Monthly Archives: January 2015

Hiring Staff: One Thing to Look For

When hiring staff, it can sometimes be very difficult to choose the perfect candidate. There are many different qualities to examine, all of which have different values and levels of importance. However, there is one quality which is very important, and sometimes overlooked. There are many different words to describe this quality. One would be maturity. Another, which is the word that I will be using for the purposes of this article, is levelheadedness. This attribute, in my opinion, outweighs not only experience and age, but also the applicant’s level of skill in the job he or she is being hired for. Why do I believe this? Read on to find out.


What I mean by “Levelheaded,” and Identifying People who Are

Levelheadedness means intelligence. Not technical no-how, or academic knowledge, but being able to compose thoughts in an intelligent way, contribute usefully to discussions, and to rise above controversy and drama. Levelheadedness goes hand-in-hand with maturity, which should not be confused with age. Just because someone is 35 years old, does not mean that they are mature or levelheaded. The only way to identify someone who has this quality is by reading their posts. Not just their application, although that is also useful, but their posts. If possible, get a chance to know the applicant.


Benefit of Levelheadedness #1: Training

Experience is valuable in a potential staff candidate. However, if someone has plenty of experience, but does not have the right attitude, then that person will be a trouble to deal with. For example, that person could have personality issues, or just be generally difficult to work with. However, if you find a person who demonstrates that they are levelheaded, then even if they do not know how to do the job that they are being hired for, then they can be trained to do that job. Playing staff rolls on a forum does not require a great deal of technical knowledge, except perhaps being a developer. Moderation is a skill, but a skill that can be trained. So is administration, and reviewing, and posting. Almost every skill which can be imagined for a forum staff member is something that can be trained. If you can find someone who is willing to be trained, and has the attitude to conduct himself well after being trained, then that is the right candidate.


Benefits of Levelheadedness #2: No Drama

Drama can cause damage to a forum, particularly when exhibited by staff members who do not know any better, because they are not levelheaded. A levelheaded staff member knows to rise above drama and, whenever possible, not to get buried too deeply into it. Also, a levelheaded staff member is intelligent enough to, in general, not do things which will inadvertently cause drama.


Benefits of Levelheadedness #3: Professionalism

A professional staff member communicates in a way that people can understand, and does not say things which members interpret as unintelligent or misinformed. If a forum hires a staff member who is distinctively not levelheaded, then that staff member may cause embarrassment to the forum and its staff team. Not only can he or she waste the staff team’s time, but also, can make the staff team look worse in the eyes of members, and do things which staff members do not endorse or approve of inadvertently. Professionalism is very important in a staff member. Staff who exhibit levelheadedness will also be professional.


Conclusion

Levelheadedness is the most important quality for any staff member to have. Not because that quality, in itself, is vital, but because it leads to many other benefits, including the ability to be trained to properly fill his or her role. When looking for staff, always ask yourself: is this person levelheaded. If the answer is no, then do not hire that person unless you do not have any other options.

Fighting Spam Effectively: The Three Layer Defense

Fighting spam effectively can be difficult, but using three different technologies, it can be quite achievable. Forums do not need to use member validation, or impose the requirement to first post in a particular forum. Instead, a forum needs to use the following three techniques to form a passive and active defense against forum spam.


Defense Layer #1: Good Anti-Spam Software

The most important aspect to any spam defense is software. Within this “Layer,” an administrator should use four different technologies to defeat spam. Those technologies are as follows.

