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After a "digital community" starts getting old, it gathers a group of old timers who were there from the beginning, and now feel they "own" the site. These old timers often get angry/frustrated with new users' blunders and dumb remarks/questions. They can sometimes get plain mean, chasing away valuable new uses that will grow/contribute to your "digital community" once they get the hang of it.

A solution would be to reprimand old timers for telling off new users. This can disgruntle the old timers though, and create animosity in your core user base. Also, It can give new users the notion that they can do what they please.

How do I achieve the right balance?

marked as duplicate by Tom Medley, ProgramFOX, JohnB, ChrisF, Dom Jul 30 '14 at 12:57

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I'd say it would be in the best interest of the community to try to deal with the new users first (teach them the rules, best practices, how to present themselves, etc.) and deal with the "old timers" later.

As you said,

It can give new users the notion that they can do what they please.

That's more important to deal with than the experienced users because, at some point, some of the new users will become experienced users, and they need to know how the site works if they want to get there.

Often, disgruntled "old timers" appreciate the slightest bit of effort by new users because it shows, if even by the least possible amount, that they do care. So, new users putting forth a bit of effort will usually fix your issues with the "old timers."

If it doesn't, you should try to get more experienced users to help out the new users and see if that gives both a push in the right direction.

  • I might need to clear this up, but the "old timers" are chasing away the new users with harsh remarks etc. – GiantCowFilms Jul 30 '14 at 3:07
  • @GiantCowFilms If you're a moderator on the site, that gives you a bit more influence over the users and you should try to set an example for them by ignoring their harsh remarks and providing helpful (but honest) remarks. Usually harsh remarks are regurgitated comments triggered by a familiar style of post by a new user that has a characteristic lack of effort/regard for site rules. – AstroCB Jul 30 '14 at 3:10
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  1. Enforce "good behavior" rules mercilessly, and without favoritism. I can't count the times a small group of old-timers got short-time (3 days, week - even some moderators got some 'time off' that way...) bans for harassing newcomers. While this doesn't teach the oldtimers a thing, it sends the message to the newcomers that they aren't alone and on mercy of oldtimers, to be picked apart - they are welcome, and they just need to get used to the way the community works. That way they aren't scared of staying and trying to adapt. (note: Bans are very visible - period by the user's avatar by their posts, an automatically updated thread where all bans are listed along with reason, and a moderator comment at the bottom of the offending post that led to the ban.)

  2. Send a message to the newcomers early, so that they know what to expect and not be too discouraged about it (before mods can react). This took form of a red box on top of the "Welcome" thread, alliterating that "This forum has a certain specificity, and all derogatory comments are to be taken with a grain of salt; Stay a while and you'll get used to it. Despite the appearances the community is not nearly as hostile as the first impressions may make it out to be."

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Separating the new users from everyone else is only going to have negative repercussions for both parties. They are all going to be part of your community in different ways, but that doesn't give the old timers an excuse to act differently.

I would assume that a generic "Be nice to each other" rule applies in your community, so take this as a chance to inform both parties of this. A comment not aimed at any one particular party would likely suffice. You shouldn't be teaching the new users in particular about the rules, but it could be better to reinforce it generally to the community.

Of course, individual users may potentially need reminders of this, however, remember that all new users are almost certain to make mistakes. Also, take this as a chance to remind the old timers of the position they were once in themselves, and instead take it upon themselves to contribute knowledge to these incoming users.

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