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I run a small forum, and occasionally we get someone who will break a minor rule, e.g. they post something in the wrong forum. When this happens we'll usually send them a message explaining to them how forums work and letting them know that there message would be better received if they posted it in the right forum.

However, often those users will just leave. That's not the desired affect: the rule violation was minor and we don't want them to leave because of that. Does anyone have any ideas on how we can reduce the number of users who will leave after we tell them that they violated the rules?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

For minor rule breaches by new users, don't send them a message telling them how to use the system. New users need help using the forum system, they do not need criticism. You want them to feel that you and your community is welcoming, friendly and helpful. You don't want them to feel you are pedantic and overly strict.

The wording of you message is important. On the first rule breach, just move the post to the correct section of the forum and don't say anything. Most users I see only post once or twice (though they may read the site for longer) so the likelihood of repeat offences is low anyway.

On the second breach, move the post again and send a message but word if extremely carefully. Don't mention rules, but rather make out that you are helping the user. For example, "You post has been moved to 'some section' as we believe it will be answered more effectively there. I hope you find this of assistance"

Only if the user was maliciously and repetitively breaking the rules would any message be sent about rules and such users are probably heading towards a block anyway so I wouldn't worry about losing them.

On a side note, you might want to think about restructuring your forum. A large number of categories doesn't really help the post to be answered. The same people read the all the forum. I don't believe that many people only view a section of a forum. This website for example doesn't really have sections at all. All the posts are in one stream and everyone here seems happy with that. Really the sections don't help answer questions but help people read the forum. But good tagging and a search system could replace that, as it does on Stack Exchange sites.

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Thanks, I'll try this and let you know how it goes. –  Christofian Mar 4 '12 at 15:49

A lot of that falls back to the moderators and others on the site. If they rip the person that posted and make them feel like the intentionally did something wrong, or they're dumb, etc., they will not return or continue to participate in the forum, and sadly that's what happens on a lot forums.

I guess if I was running the forum I would probably have several canned responses that nicely let the user know they could get better results by posting in section A instead of section B and you took the liberty of redirecting their post. Here is the link they could find it at, etc.…

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when we send them emails, we don't say things like "you're stupid", and we send something similar to what you said we should send in the second paragraph. +1 for good advice, though :) –  Christofian Mar 3 '12 at 17:44

The best way to sort problems like posting in the wrong place is to allow admins to migrate threads - this avoids disappointing the users and allows you to keep the site in order.

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we allow admins to migrate threads. I'm not sure how this would reduce users leaving. –  Christofian Mar 4 '12 at 1:21
    
@Christofian I could have phrased it better, but the answer picks up on the example you gave. If the user has posted in the wrong place - why not simply send them a migration alert? –  toomanyairmiles Mar 4 '12 at 1:26
    
still confused: what do you mean by a "migration alert"? –  Christofian Mar 4 '12 at 1:38
    
he was quite clear, you can move a topic(change its section,forum, etc) to proper one, and send an email to user that his/her topic has been moved –  undone Mar 4 '12 at 3:16
    
That's what I already do. –  Christofian Mar 4 '12 at 15:49

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