  • reCAPTCHA: Google’s reCAPTCHA is currently the most effective anti-spam mechanism. There are other tools which integrate ads, or allow the user to simply slide a bar to verify that they are not a spam bot, but these are less effective. There are reCAPTCHA plugins for all major forum systems.
    • MyBB: http://mods.mybb.com/view/recaptcha
    • phpBB: https://developers.google.com/recaptcha/old/docs/phpbb
    • IPB: Built-In.
  • Q&A CAPTCHA: For bots which are sophisticated enough to split past reCAPTCHA, Q&A CAPTCHA is a very effective defense. Simply define a few custom questions, such as “What is the name of this forum,” or classically, “What color is the Sky?” and most bots will not be able to create accounts. Note that for larger forums, a bot may be designed to know the answers to these questions, so this defense should be used in conjunction with reCAPTCHA.
    • MyBB: http://community.mybb.com/thread-83250.html
    • phpBB: https://www.phpbb.com/support/docs/en/3.0/kb/article/how-to-configure-q+a-captcha/
    • IPB: Not necessary because of IPS Spam Services
  • Email Validation: This is a feature which most modern forum systems use by default. It stops a very large number of spam bots, but not all. This is most likely enabled on your board by default, but if not, I recommend enabling it.
  • Spam Databases: There are a number of alternatives for different spam databases to use. For IPB users, IPS Spam Services (which is bundled with your IPB License) is extremely effective, and prevents a vast majority of all spam. For non-IPB users, StopForumSpam is a very good option to use.
    • All major forum systems: http://www.stopforumspam.com/contributions
    • IPB: Use IPS Spam Services, which is built in to IPB.

 


Defense Layer #2: Permanent Bans & Cleanup Tools

Despite the strong defenses of layer #1, there is a class of spam bots which will evade them, and still cause issues on your forum. If your forum is large enough, these potential spam bots include human beings.

The most effective tool for dealing with spam bots who have passed through layer #1 are immediate, permanent bans. But also, you will need to use a good removal tool to remove their content from your forum. Below are instructions on how to do this on major forum platforms.

  • MyBB: Use the following plugin, or the “Delete User” feature of the ACP: http://mods.mybb.com/view/goodbye-spammer
  • phpBB: Refer to the following support topic: https://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=1187175
  • IPB: Hover over the user’s name and click “Mark as Spam.” Searching “Mark as Spam” in the ACP will allow you to configure what this button does.

However, there are some spam bots which are so clever, that even the most intelligent admins cannot be sure that they are spam bots. There is one final defensive layer to use against these nasty customers.


Defense Layer #3: Moderator Queue

Sometimes, a user will register, post a perfectly allowable topic asking a question like “What dating script should I use?” Once a couple members have replied, then will then say “Actually, I decided to use <insert  link here>. It’s a very good product!” When a new user posts something suspicious, the admin should then add that user to the moderator queue. That way, if the user turns out to be a real person, and it was all a misunderstanding, then the user can be taken off the moderator queue. Here are instructions on how to do this.

  • MyBB: Create a new group and check “Moderate new posts” on the edit group page. Add suspected spammers to this user group as their primary user group.
  • phpBB: Create a new user group, and configure its permissions for each forum to “Moderate new posts.” Doing this is beyond the scope of this tutorial, although a google search for “phpBB Moderator Queue” will help configure this. When you identify a suspected spammer, add that user to this user group.
  • IPB: Create a new user group. When editing the group, under Forum -> Restrictions, set “Moderate content of everyone in this group?” to “Yes.” When you identify a suspected spammer, add that spammer to the user group you just created. Make that the user’s primary user group.

Basically, the moderator queue requires moderators to manually approve each post by the user. This can be burdensome, but if a user continues to spam after being added to the mod queue, then the admin can then proceed to ban the spammer.

NOTE: Do not set up your forum to add newly registered users to the moderator queue, unless you are very certain that that is a good idea. Only add spam bots who get past layers 1 and 2 of your anti-spam defenses to the mod queue, and do so manually via the ACP. Adding all users to the mod queue by default will discourage them from posting.


Conclusion

Spam is a problem which many forums have. Using a three-layer defense, administrators can thwart all spam, and keep their forum clean of advertising. If you found this tutorial useful, or have any questions, please leave a comment on this blog post.

Thank you for reading!

