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Background: My community is a web forum and two game servers. There are about 500 members that are active in the community. Last year one of my moderators found an external site that is solely used to criticize my community. Almost all of it is someone blowing off steam, but there are a few legitimate complaints that we addressed without ever mentioning that it was done because of this site. We do not know who runs the site and suspect it is more than one user.

This site brings in traffic to both the forums and the game servers. Our analytic software shows that roughly 85% of traffic from this site is a single visit directly to areas of the community linked from the external site. 10% stick around as guests and the remainder join the community and contribute - both constructively and in a manner that requires a slight amount of education on how the community works (ie. attempting to provoke a reaction, usually by targeting moderators decisions and expressing dissatisfaction as their first interaction with the community, but not crossing any lines); surprisingly no trolls (yet)

The 85% that come and go are of no concern; the remaining 15% that come and either lurk or contribute are what I'm after. These return visitors and contributors. Clearly, they are coming from this site and based on their desire to stick around, it seems they wish to interact with the community either on the site or on the game servers.

These traffic spikes usually occur after "events" - ie. moderators removing posts of irrelevant chatter from a serious discussion; banning a well known player from our game servers for rule violations, unbanning a user that served their ban period but was not liked by the community. In each of these instances, a discussion started on our site and after the decision was announced a mirror post was made on the external site criticizing the decision. These mirror posts do not appear after all such discussions. There isn't a pattern to which users argue for/against an action and when a post appears (which is part of why we suspect more than one user is involved). However, we have noticed that the mirror posts occur when a certain few moderators make the "final decision" in such discussions.

I support this moderator's decisions, but it seem they have some haters. As it stands, this site does not seem to be contributing negatively toward the community. In fact, the opposite appears to be occurring. Traffic spikes and a few new users join after each "incident". Players from the web site are recognized on the game servers, so these new members are spilling over to that aspect of the community too.

Question: Is it an appropriate action to take to let the moderators that seem to be generating these criticism posts, be the ones that are the official spokes person of such action, especially since (from my perspective) it is not harming the community at all?

EDIT: I believe several people have answered the question I was asking. It seems the thought is to keep doing what I am doing, but also to engage the other site's users and thank them for their good contributions. Resorting to "trolling" by having only the moderators that cause hate isn't the best idea.

Andy! Great pictures! My little kids love Frozen! The note you made about traffic is a good one too. I was more focused on increasing the number of members we have than on how it'd appear the other moderators looked.

AirThomas! Thank you for the input about xkcdsucks. I had to go look that up, but it seems that is very similar to my situation, though I'm not sure if the other site is well known by my users.

AI Henderson! I don't like the idea of a site dedicated to hating my site, but I think you are right about having a separate location. I do like that all their complaints are not on my site. :)

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

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    Can you clarify what it is you are asking? I'm not really sure what it is that you are asking. I gave my best shot at answering in general about your situation, but I'm not sure if it actually speaks to your question or not. – AJ Henderson Aug 22 '14 at 17:51
  • Thanks for giving us lots of background information, but "is it ok" or "appropriate" is pretty vague. Can you clarify what specific outcomes you are concerned with? Otherwise this is just collecting opinions. – Air Aug 22 '14 at 22:11
  • As a potentially relevant aside, there is a site called xkcdsucks that does nothing but mock xkcd comics. It doesn't seem to have done anything to negatively impact the comic or its associated forum. – Air Aug 22 '14 at 22:14
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It appears that you have encountered a helpful troll. Channel this and use it to your advantage. These types of trolls are rare.

Helpful Troll

This site brings in traffic to both the forums and the game servers. [...] 10% stick around as guests and the remainder join the community and contribute - both constructively and in a manner that requires a slight amount of education on how the community works

At the worst, this sounds like you are getting new users that are adjusting to the community's culture. There is nothing wrong with a learning curve and the fact that the new users are sticking around meaning that they are learning your culture. Additionally, I think it is safe to assume that you are changing the preconceved notions that people have when they first visit your site. They are coming from an environment hostile to your community and instead of hostility they are encountering an environment that makes they want to stick around.

In each of these instances, a discussion started on our site and after the decision was announced a mirror post was made on the external site criticizing the decision.

