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We have a forum where we have assembled a collection of users, many of whom are highly skilled, experienced, and friendly too. We have been lucky to attract these people. The dedicated purpose of this forum is to discuss activities on a related site, so this is not supposed to be a general chat or 'chummy' place, but over the years, the forum has developed a core of these experts, and like cheers, everybody knows your name....

It regularly happens that people on the main site are referred to the forum to discuss items related to the main site, and the discussion evolves in to a 'tutorial' or other education session. These are normally relocated to a separate 'room'.

But, we also attract a number of new users hoping to learn from the more experienced, and they just want the 'tutorial', without being 'invited'.

I believe the term is 'help vampire'.

It is a subtle difference. Many of the 'experts' are happy to let a conversation become a tutorial, and that appears to be 'fine', but, the same 'experts' often take offense when someone directly requests these tutorials. I am like that, so I understand.

So, firstly, is it OK to feel that way, and is it OK to make the policy 'official'?

If it is, how do I:

  1. 'define' the difference in these situations?
  2. ensure that I can explain the difference to new visitors, when needed?
  3. redirect users it is apparent that they are 'help vampires'?
  4. still ensure that the forum is a friendly, accessible place when those same users (the vampires) have legitimate concerns/questions about things on the main site?
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First of all, you make the rules. You get to pick what is cool and what isn't in your community. So yes, it is entirely acceptable for you to make a policy of not allowing tutorial requests directly.

As for the help vampirism problem, there are a couple of ways to deal with it:

  1. The way Stack Exchange does it, is with the quality ban system. If a user posts too many low quality posts (you need a way to measure low quality), he is automatically banned by the system. Be it a timed suspension or one that gets lifted under certain circumstances.
  2. If your community is sufficiently small, you can easily setup a peer review (or mod review) system in place, which will cause posts from users with low post count or who do not belong to a certain forum group (the 'experts'), to not be posted until approved by someone.

It all depends on your community and your people.

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Let us review the following points to find appropriate solutions in facing such situations:

  • When you see that many new members of your community behave in unacceptable ways, it may be due to the fact that community guidelines are either not clear enough or not visible enough.

    If you expect your members to behave in accordance with your community norms, you should first be sure that the community guidelines are clear enough to be easily understood and followed. If you see a kind of behavior bothers the community, you can emphasize relevant norms, which discourages such a kind of behavior, in the community guidelines, for example, by repeating such norms several times or by making them bold.

    Also, important community norms should be easily seen by community members. To inform community members of such norms more effectively, you can do that in various ways; for example, a popup message can be appeared when a new community member wants to start their contribution.
  • Although clearness and visibility of community guidelines plays an important role in preventing unacceptable behaviors within a community, new community members may not care community norms in case they see that community norms are often violated by (experienced) community members. New community members usually learn how to behave by seeing experienced members' behaviors. If new members see that experienced members do not behave in accordance with written norms, they may feel that such norms are not serious enough to be followed.
  • I do not favor disciplinary actions (such as suspension, post ban, and etc.) in such situations because, in my opinion, such actions should be considered as the last and unavoidable ones; making such actions unfairly likely lead new members to leave your community.

    If you see that a new member behaves improperly, why not helping him/her to behave well by constructive ways? The best way to discourage a behavior is to encourage its opposite. For example, if a new member asks low-quality questions, you can help him/her to improve his/her contribution by kindly referring him/her to high-quality questions and encouraging him/her improve his/her questions. Treating new members in this way needs more time and energy; however, no pain, no gain.

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