If geeks love it, we’re on it

The Icrontic Community and how we make it happen

The Icrontic Community and how we make it happen

If geeks love it, we're.... oh hell. HIGH FIVE

If geeks love it, we're.... oh hell. HIGH FIVE

A question was asked on Twitter; this is my answer to it.

Community” — 1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

I like that definition a lot. It fully describes what we have here at Icrontic. We are a community based loosely around technology, computers, gaming,  and other things that geeks love, but we also have much more than just our interests that bind us together.

Icrontic is ultimately made up of decent people; that’s the overriding thing I’ve realized after spending eight years involved with this crew. It’s rare to find another site that inspires members to post threads about how much they love the communty, or gets owners to get mushy and sentimental about their site. Of course, our shared history has quite a bit to do with how tight-knit we are, but ultimately the community is held together by a single common bond—we’re all good people.

In this age of web-based communities, it’s easy to become hardened to things like flaming, trolling, and general human garbage. We come to expect it as we surf around the net, looking for things that interest us. In fact, Penny Arcade has a comic describing this magic phenomenon. The theory goes like this; take a normal person; add an audience; add anonymity, and sometimes you get a bunch of garbage spewing out. One only has to take a quick jaunt to the seedier sides of the internet to see this equation in action.

Therefore, when one stumbles across a community such as ours, they breathe a sigh of relief, because they feel that they’ve found an oasis, free from rudeness, idiocy, flaming, and hate that runs rampant all over the Wild West Frontier that is the web.

But how did we get here? How did Icrontic become that oasis? Trust me when I say it didn’t “just happen”. It was no happy accident.

The “tone” of a community web site is ultimately the responsibility of the community management. The managers have to decide what kind of face they want to present to the public. Once they determine the direction they want the site to go in, they have to be willing to make some uncomfortable decisions in order to make it happen.

A community manager’s day to day job can be relatively simple once the tone is set; however, getting to that point can be like mountain climbing.

No matter what, there will always be people out there who cannot conduct themselves properly on the internet. The very first thing a community manager must realize is that there are people out there who will come to their community specifically to wreak havoc and cause trouble; therefore, they must be prepared to deal with them swiftly and without compunction.

If you break it down, a community manager really only has one tool in their arsenal to deal with negative elements: a ban. The software that runs websites today has plenty of tools to deal with banning unwanted users.

Sometimes the decision to ban is easy; a spambot posting links to free iPods is dealt with immediately and with no regret. Sometimes, it gets more complicated. If a longtime user who has shown a history of being able to conduct themselves occasionally suddenly goes apeshit and posts something completely inappropriate, it can be a hard choice to make. Ultimately, the manager has to make the call.

One thing I suggest not to do is to engage in public arguments with people who are trolling your site. It never ends well, and it solves nothing other than ego-stroking. If you have to publicly restate your position of authority (“I’m the admin! Remember that I can ban you at any time. I suggest you choose your next words carefully.” etc.) then you end up looking like a schmuck to the audience.

If the price of a smooth, welcoming, and enjoyable online community is the loss of users who are probably not valuable members anyway, it’s really not a question; the nature of the internet ensures that democratic principles are not the ideal way to run online communities. There are no checks and balances in place to deal with people who just want to be jerks, or who are socially inept. There is no punishment or threat that will move them or change them. You’re not going to reform a troll by arguing with them. People either want to participate in your community or they don’t.

Be careful, though. It is easy to get heavy handed and get ban- or edit-happy. Remember that you DO have an audience, and they can see how you run things; if you ban people for minor reasons, legitimate users may bail. Here’s something I experienced first hand:

I met a guy at a party who worked for a large website. We both play a game called Team Fortress 2, and we got to drinking and having a good time and talking smack to each other about the game. An “inter-site” battle was suggested, a friendly rivalry. A month or so later, I went onto his website and signed up for the forums, and posted. In my post I explained that I met their guy and that I was calling them out for a friendly game of TF2. I was banned immediately and called names.

