YOU can be this guy – a rocktstar webmaster!
Starting a forum is easy. Running one, however, is not. There are several great articles here on Forum Promotion that touch upon the topic how to run a forum. But none talk about what it takes. The qualities and skills YOU must possess, to be a rock star webmaster. Here’s a small grocery list:
- A Good Eye
- Writing Skills
- Steal, don’t plagiarize
The list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure that if some of the other more qualified members of Forum Promotion were to write this post, the list would go on throughout the page, but I digress. Let’s move on to a small description of each.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #1: Time
When you start a new forum, it is likely to take up a lot of your time, but time is one thing everyone seems to not have these days. Whenever we are confronted by an activity or task that requires a considerable amount of time, we usually put it off by making the excuse that we don’t have the time, and then miraculously, we get the time to burn a couple of hours on World of Warcraft. You NEVER have time for a task if you are not dedicated, and when you are running a forum, you need all the dedication you can get. You must take out time, perhaps watch a little less TV and spend a little less time playing games. But you need to give that forum time, if you are a responsible webmaster.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #2: Determination
Time, you say? Well, I have plenty of time to dedicate to my forum!
Good! Now that you have got one aspect of webmastering, let us move on to the other – determination! Determination is important not only for your role as a webmaster, but for any thing you want to do in life. The fact that you have enough time to run the forum to a large extent proves that you are dedicated, which, in turn to an extent says that you have determination, but determination goes far and beyond just that. You must have the determination to not lose hope when your forum is going through its darkest time – when it’s fading away, when the members are leaving one by one and the activity is going down. You must continue to keep posting, and promoting and do everything in your power to take your forum back to its glory days. But of course, after an extent your forum reaches a point of no return – for example someone running a forum on floppy disks (extremely hypothetical case) back in the 1990s might have had a good thing going, but now it’s virtually impossible to run one unless you are smart enough to spin the topic in such a way that it is still relevant.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #3: Passion
Now I can possibly not stress this enough, but passion is absolutely integral if you want to be a successful webmaster. This is by and far perhaps the most important factor you must account for when running a forum, because it’s your passion that directly feeds your determination and keeps you going. When you are in the early days, your forum won’t have a lot of activity and you are likely going to be spending most of your time promoting and writing new content, trying your best to culture an active and engaged community where you can make new friends and connections. It’s the passion that will keep you determined and going and eventually you will have this thing going where you will realize that you don’t have to keep posting anymore! The forum is self-sustaining. Great feeling, I know, one that is greatly augmented if you have that fire within you.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #4: Tech-savvy
I really should have chosen a different word, but I couldn’t think of something else so, yeah, tech-savvy. If you have attempted the brave task of actually starting a forum, it means that you already have some tech-savvy. By tech-savvy I don’t mean how to open your web browser and successfully navigate to a website. I mean working with MySQL databases, and having a basic knowledge of the programming language your forum is written in. The thing is, your forum is likely to run into a lot of issues, especially after it gets mature and you really want to start messing with the nuts and bolts of the forum so that you can you know give it a more custom feel. In English, installing and making plugins. And if you DO mess with it, you are likely to run into issues, which you’ll probably have to fix yourselves unless you have an active enough community that people are willing to volunteer. So like I said, this is not really necessary but it IS a nice perk.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #5: A Good Eye
By a good eye, I mean a good eye for design. This is another quality that is not very important, but it can give you a big advantage, because most forum softwares are not built with usability in mind. If you can get out of the pack and be one of those webmasters who modify the forum to be more usable and look better, you have a significant advantage over your competing webmasters. Not only must you focus on usability and functionality, but also on the aesthetics. Because after all, design can be defined as ‘beautiful solutions’. Most webmasters would advocate investing in a custom theme and spending a minimum amount of money etc. but I think that as long as it is beautiful, it doesn’t really matter, because if you follow this advice, you can cover the solution part of design as well. And not everyone really pays attention to the solution part. For a primer on usability, read The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman. It’s a good read.
Being a Rockstar Webmaster #6: Writing Skills
Another one of those optional skills, but again, I’ve only included it in the list because I feel it is important. You can think of a forum as a blog where you are not the only author and the two-way interaction is more significant than the interaction between comments and a blog, which automatically means that you must have good writing skills. I am going to repeat again that writing skills are not essential as long as you are able to think up though provoking topics, which directly leads me to…
…Being a Rockstar Webmaster #7: Steal, don’t plagiarize
Being a student of the IB Diploma, a high school curriculum that has us writing mini research papers in high school, the don’t plagiarize notion has been drilled into me since the very start. However, there is this quote by Picasso that I am sure everyone here knows about that I’ve been wondering about:
Good artists copy, great artists steal.
After an amount of time, you are going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, and this is when Picasso’s golden words come into the picture. When the apples get over, and we are still hungry, we are going to steal. Go to a couple of your competitors. Search for the most popular or liked posts and then combine a couple of them to get ideas for threads. You have to make sure that you don’t plagiarize, i.e. copy everything verbatim, but make a thread similar to the one you found in the other forum with the content in your own words. Something I do when I run out of thread ideas is go to reddit and search for keywords related to the forum, for example bicycles or Pokemon etc. I usually find a few questions, and sometimes a link to an article. I then make a new thread on the forum based on the answers to the questions and my own independent research on the question. I’d like to stress again that please don’t plagiarize. It’s looked down upon and for a good reason too.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but just my opinion on what qualities and abilities a webmaster must have and develop in order to run a forum successfully. This article took an incredible amount of time and I hope it helped you!