Tutorial: Deploying your Forum on a VPS

A Virtual Private Server is the next step above shared web hosting for any website. If a website on a shared host is running slowly due to high volume traffic, or is having issues with its hosting provider due to maxing out limits such as bandwidth or disk space, then a VPS is a very good option to consider. This guide walks you through the details on how to launch your forum on a VPS server. The assumption which I am making is that you are using a web host which uses a cPanel control panel. If you are not, the process is a bit more difficult, and beyond the scope of this article. However, most web hosts do use cPanel, so this tutorial will apply to  most of the readers of this blog.


Part 1: Evaluate

The first question which you must ask yourself before moving to a VPS is this: is it a good idea? A VPS server is not cheap. Leasing one can add up to about 40 dollars per month. However, if you have multiple sites, this is a very good idea, because you get full control over everything, and you only have one bill to pay. Finally, you do not require much technical expertise to get everything running. Here is an approximation of how much this may cost you.

Web Hosting: $20.00 /month (From DigitalOcean)

cPanel/WHM License: $20.00 /month

Total: $40.00 /month.

This gets you 2GB of RAM (which is enough), 40GB of disk space (30 GB in practical terms, because the VPS has overhead which takes up some of the disk space), and 3 whopping terabytes of bandwidth. There are other providers, but most of them have similar pricing.

You can decrease this bill in two ways. First, you can buy a year-long cPanel/WHM license, which costs $16 per month, but you have to pay upfront. Second, you can buy a cheaper VPS instance, such as the DigitalOcean 1GB instance for $10. That makes the bill $26 per month. However, I have not tried the DigitalOcean 1GB instance for cPanel. In theory it will work, but it may not have enough RAM to work well enough to run cPanel/WHM at full performance.


Part 2: Create the VPS

I am going to provide instructions for this step in the form of a step-by-step procedure. Here are the instructions.

1. Visit the following URL and create an account: https://cloud.digitalocean.com/registrations/new

2. Enter your credit card as billing information.

3. Click the “Create Droplet” button on the DigitalOcean control panel.

4. Select the $20 or $10 plan. Your choice. I recommend $20.

5. Select the region for your VPS. This doesn’t really matter. Whichever one is closest to your member base, or yourself, is best.

6. If you want, check “Enable Backups,” but you will be charged extra.

7. Under “Select Image” choose CentOS, and then version 6.5 x64. DO NOT choose a more recent version of the OS. It will not work if you do.

8. Do not add an SSH key, unless you know how to. That is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

9. Click “Create Droplet” and wait a little while.

After you finish step 9, you are done with this part of the tutorial! Next, you will need to install the VPS.


Part 3: Install the VPS

1. Go to the following URL: https://cloud.digitalocean.com/droplets

2. Under “IP Address,” find the droplet you just created, and copy the IP to your clipboard. For example, let’s say your IP address is 127.0.0.1.

3. If  window machines (see step 4 for Mac or Linux):

  • Download PuTTY: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html
  • Run putty.exe, which you downloaded in the previous bullet point.
  • Paste in the IP address from step 2 into “Host name (or IP Address)”
  • Click “Open,” then “Yes.”
  • When a command prompt appears and asks “Log in as” type “root”
  • Wait for a few moments. It will then ask for a password. Enter whatever password you entered when creating the instance.

4. On a Mac or Linux machine (alternative to step 3):

  • Open up the terminal. On a linux machine, you should know how to do this. On a mac, enter the Launchpad, then type “Terminal,” and click the only option that pops up.
  • Into the terminal, type “ssh root@127.0.0.1”. Make sure to substitute whatever your new VPS server’s IP address is instead of 127.0.0.1.
  • Wait for a moment, then type in “yes” when it asks you to verify the fingerprint. Don’t worry about checking it.
  • Type in the password you entered when creating the VPS in the previous part of this tutorial.
  • You are now logged in!