I watched the thread with interest; regular members of their community (more than 1000 posts) started questioning the heavy handedness of the ban (“did you even read his post? it didn’t seem bannable…”) The admin relented and unbanned me. The only thing the ban did was make him look bad. It solved no problems, because there weren’t even any problems to solve. Now, perhaps that admin has lost a tiny bit of credibility in the eyes of regular community members.

As your community grows, you will definitely need help. Finding amazing volunteers whom you trust is difficult but extremely rewarding. Some of it is luck, but if you are a fair and decent community manager, you will naturally attract like minded people who may eventually be able to help you out. Icrontic would not be where it is today without our amazing volunteer staff of forum moderators and contributors.

When you do have assistance, however, it is important to be clear about your goals for the community; you don’t want a rogue volunteer admin making your site look bad.

The idea here is to look at your community as a garden; with proper care and minor tending, the flowers will bloom. You may have to remove a weed once in a while, or chase away a rabbit, but with gentle and subtle care, it will be a beautiful place.


  1. Winfrey
    Winfrey Icrontic keeps it real.
  2. cambrose
    cambrose Brian: Great article, I have some friends that run different community-based websites of all sorts. I will be directing them to this post-haste.
  3. jokerz4fun
  4. Kwitko
    Kwitko Great read, Brian!
    Lincoln wrote:
    You need to know which pieces fit and which need to be tossed; when they need a good push to lock into place, or when they need to be set aside for the next part. Sometimes you lose pieces, or you find 3 more behind a sofa cushion.
    And then there's Kwitko who takes a chainsaw to the pieces.
  5. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx :life:

    I love this place.
  6. BlackHawk
    BlackHawk Eh, it's alright. I put up with it for the food tour.
  7. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster Hey, we can all have a good ole geek fight without resorting to outright meanness.

    A little conflict is healthy, but maintaining respect and civility are even higher priorities. Icrontic seems to have that covered.
  8. primesuspect
    primesuspect There's no meanness here, Cliff. We've all known each other for many years :)
  9. Thrax
    There's no meanness here, Cliff. We've all known each other for many years :)

  10. NiGHTS
    NiGHTS It's funny because I actually hate everyone here. Secretly, of course.
  11. GooD
    GooD Don't get me wrong, i come here at least twice a day, but i don't like this place ;)

  12. CyrixInstead
    CyrixInstead Great read Prim! All I could think of whilst reading the article was 'IonFizzle' :-)

  13. LIN
    LIN <3

    These rabbit references of yours, though, are making me somewhat... hop-ish. ;)
  14. RADA
    RADA There is no place I've found on the 'net I'd rather "hang out" than here.

    Icrontic is a shining star in the dark internet universe. I've never been to another site/forums where from your 1st post you feel 100% welcome. Brian, Matt, and everyone else on IC should feel proud at what they/we have accomplished here.
  15. RADA
    Thrax wrote:

    Thrax, are you being mean, or honest? LOL!
  16. PatrickMoorhead
    PatrickMoorhead Congrats guys on striking a good balance. I am new here and won't pretend to be "one of the boyz" but I love the vibe.

    Having been called some real rotten things on the web for my family and their future families to see is tough, so I appreciate the approach.
  17. Thrax
    RADA wrote:
    Thrax, are you being mean, or honest? LOL!

    I succumbed to the troll side. ;D
  18. primesuspect
    primesuspect Patrick, it's REALLY easy to be one of the boyz, trust me. ;D
  19. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster On the topic of a good geek fight, where has snarkasm been?
  20. Linc
    where has snarkasm been?
    Mostly on the receiving end of my scattergun in TF2. :nudge:
  21. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Oh sure, we play one freakin' night, and you're claiming ULTIMATE VICTORY.

    Psh. I've been around, Cliffy! Just not much to fight with you about lately. I thought about stepping into the battery life discussion, but I'll let that play out nicely. :p
  22. phuschnickens
    phuschnickens Great article. And thanks to all of the people that make icrontic possible (including its members).

    Ha, i was threatened by an admin on an excel programming website for posting the same post to another, similar forum. The guy said he'd boot me if I did it again and I should've at least cross referenced the posts... Apparently I was "wasting their time." Truly I didn't know I should cross reference and there was a bit of a time crunch on the project. I was just trying to use all the resources at my disposal.

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