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Enforcing Community Guidelines Isn’t Important?
A Bitch, a Pushover and a Cheapskate Are About to Prove Yo’Ass Wrong.

“Shut the f*ck up! You stepped on me! Twice. Shut up. I’ll f*ck you up!”

This is the lovely language that tickled my ears from 3 aisle ahead of me, on my Ryanair flight back from London.  Passengers were slowly boarding and finding their seats, as a woman started to drop F-bombs and turn up the volume.

The tension in the air was thick. My mind started to race.

  • What if they start to fight? 
  • What if one of them has a weapon?
  • What if someone hijacks the plane {yes my mind went there}?
  • What happens if Bruce Willis is on the plane and is going to save the day? {ooo la la}

It felt like the scene in an airplane action movie, when shits about to get real. 

Her voice was getting louder but no one official was stepping in.  I reached up and pressed the blue call button. 

Finally. There she is, in her blue and yellow Ryanair uniform.  Let’s call her Paula. The woman is now yelling at Paula.

“He stepped on my fucking foot. Twice he did.  I mean who does that? He didn’t apologize.”

You can now cut the tension with a swiss army knife {which I hope neither of them smuggled onto the plane}.  People are quietly taking their seats. Watching and waiting to see what Paula the air hostess will do.  

Now let’s pause for a moment.  

When shit happens in your online membership community people might not be yelling each other's faces, or physically fighting, but they are disrupting your community vibe.  

Someone might use a rude tone, or post a promotional post, and people notice.  

What IS the same though is that everyone is watching.  I call them “witnesses”. I was a witness on this Ryanair flight, and your communities members are witnesses to that rude tone or self-promotional post.

The problem isn’t that this shit happens {cause lets face it...this shit will always crop up from time to time; like a hugely unwanted badder infection.  The real issue is when the host or person in charge doesn’t enforce the guidelines or protect the community.  

It’s you and your team’s job as the host to ensure that everyone feels safe and when someone breaks the rules, you call them out on it...the witnesses see it and they know that you are taking care of them.

So what happened on the plane? 

 Did Paula make me and the other passengers feel safe?  

Paula leaned in to speak with the woman...let’s call her Becky;

“Ok, you need to calm down please.”

Then Paula leaning over to the man, and said more loudly. 

You need to apologize and then everything will be fine.”

Wait what? Fine??? That’s it?

I don’t feel fucking fine Paula! You’re just trying to sweep this under the rug so we can all take our seats and get this blue, yellow and white tin-can up in the air.  Which I get...but the tone you used didn’t instill confidence in me that this wouldn’t happen again. 

So Mr. Stompy McStomperson offers a pathetic excuse for “I’m sorry” and everyone moves on. 

Crisis averted (apparently) until Paula sees people getting up and switching seats before take off.

A couple behind me wanted to sit together, and Becky has been moved to the aisle in front of me (I assume to keep her away from Stompy McStomperson).

Paula the air hostess keeps stopping people and spouting the same story...pleading with everyone,

“You must sit in your assigned seats during take off and landing. It’s about safety. It’s about weight distribution.”

But her tone and body language aren’t convincing. She’s apologetic with a sprinkle of whining. Pleading with passengers to comply.

She’s not owning her role of authority. Her raised eyebrows and frustration {a sigh here, slumped over shoulders here} don’t help her case either.

Is this how you enforce your guidelines dude?  Apologetically or with exasperation?

Don’t.  Your guidelines are there to benefit everyone.  They keep you sane by minimizing the BS that you need to handle, and they keep everyone in the group safe from BS.  

Own your guidelines and enforce them with confidence.

Next on Paula’s hit list is the passengers in the emergency aisle.

She was getting them to put their jackets and bags in the over-head locker. Which sounds pretty standard right?! Nope...not for Paula.

Again...she pleaded with passengers to understand, rather than simply owning the rules and stating them.  

“You can’t keep your jackets or bags under the seat.  This is the emergency aisle. It’s about safety”.

Then she came back to Becky, leaned in and whispered something.

What you saying Paula?? Hmmm.

Paula went away and then a dude steward comes back.  Suddenly Becky’s friend is allowed to move there.

He says playfully…"As long as your other friend doesn’t move before lift off.”

WTF?!? Bending the rules for people? Be a united-front team Ryanair!

So Becky’s friend has moved but what is everyone else thinking...the other witnesses that actually wanted to move but were told they couldn't. 

Can you imagine?

You’ve just been told that you can’t move until after take off and then these girls - who are now playing headbands obnoxiously loud I might add- get to move?!?

What about the couple that wanted to sit together?  Paula told them it was only 2 hours and it would pass quickly. Aka...get over it and sit in your seats already.  She was dismissive and uncompromising with them but Becky got special treatment? Bending the rules. What the hell?

Paula walks by and sees that the friend is there before take off.

Wagging her finger at Becky, “Naughty naughty...I said you could move after take off”.  But Becky tells her that the dude said it was ok.

Paula looked to the back of the plan towards the dude and I could have sworn she said "Aw fuck it”.

