moderators of such forums get accused (and sometime it's a correct accusation, but usually not) of being 'trigger happy' ... so for anyone reading this who uses forums, you might be interested ...
2156Stopping forum spam - control of the signup process
On all the forums that I look after, I now run code so that everyone who wants to sign up has to pass a Captcha test where he / she is required to retype a word (that excludes automata), and even then there's a requirement for me or another administrator to accept the signup, based on information such ...
2116Why do we delay new forum members through authorisation?
It's a big step for many people to sign up to a forum; perhaps they have been visiting as a guest for weeks or months, and something they have read has triggered them to take the final step and say "I want to contribute" and sign up. Signing up to the forums that I administer is free, but it's still ...
2103Ask the Tutor - Open Source forum
Well - I've taken the plunge! When I installed a YaBB forum some seven years ago, I never imagined that it would grow as big as it did, with hundreds of posts on each of the subjects covered. And with that growth came growth panes where the forum became "Pot Bound" - unable to grow any further. So, ...
806Check your user is human. Have him retype a word in a graphic
Do you have trouble with automated programs completing forms on your websites and making cart loads of submissions? Or even just a few spammers submitting their betting ads, performance enhancing pill sites, and share purchase suggestions? And yet you don't want to have to have anyone who wants to ...
1972Pettifog and forum boards away from public view
I looked up the word "pettifog" online ... and found the definition "To act like a pettifogger" here. Hmmm - I don't want to get too heated about this, but have you ever seen such a useless definition. And an ironic one too - because to Pettifog means to argue or quibble or grumble or carp over something ...
948Running an on line campaign
One of the topics that came up over Geekmas (about which I could post a lot more!) was the running of a successful on line campaign. Ah - now I will be the first to admit that our "Save the Train" campaign has NOT been 100% successful in that we haven't achieved our ultimate goal of saving the train ...
923Why shouldn't I spam?
Here's a post that I wrote to a forum that I very occasionally contribute to - I thought it was worth sharing the words a little wider as it help give a bit of a deeper insight into the world of internet moderation, security, rules and advise for the majority of people who are users and don't really ...
1923Making it all worthwhile
I know that a lot of people use our resources ... and that very few of them get in touch. That's only natural - it's very rare for me to send a "thank you" to an author. So I was really touched to find the following in my email this morning: To Graham Ellis,   Just e-mailing to say thanks for ...
1759While the world sleeps ...
I was due to get up at 05:00 yesterday morning; an 06:00 departure from home, for an 08:30 arrival in Milton Keynes, setting up for a course starting at 09:30. "Why didn't you go a day earlier" you may ask. But with a whole load of equipment to cart around, it's a lot of hassle to have to get a trolley ...
1678Software - changes and delays. But courses must run on time!
"The first 90% of a job takes the first 90% of the time ... and the last 10% takes the second 90%." Software projects - so often - seem to overrun, with the job looking like it's nearly done but not quite there while final little bits get sorted out. "Just as we get used to the look of your web site, ...
424How not to run a forum
I'm willing to invest time and energy into something I believe in, but I want to make sure that it's worth my while .... that I'm not wasting my time. I came across a local forum ... quite quiet, but nevertheless a useful and targeted spot onto which to post a message about a local issue; I filled in ...
115Expiration dates or times on web pages
I enjoy providing helpful answers on line - just have a look at how active I am (for example) on Opentalk and you'll see questions and answers flowing back at the rate of several per day over several years. I'll even "research" the more interesting issues although I can't guarantee complete solutions ...
1485Copyright and theft of images, bandwidth and members.
Some poor home school kid in the USA just got the sharp end of my tongue .. I had just signed up to a political forum and so had he (he said) and he wrote: Also I was wondering if you would join my political forum at http://www.xxx.org .(I know this is an advert but it's really hard to get a new board ...
1595First Great Western Weekend
It has been a long - a VERY long - weekend and I've still got a huge pile of things I want to do. But it has been productive too. When I set up the First Great Western Coffee Shop - a forum site for First Great Western Passengers - I wondered whether or not it would take off. Well - thanks (it must ...
1578Please don't shout at me!