5. type in:   yum install wget

6. Wait for a moment. You may have to type in “Y” to accept the installation.

7. Type in:  wget http://httpupdate.cpanel.net/latest

8. Type in:  chmod +x ./latest

9. Type in:  ./latest

10. Wait for about thirty minutes. Do not close the connection.

11. You are now done! Visit the following URL to install WHM via their GUI:  http://127.0.0.1/whm .

12. The default options which WHM provides will all work. For nameservers, enter ns1.yourdomain.com, and ns2.yourdomain.com.

Now your VPS is set up! It’s time to transfer your site over to it!


Part 4: Transfer your Site

The following steps should be done fairly quickly, and in the dead of night, while your members are not online, and your board is set to “offline.” If you don’t do that, then content posted while you are going through the steps will be lost.

1.  On your old host, go into cPanel, then Backups -> Download a Full Website Backup -> Generate Backup

2. Wait for the backup to be created, then click the link which appears under “Download a Full Website Backup” to download it to your machine. This may take a while.

3. On your new VPS server, log in to WHM by going to http://127.0.0.1/whm (where 127.0.0.1 is the server’s IP address).

4. On the left sidebar, type into the search bar “backup” then select “Restore a Full Backup/cpmove File” from the left sidebar.

5. Scroll down to “Settings” and select “Restore with File.” Select the file you just downloaded from your other server.

6. Do not change the other default options. Click “Restore,” wait for a long while for your browser to upload the file, then for it to be updated.

7. In the search bar mentioned in step 4, type in “basic.”

8. Select “Basic cPanel and WHM Settings.”

9. Scroll down to the bottom. For each “Nameserver ___” field that isn’t empty, click “Add an A entry for this nameserver.”

10. Go to your DNS control panel provided to your by your domain registrar (Godaddy, etc).

11. Simple solution: Set your nameservers to the DNS servers provided by your registrar (they should have an option for that. If you never changed the nameservers, then this is already the case). Add the following A records:

  • yourdomain.com  ->  127.0.0.1
  • *.yourdomain.com   ->   127.0.0.1

For some registrars, you should enter @ instead of yourdomain.com, and * instead of *.yourdomain.com.

Wait for a few hours for the change to propagate.

12. More complex solution: Add glue records for “ns1.yourdomain.com” and “ns2.yourdomain.com” which point towards you VPS’ IP. Then, set your nameservers to ns1.yourdomain.com and ns2.yourdomain.com. If you don’t know how to do this, your registrar’s support department will. Wait a while your your DNS propegates (will take several hours).

13. While DNS is propagating, check the status by typing your domain name into http://www.intodns.com/ . If it pops up any red errors, then fix them (or contact your registrar’s support department). Don’t worry about yellow errors.

14. Make sure to switch your board back to “online.”


Conclusion

You’re done!

This tutorial explained how to convert your forum which is now hosting on a cPanel web host to a VPS. We hope you found it useful!

How to End Forum Dependency on the Admin

New forums can often be compared to virtual children because of their dependency on their owners. Starting a new forum isn’t easy and is not something for the light hearted to take up. Dedication is key for forum survival and unfortunately this is the key element where many forums fail and die out.  A community is a start up business that thrives under good leadership and active staff participation. Without an active and near hovering administrator on call to supervise a new community the members lose interest and become lurkers and eventually cease to visit the site in it’s entirety. My community, Political Debate Forums, has had that exact same experience. I have raised that community for almost a year and I still find that activity is based on the leader administrator and his staff members. Simply put dedication is the key to getting a community off the ground. We all can’t be baby sitters however so I have three good goals that every new administrator should set and reach in order to show their community that they want to be successful.

Don’t Go It Alone.

A good forum administrator knows that he cannot run a forum by himself. It is possible but it’s not probable. By hiring staff members and partners a new admin can boost the activity of a forum times as many people that visit often. A forum creating activity and showing dedication has a much better chance of gaining new members. Instead of hogging all of the glory of the leadership to yourself consider building a team that you can rely on. After all you cannot be on your forum 24/7 and anyone that can match your activity boosts the over all activity by a multiple. Consider paying someone if you must because your forum community, even if you didn’t intend it to be so, is a business and will act like a business. All businesses need leadership.