Ok ok...she didn’t say anything but the look on her face screamed “fuck this”.

And with that, she went back to girl number 3 and she moved her to sit with Becky.

Yup...before take off dude.

WTF?!

  • What happened to weight distribution, Paula?
  • What happened to safety first, Paula?

Hmm?

Now we are taxiing and I’m sweating bullets thinking...dear lord just let all that talk about weight distribution be bull shit so we don’t take off and do a barrel roll to our firey death.

I bet we don’t even need to have our phones in flight mode, now do we Paula!!!.

So...what the flipper is the lesson here?

Create guidelines and fucking stick to them?!  Simple.

Enforce them AND watch your tone. Don’t be apologetic...you fucking made the rules for a reason.

Explain, enforce and move on.

If you don’t want people doing XYZ, state it, and then explain how that benefits them.  Really ask yourself how this rule or stance on an issue makes your community better for them.

What if I don’t have guidelines Diana?

I see you there...sheepishly raising your hand to volunteer as tribute.

No guidelines?

I don’t know if I should be thankful that we can have an intervention moment or if I should shake you...hard!

Seriously dude...no guidelines?!

That's like inviting people onto a plane for 3 hours and having an “anything goes” policy.

Like, if you order red wine and your card doesn’t go through...but you claim it’s not YOUR problem.  As you crack it open, pour your plastic cup full and slurp it down. It’s a Chase card you see (like that means anything) and it’s apparently Ryanair’s problem not yours. 

Yes that just happened and I can’t even believe it. Here I am paying for my Twix, Pringle’s and water {Simon don't judge me} when I could have just not paid apparently! 

Well fuck me.

Sorry...back to guidelines.

You. Need. Guidelines my friend. Period.

Not only are they there for your members to understand the rules and what is and isn’t kosher, they are your insurance policy.

Your safety net that protects you from crazy-mo-fo’s who think the red wine and water on a Ryanair flight are free.

Oooor from the community members that are self promotional, use a rude tone, are assholes to other members, tag you every 10 minutes or PM you 54 times a day or any of the many other things people seem to think are on the up and up in an online community. 

Now, before you just slap up a NO list for all the BS and drama that keeps you awake at night, or remember from past community trauma.  Stop.

Community guidelines are not a NO list...they are so much more. They are a manifesto to why you created this space and why everyone is there.

Here are the key parts to a stellar set of community guidelines.
  1. Why are we all here?
  2. Who are you and why do you belong here?
  3. Whats the Community Vibe?
  4. What’s the goal, objective or intention of the community?
  5. Expectations for the community and for each members?
  6. What are the top 3-4 dos and donts? For the lazy fuckers?
  7. What will happen if you don’t follow the guidelines?
  8. Legal shiz-naz

So there you have it. The importance of guidelines, enforcing them and how to cover your ass with them too.

Now, my flight is about to land, so I’ll land this word-baby here too.

But now I'm curious, do you have community guidelines?

If no...why not? 

If yes, are they a no list or an actual manifesto?

Share your story in the comments {no judgement if you don't have guidelines...ok...just a sprinkle} and if you want to ensure that you’re providing the best for your community members, without unintentionally killing engagement and forcing you to be in your community 24/7, you’re gonna love what I’m cooking up for you this January!

Stay tuned dude, like Bugs Bunny waiting for the carrot cake to pop out of the oven.  

Now of course, if you've got other shit to do...more important than eyeballing your computer all day, drop your name and addy in the form below to sign up for my emails (word-babies) and you'll be in the know.  🙂

  • Philip says:

    For the first community I worked with we didn’t have any real guidelines. After maybe a whole year we wrote up a manifesto which was actually pretty good but nobody seemed to really notice it and we also rarely if ever referred back to it.
    Sadly that led to the more vocal guy in our team who actually seemed to enjoy fighting back and forth with people on the internet take the charge and the atmosphere really went downhill from there. Because nobody else wanted to feel pushy or “force” people to do XYZ, we were even relieved that at least SOMETHING was happening. Not the best choice of my life.

    And that leads me to one of the dreadful things about a community for me. I think of myself as a highly empathetic person and thus I feel bad if I make someone else feel bad with pushing my way onto someone (at least that’s what I assume every single time). That does not help me in protecting my personal boundaries in any situation overall and also bleeds into the whole community-thing. But I know I HAVE to work on that.

    For starters, really thinking through the guidelines and laying out all the reasons and benefits for them AHEAD of time (maybe even writing up a manifesto myself this time) feels like I can point to a neutral judge every time a confrontation comes up. That takes the pressure off me a bit and we can all agree about the neutral rules that we agreed upon when joining the community.

    My 2 cents, hopefully not TMI but I honestly think tha tit can help someone.

    Also, could you clarify the distinction between 1. and 4. from the list of keys for community guidelines?

    1. Why are we all here? 4. What’s the goal, objective or intention of the community?

    When I answer these two questions I have no idea how to distinguish between them. For me they lead to the same answers but you seemed to intent for something different?

    Best wishes and thanks!

    Philip

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