11 Replies Latest reply on Jan 27, 2010 1:00 AM by kaushik

    How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

    beaugordon

      We use Jive Clearspace as a customer support community.  The majority of discussions are based on technical questions.  I have a group of 3 or 4 members who are extremely active, and almost every discussion includes posts from at least 1 or 2 of them.  Most of them are customers.  There is not currently any reward system in place, so that isn't their motivation.  They respond very quickly to new threads.  I appreciate their contributions, but I believe that their overcontribution discourages other community members from participating more.  A community member who "only" visits the site once per day will find very few questions that haven't already been answered by one of them, so they have little opportunity to contribute.

       

      It seems like a dumb idea to ask these members to post less, but I want broader participation.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

       

      Thanks in advance for any help,

       

      Beau

        • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

          Ask harder questions? Just kidding. This is a very interesting problem, actually. Will watch this thread to see what others say.

          • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

            I would first survey others in the community to see if they attribute their low participation to overzealous contributors.

             

            If you decide it is necessary to take action, my advice is to  share your perspective honestly in a private discussion to minimize embarassment.  Run an experiment together with the overzealous contributor to see if your hypothesis is correct.  Then reconvene and share the results, and evaluate whether overzealous contribution is actually the root of your challenge.

            • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

              I've actually been guilty of that from time to time, in another forum that I've been a member of for a few years now.  It's in an area where I have expertise and strong opinions, and I get personal satisfaction from jumping in and helping people.  (these days I've been too busy to participate much, and that tends to come and go in waves)

               

              My hunch is that the over zealous contributors think they're doing the community a favor with their answers, and in their minds the goal of helping people trumps any concerns about shutting out others.  That is, the main goal is to get those questions answered, and of course they get good vibes for themselves by feeling like they've contributed, and there's some element of control involved as well.

               

              If you say anything to them, even in a private way, be prepared to lose them as community members.  I suspect they'll be offended (or at least I would have been if someone had said something to me).  I would probably have felt like the moderator was saying he didn't appreciate all my hard work.

               

              Just my perspective from the other side

              • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

                Hi Beau,

                 

                This is a problem that most communities would die for...

                 

                In our consulting work, we see most community teams wondering how to build up the cadre of top members to work with others instead of wondering how to slow down the top members. But here is our two cents:

                 

                • First, even without a formal rewards or recognition program in place, these folks are going to keep answering posts because it gives them an ego boost. In community surveys and user testing for communities we performed, there is a really strong 'helper' personality that comes out. When we ask how a person would use a community, we are not surprised to hear that 20%+ respond that they would visit and ANSWER questions, not ask them.
                • Second, when hyper-affiliated members are dominating the answer process you have tremendous opportunities staring you in the face. Rather than figuring out how to tone them down, work with them to enhance the experience for all members. A couple of ways to do this:
                  • Invite them to submit candidates who they see as being smart/talented/educated/etc. enough to be join a private group of members who help others.
                  • Hold a meeting where you recognize their efforts and thank them. Then discuss their views of the community. You might be surprised to find out that they are feeling a bit burned out because no one else ever steps up to answer questions. That's when you can empathize with them and ask if it would make sense for them to wait to answer a post for a day or so to see if "WE" can find others to pitch in from the community.
                • Third, send these folks a token of your appreciation!

                 

                The members who are truly loyal to your community are the most valuable resources that allow your community to scale up. But you must manage them gently with a lot of communication. If you are not 'speaking' with them at least monthly now, you need to get going and start. They will appreciate the recognition from you. After building the trust, if you think they should not post as often, then you can ask. But to do so without building that trust will end up in a disaster situation where you may lose your top members. Then your team will have to re-enter and pick up the slack.

                 

                Mike

                • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

                  I would just like to say that I adore this community. You all are a bunch of smarties who like to share. My favorite kind of people! I'm amazed at how much I learn here.

                  • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less
                    fleckman

                    Hi Beau,

                     

                    First O M G!!!!  Could you please send me your overzealous contributors?!!!  I am building a new social network with the Clearspace Community platform and I want them!!!

                     

                    Okay, you need to keep in mind the Pareto Principle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle.  Commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule.  Naturally you are going to have 20% of your contributors provide 80% of the answers.  I have actually found that number to be closer to a 90/10 ratio in the "real" world.

