Resetting Community Boundaries

Every now and again we all get a little big for our britches. We puff out our chests, we share drama with friends, and we blow things out of proportion in our heads. And then we sit down at a keyboard.

Community managers and moderators are typically at the receiving end of this banter, and everyone handles it a bit differently. Most people will try and talk with the offending members one on one, but sometimes a situation calls for a different approach.

Below is a copy/ paste of a post from Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York (HONY), a photo blog that provides a small, rare glimpse into someone else's life. In 2014 the comments on HONY's associated Facebook page started to take a beating, so Brandon went online to remind everyone of the rules and why they're there. 

Hey Everyone,

Wanted to say a quick word about the comment section. Been getting some emails from people who have been banned. So I wanted to clear a few things up. First of all, nobody has actually been banned. Anyone can see the material. You MAY no longer be able to comment. But rest assured, this was not my decision. I have assistants who moderate the comment section. So, I assure you, I did not make a personal decision to hate/persecute/silence/oppress you. I'm sure we actually have the same worldview. No doubt we are walking arm-in-arm toward the bright dawn of a new day.

But the moderators have very clear instructions: ban anyone who is attacking the subject. If you're attacking the subject with an erudite, graduate level vocabulary, you're still attacking the subject. Again, you're not being oppressed, silenced, persecuted, or targeted for your beliefs. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I'm absolutely sure of it. But please, write about it on your own blog. Humans of New York can continue to exist without your enlightenment. But it can't exist without subjects. Some of you may have noticed recently that some portraits have disappeared shortly after being posted. You can now probably guess why this happened. So if you're making HONY an uncomfortable place to be, by using the comment section to cast extreme judgment on someone you know only through a single quote, you are probably going to be banned from commenting. We don't hate you. Not a bit. Feel free to continue enjoying HONY. Just no more comments.

For the most part, I love the comment section. There are plenty of awesome ways to contribute to the discussion without being judgmental. My favorites are personal anecdotes. If you can add to the subject's experience by sharing a similar or contrasting experience, that is awesome. I really think it expands the work. Just please, keep it about you. Also feel free to joke. We aren't stiff or prudish. But we do know the difference between being funny and being a dick. And you should too. As always, feel free to comfort or encourage. I still firmly believe this place has the nicest five million people on the internet.

Thanks everybody. 
Hoping to keep this a good place as we grow.

Brandon

(Post Source)

I thought this was a great example of a community-wide level set. It's easy to let the negatives engulf the positives, and take the whole community down with it as result. But Brandon refused to let that happen. Instead, he published a thoughtful, transparent, and very mature response to the people who were keen to tear others down. It's a response that we can all empathize and agree with. It's firm, without feeling parental, yet friendly, without feeling too corporate. It reminds us all that there are real people on the other side of each one of his images and posts.

I'll admit, I'm not a daily follower of the HONY page, but taking a few moments to peruse through the comments today revealed a community with a significantly different tone. One that I'm not sure would have been there had Brandon not reset the boundaries when necessary.