Build Relationships

When you finally get your team built and members start visiting your community be humble. Build relationships with those who have joined and treat them as friends. You as the admin are not a Lord or Emperor but just another user with a different level of access. When your activity is expected to be low let your community know why. Do not give the appearance that you have vanished because your users will always assume the worst. They will abandon your forum because they think that you have abandoned your forum. Even on my own forum I recently had to move and restructure my life as I left the military and became a civilian once again. I advised my community of what was going on and while we did lose activity it wasn’t hard to get back. We are already building back again after a week.

Show Your Dedication

A good forum administrator leads his community like a general leads an army. You should be the primary content creator, the most visible face, and the one who makes the calls. You must be the one who raises morale, takes on the worst users, and even changes the community structure and appearance as needed. Like any leader you must show that you are engaged and that you are dedicated to the forum that you own. You need to show your users that you strive for success and that you need their help. The forum admin might have a lot of responsibility but keep your pride in check, don’t create a chip for your shoulder, and remember that the community is what you strive for. As an old movie once said: “If you build it they will come”.

The take away from this article is that the forum community is dependent on the administrator but the pathway of a leader is not a solitary path. It is a path full of opportunity to build relationships, friendships, and even tactical business oriented goals. Be dedicated to your members and they will be dedicated to you. If you want to know more about leadership please look forward to my next article in which we will tackle the strategy of a leader.

 

Selling Advertisements on a Forum

To a forum administrator, advertising is the single most vital aspect of a community. Not advertisements which spread the word about the community, but advertisements which bring revenue into the community. Revenue is like oxygen for a forum. It allows the forum to keep alive by paying the bills. It allows the administrator to do new and unique things with the forum, which often cost money to do. It allows the administrator to purchase advertisements, services, good software, conduct contests, and allows the forum to survive the increasing bills which come with growth. Every new forum which plans to become successful must identify a means of earning revenue through advertisements.


Sponsor Ads: How to earn Revenue Through Sponsors & Marketplaces

For a forum to be appealing to advertisers, it needs several things.

An identifiable, valuable niche. Every forum has a user base. In advertising, this is called an audience. What kind of people use your forum? What types of products do they all want to buy? For example, if you have a forum about cars, you will appeal to advertisers who sell car related products. Webmaster forums will appeal to hosting providers, template designers, and other webmaster forums. A general chat forum is less valuable in this regard, because it appeals to a very broad, difficult to identify audience.

Monthly pageviews and clicks. Advertisers are interested in two statistics. Impressions and clicks. Impressions are important because impressions are the metric which advertisers use when deciding whether to advertise on your forum. Clicks are important because that is the metric which advertisers use when deciding whether or not to continue advertising with your forum.

Good Ad Placement Options. Advertisers are interested in ad clicks, and the better the ad’s placement, the more ad clicks they will receive. Header ads are more valuable than footer ads and sidebar ads, and global header ads are more valuable than those. Ads which display below the first post of a forum’s topics are perhaps the very most valuable ad, because it is hard for users to ignore these ads. The better the placement options and larger the banner sizes, the more likely people are to purchase your ads.

Promote Your Advertiser: Your advertiser will know how successful their ad is by looking at the number of clicks they receive through google analytics, or a similar service. That means that if you link to your sponsor through a forum post, and a user clicks on that link, then your sponsor won’t know the difference between that click and a click on their banner ad. For that reason, take any opportunity to mention your advertiser in discussion, particularly if you own a small forum.

Once your forum has been optimized to make the most of the above suggestions, you can see sponsor ads either to your existing forum user base (useful for webmaster forums), through an informal online marketplace such as ForumPromotion.net’s marketplace forum, or through a larger marketplace such as BuySellAds. Note that the larger marketplaces will not be useful for new or small forums. A new forum will need to sell ads through its own site or an informal marketplace, and more successful forums will find the most success by advertising through something like BuySellAds.