From a forum I moderate: xxxxx (a new poster) wroteTALKING OF SHORT FORMED TRAINS DID ANYONE TRAVEL ON THE 17.02 FROM MELKSHAM 12/03/08 JUST A SINGLE 153, I THINK EVERONE GOT ON DONT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED UP THE LINE. I'm not usually inclined to pull someone up in their first or second post - especially ...
1569I dont care - goodbye
"I don't care" ... what a great publicity line for an attention seeker, except that it rather does close the door if the person or people who are being addressed just say "fair enough". I've seen the line used a number of times over the years as a "goodbye" on forums, where a difference between the ...
1563Guidlines for posting on a forum
I help look after a number of forums, and it's always an interesting question what should and should not be allowed in terms of language and topic. Leaving aside issues of subject and content which would make another whole article, I have tidied up some notes on language and style for one of the forums ...
1539A forum is not always the best vehicle
"Please try to give solution for dis problem asap." writes a contributor to our Opentalk forum - where we answer technical / programming questions on the subjects that we teach (link to Opentalk). Opentalk was set up as a service for our course delegates - I really want to know what questions commonly ...
1532Comment spam blocked. Please comment via Forums
I welcome comments on this blog. There's no way that I want to stop any readers coming back with comments on what I have said - such discussions make a very lively ongoing debate on certain subjects, and other viewpoints add so much to what is sometimes somewhat one sided in what I write. But, this ...
1523Ive just received an email from myself. Should I be worried?
A friend writes ... Dear Graham, I have just received an e-mail claiming to be from my own address with the above title. Should I be concerned? Short answer - no, you shouldn't be concerned. But this does occur from time to time, and I know that it does concern people, so it's worthy of a fuller ...
1472The Horse goes on and on
The number of blogs that I have seen come, and go .... and yet "The Horse's Mouth" carries on. I don't know how many posts I've made exactly, but it's approaching 1500. Why the difference? I suspect it's because many blogs don't have a long-term purpose and so the blogger starts off with a fit of ...
1362No Thank You
"No Thank you". A polite response to an suggestion which is not being accepted. Not the greatest of responses, perhaps, to an offer, but oft understandable and accepted. No "Thank You". Rude, At least in my culture; the lack of getting back to someone who's done you a favour over and above the call ...
1190Save the Forum - A regular clean sweep
With many visitors and a great deal of exposure, our Save The Train web site gets the attention of unwelcome content providers - people who will come on to our forum or blog and post articles and comments that are way off topic. Why do they do it? Primarily to sell their pharmaceutical products, loans, ...
1088Why use BBC code not HTML?
Why do wikis and forums use Bulletin Board Codes not HTML? Why [b] rather that <b> ? 1. More secure against injection attacks 2. Allow the programmer to easily provide a restricted tag set 3. To give an easy to learn set of instructions to the contributor. ...
919Freedom for X is denial of privacy for Y
I'm a great believer in the internet offering an ability to communicate - a freedom - and on that basis the various web sites that I run start off with an "allow all" premise. Even if someone's views don't match mine ... if they want to express them on a board such as opentalk or save the train, or follow ...
841Forum help - a push in the right direction
If I was a farmer, driving my tractor down the busy A350 one day, and I came across a chap in a car who had pulled off onto a soft verge and got stuck, what would I do? Stop and help, I hope, if I had a rope with me and I could pull him our of the mire quickly and if I wasn't in a desparate rush. It's ...
828Freedom of speech and freedom to post
I'm a great one for 'freedom of speech'. In other words, I'm very happy to say that in the generality of things, people should be allowed to think whatever they like, and express those views even if they're at variance with most other people. But you'll notice that I have pulled back from giving blanket ...
516Open source questions? Anyone can ask.
"Do you answer questions from ANYONE on your Opentalk forum, or just from people you've trained" ... Asked by a delegate on last Friday's MySQL course. I answer good questions from anyone. Questions from people who've been on courses tend to be excellent questions - on topic, not easily resolved by ...
29Silence is Golden
So why am I posting this, you may ask! I was in Bristol yesterday and came back to see a whole mailbox full of messages from a forum on which I moderate a quiet backwater, concerning a new member who .... oh - it doesn't matter who she was or what her history was or what she did ... and I wondered how ...
Topics covered in this module
Setting up a forum.
Writing an acceptable user policy.
Encouraging users.
Moderating a forum.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, MySpace and what else?
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