In my opinion, it is good that the discussion begins locally. This allows you to address the concerns in a location where you have the homefield advantage. By extension, it also seems the community generally supports your decisions. This means that the community is willing to discussion "meta" situations (why did something occur?). The few people that are unhappy with decisions (or specific people) then go off to their corner and grumble about it amounst themselves. The same thing happens away from the internet.

there are a few legitimate complaints that we addressed without ever mentioning that it was done because of this site.

The nice thing about these grumblings is that you can see them and address them. There is a good chance your "trolls" haven't evolved to the standard internet trolls because you are addressing some of their concerns. You don't need to acknowledge that changes were prompted by the site, but these unhappy users see changes occuring and it is change they wanted. They have achieved a small victory. Additionally, you've achieved a small victory - you've improved your community. Cookies for everyone!

To answer your direct question about whether or not you should start delegating announcements to the moderators that generate complaints: I believe that you should not place this burden on your moderators. Don't make certain people "the bad guy" just for the sake of traffic. You've already said that you receive new, contributing, members with what you are doing. Let your moderation duties continue to be shared. Changing this dynamic has the potential to ruin the delecate balance you seem to have achieved. You don't want your helpful trolls to become something that is much more common on the internet.

Unhelpful Troll

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I'd challenge you never want to feed trolls, but it doesn't sound like these guys are really trolls. Disagreements always happen in communities, it is a natural and healthy part of them. It becomes a problem when one side starts to be too hard on the other. If the moderators are too strict and don't listen to the valid concerns of others, then the community starts to deteriorate, similarly, if detractors of decisions are too disruptive, it can be a problem for community.

Having a separate "hate site" is probably one of the best things you could have. It gives a separate location for those who are upset with decisions to voice their concerns and vent their frustrations without actually disrupting the main community that doesn't have a problem with the decisions. Clearly this is how it is getting used as that community and yours remain closely linked and it is generating multiple kinds of benefit for your community.

Leverage this for all it is worth. Depending on how harsh the site is, it might even be worth recognizing the site as a source of some changes because of legitimate concerns they brought up. This is really kind of a return of favor. They are providing you a valuable service of soaking up trolls and community frustration as the goal of another community. It probably won't hurt to let them know that while you can't make everyone happy, you do value the fact that they are bothering to document why they are upset in a non-destructive manner (because it does make your job easier trying to run the community.)

You'll never make everyone happy, but having a non-disruptive open line of communication with those who are still involved, but unhappy can be a gold mine of useful information and can act as a valuable check and balance if used properly.

Overall, most of your conversions probably come from people who see the issues and see them getting addressed, this looks good for you and brings people in. Intentionally trying to create issues that the site will talk about is more likely to break the good will you have built up among people who are frustrated. Giving intentional reasons for people to be frustrated isn't a good practice, it is becoming the troll rather than feeding them.

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It's probably the best policy to keep on doing what you are currently doing. That is improving the site and it's moderation without acknowledging the source of these improvements is the trolls. Why - one thing the trolls want is attention and even by acknowledging that something happened because of trolling feeds that attention and could make them troll more.

One thing you could try is to start a discussion on any possible improvements independently of the action by the trolls. Don't refer to the trolling incident directly but just say that you think making the change will make the site better.

Having said that, if you need to make a major change because of some trolling incident - for example, you have to enforce registration to post - then you will need to reference the incident, even if only tangentially, to justify the change.

  • Yup; I like this... you declaw (and potentially, partially 'placate') the trolls, while improving things. Even trolls have good ideas. Sometimes ;) – Andrew Barber Sep 3 '14 at 13:45
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You're already saying that you're taking actions based on what legitimate criticism you find on the hate site, but without acknowledging the source. Given this, the only question is whether you'll use the specific moderators targeted by the site in order to leverage the hate site into advertisement for your own site - which strikes me as a very appropriate use of hate (and a nice example of "engineer hoist with their own petard"...)

The one downside to this that I can see is that there is a risk of the haters upping their game. In other words, they may not stick with hating on their own site, and start actual harassment of the mods they dislike.

So if you do this, it should be with the informed consent of the moderators in question, and you should be ready to help and support them if something happens.

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