Keyword Ads: How to earn Revenue Through Adsense and Similar Products

Keyword-based ads can be a very high quality source of revenue. Using a service like Adsense, websites are paid through two means. Per click and per thousand views. There are two terms which you will need to learn. CPC means Cost-per-Click, and is how much you get paid per click by the ad provider. Your CPC is a function of how valuable your forum’s keywords are. If you have a forum which is all about auto-insurance, your keywords will be very, very valuable. If you have a forum which is about medieval history, then your keywords will be less valuable. Another term which you will need to learn is CPM, which means cost per 1,000 impressions. Do not be deceived by the “M,” which is not short for “Million,” but short for “Mille” as in Millimeter (a thousandth of a meter).

To make a profit using services such as Adsense, you will need to optimize the following.

Ad placement: Every time a user clicks an ad, you get paid. Therefore, ads must be visible. Header ads, and ads below the first post of a forum topic, are the most valuable.

Subject matter: Your forum’s subject matter should concern material which will involve a lot of valuable keywords. This will increase your forum’s cost-per-click and cost-per-impression values, and also the sell value of your forum.

Impressions: “Impression” is a fancy word for “Pageview.” The more page views your forum has, the most a website gets paid by the CPM rate, and the more clicks the website’s ads will (theoretically) get.

To start advertising using keywords, simply create an account with Adsense and copy their code to your forum’s template.

Which should my forum use?

Small forums should find sponsors, because they will have a small number of impressions, and sponsors will be willing to pay more for ads with small impressions than Adsense will. Larger forums will generally gain more revenue from BuySellAds or Adsense, although BuySellAds appears to be the most common of the two options for large forums.

Freely hosted forums will usually be required to go with sponsored ads rather than adsense.


Conclusion

Advertising is vital to the successful continuation of a forum. To advertise successfully, a forum must place ads well, have a targetable demographic, and gain as many pageviews per month as possible.

The Pyramid, Part 1: How to Measure a Forum’s Success

When an administrator first creates a forum, it is completely empty. No posts, no nothing. Turning an empty forum into a forum with one million posts can appear to be a very daunting task. It can take years of hard work, expensive advertising, and unbelievable effort. But, is creating a forum with one million posts really a realistic goal? Is it even a desirable goal? There are other paths to success. Other ways of measuring how good one forum is when compared to another than simply post count.

Community is what truly matters.

Community is a sense of belonging. It means knowing the people around you. Sharing ideas and experience, discussing something that both sides don’t necessarily agree on in a civil, constructive way. They have arguments, quarrels, outcasts, and an occasional blow-ups. But they also have revelations, jokes, memes, and celebrations. In a way, a community is a living organism which changes and evolves, but stays strong, at least until it loses its energy and begins to die. A forum’s success is defined by its sense of community, but there is one problem.

How does one quantify a forum’s community? Being able to quantify a community is necessary so that an administrator can track progress and adjust the path of his or her forum accordingly. This is usually done by post count or page views, but neither of these is an active indicator of how well a forum’s community is doing. A forum can have millions of posts, but still be dead, and millions of page views, but only traffic from search engines. A forum could have a hundred people online but nothing to talk about, or fifty registrations per day with an atrocious bounce rate.

That is why, today, I am introducing a new way to quantify the strength of a forum’s community. It is called the Forum Pyramid.

ForumPyramid

The Forum Pyramid is similar to the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, which is a concept used by sociologists. A newly created forum starts at the very bottom of the Forum Pyramid, and moves upwards as its community strengthens, and downwards as it weakens. The pyramid has six levels, and each forum on the internet can be said to exist at one of the levels of this pyramid. The pyramid is shaped in this manner because of statistics. There are probably a million forums at the bottom of the Forum Pyramid, but only a few at the very top.