                     

                    Next - are these contributors answering the questions posted in the support community correctly?  If so, then FANTASTIC!  I am assuming that these contributors are not paid, so the cost benefit to you is actually a PROFIT benefit.  In other words these "overzealous" contributors are decreasing the cost of your community support forum.  They add profit to the bottom line of the company.  Besides just the money side, they contribute goodwill to the entire community.  They keep people coming back!

                     

                    In Mike's reply (which by the way is absolutely spot on) he said that these types of members get an ego boost.  I'd like to take it one step further and say that getting the ego boost (a thank you or even just them posting on a "public site") is the effect.  To really understand this phenomenon you have to look to the cause.  In your case, that cause would be that these contributors WANT to help people regardless of getting paid or not.  Human beings have a natural tendency to want to help another fellow human being.

                     

                    A great example of this is a user at the Dell community forums.  I can't remember his user name but let me share with you his story - this user has a real job, he keeps the dell support forums page OPEN on his work desktop all day so he can see who's posting and if he can help out.  This user has tens of thousands of posts and others who log on to the support community actively search for him.  Dell did a cost analysis on this user and found out that over a period of about 1 year this user saved Dell over 1 MILLION DOLLARS.  This guy wasn't even paid and when asked why he does it his response was "I like to help others and it feels good to get a thank you or a digital "pat on the back".  Now it's going to bother me that I can't remember his name so when I find it I'll send it to you so you can see what he does on Dell's forums.

                     

                    So in ending my rather long monologue here I have 2 points I would offer to you:

                     

                    1. Remember the 80/20 rule it almost never fails.
                    2. Follow Mike Rowland's advice in his reply to you - IT IS SPOT ON!

                     

                    Best,

                     

                    Peter

                    • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

                      Post less or post differently?

                      Can you have private conversations with the active contibutors to ask for their help in encouraging other members to post and reply? If their replies ask the original poster for more details then the conversations are longer and more people may feel comfortable to join in. Or if the zealot's posts specifically ask for other peoples opinions, maybe others will reply as well.

                       

                      You can also ask the active ones to post more original questions (as opposed to just replies), giving others the opportunity to reply.

                      • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less
                        beaugordon

                        Steve Golab said:

                        I would first survey others in the community to see if they attribute their low participation to overzealous contributors.

                         

                         

                        I've actually received this feedback from several members already without asking for it.

                         

                         

                        MRowland said:

                        Hold a meeting where you recognize their efforts and thank them. Then discuss their views of the community. You might be surprised to find out that they are feeling a bit burned out because no one else ever steps up to answer questions. That's when you can empathize with them and ask if it would make sense for them to wait to answer a post for a day or so to see if "WE" can find others to pitch in from the community.

                         

                         

                        This is the strategy I think I will go forward with.  Most of the top contributors are people with whom I am well acquainted, so it's easy for me to keep a dialog open with them.  I think just engaging with them and asking a question like "how can we get other members to answer more questions" would work well.

                        Thanks all for your views.

                        Beau

                        • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less
                          bobjewell

                          Agreed, what a fortunate problem!

                           

                          I generally agree with what's been said.  Great advice.  One note, though - I most situations, I would expect this problem to stop being a problem without any formal changes made on your part - If you have a public online community, and you have some very strong community supporters answering questions quickly, they are drastically raising the value of the community.  This means that more people will find valuable information in the community, and ideally more people will use the community.

                           

                          I'd, personally, try to do something like make these people Moderators in areas of their specific interest.  Enrolling them to participate in the creation a knowledgebase or something might also be useful, if that fits into your longer term strategy.  (why answer the same questions over and over again?)

                          • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

                            Beau - Can you update us on how you did or did not resolve this situation?

                             

                            Thanks!

                              • Re: How to tell overzealous contributors to post less

                                I have seen similar type of contribution done by members in some forum. Usually what happens after that is the admin of the forum contacts these guys and give them some special permission. Something like, say these guys get previlage to review others comment. So basically admin communicates to those specific users that "Look guys we are over satisfied with your work and contribution to this forum and we want to provide you some special previlage and so why dont you guys help us in keeping the forum clean my moderating comments rather putting comments. We make you a part of special group(offcourse the way of communition can be made much sweeter and convincing. I am just making my point)"

                                 

                                Say this group has some special badge etc.

                                 

                                I think this should solve the problem (Rather i wont say its a problem )