The Six Levels of the Forum Pyramid

  • Level #1: Emptiness. An empty forum has no activity. It could have zero posts or a million, but none of them have been made recently.
  • Level #2: Filler. A level two forum contains posts which were made for the sake of posting. Posts made by staff, exchangers, or packagers, with no real purpose or soul behind them.
  • Level #3: Discussion. A level three forum contains interesting discussions which include facts and a few revelations, but not yet any disagreement or truly useful opinions.
  • Level #4: Debate. A level four forum contains discussions which have two sides. Debates, disagreements, and give-and-take. When discussing anything, be it politics, cars, or webmaster techniques, anything worth studying is worth debating, and debate is a strong indicator of a valuable community.
  • Level #5: Drama. A level five forum includes not only debate, but also discussions about the forum itself and its internal affairs. The forum becomes serious enough that its members take the forum itself seriously, not just its subject matter. The forum begins to have a true sense of being something.
  • Level #6: Community. A true community has a complex web of nuances, secrets, inside jokes, and memes, all revolving around ongoing discussion and drama. The strongest characteristic of a community is that it has its own unique atmosphere, mood, and users who are recognizable and aware of each other.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles concerning this pyramid, which I originally created for this series of blog posts. Using this pyramid, we will be able to better understand how a forum starts out, and what an administrator needs to do to turn their forum into a success. The next part of this series will be entitled “Climbing the Pyramid,” and will describe, in full, how to move a forum up to the very top of the Forum Pyramid, and thereby create a thriving, valuable community.

An Online Presence, Part 2: Trust

There are many different elements of reputation, the first being Trust. Trust is something many people struggle with in today’s society, even in the real world. It has become easier to break trust without true repercussions and for this reason it is no longer regarded in the same manner as it once was. Especially in a forum setting, it is not easy to gain trust from anyone and this comes down to one key factor: all you have are your words.

Words, however, are not enough when it comes to trust. Therefore, you must put action into every word no matter how much you later regret the words you used. If you promise someone you will make 100 posts on their forum, you must make 100 posts on their forum. Failing to do so make your words less valuable and the less valuable your words are, the harder it is going to be for you to build trust and in turn create a strong, positive reputation for yourself.

Making posts however is not the only way of building trust, and for some it is not even a method for doing so. In fact it may require a certain level of trust for someone to even ask you to make 100 posts on their forum and this is what brings us to the key attribute of trust: It varies from person to person.

So what does this actually mean? In theory, trust is a measureable object that can be described as the level of belief between two people that these individuals will honor their words to each other. This is a rather complex and abstract description, but sums up the very facts we take into account every time we speak with a person without even consciously knowing that we are. In order to better understand trust and how to form and keep such trust between people we must look at our subconscious mind to see how we truly think. Understanding our own thoughts will help us better understand those of others.

Trust is gained through honoring agreements, keeping your word, and being respectful. However, gaining reputation online where words are your only tool is one step harder. Trust at an individual level is very much the same, but in order to build a larger, stronger reputation you want people who don’t know you well or have never had direct contact with you to trust you too. This does come in a very similar fashion, but your words will matter even more. In a private one on one discussion you can say things, explain them again and build a dialogue. After a while, certain understandings, phrases and references will, as in any friendship or close contact, become un-needed, as each party is aware of them. Someone looking on from the outside could consider a joking reference to someone who knows you extremely rude. For this reason, you must consider all words you use in the context they are being used and how everyone around you will interpret them. Even when taken out of context, the words you have used must be understandable and trustworthy.

To sum it up, the first stage of creating a strong, positive reputation is trust. This trust is built on both a personal level and an impersonal level. The words you use in every situation will build or decrease a person’s trust in you. This trust they have in you will reflect on you in many ways, as people will speak of this to others. If they trust you they will recommend you to others, if they don’t, they will tell others to stay clear. Consider your words and what they mean, can you truly honor that agreement?

This is part 2 of the series of articles which is titled An Online Presence. The next installment will be posted soon.